Local Response to Global Climate Change: The Role of Local Development Plans in Climate Change Management
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Climate change is possibly the greatest threat facing human society in this century. The response to this challenge has been dominated by international negotiations for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. More recently there are efforts by the international community to engage other levels of governance in mitigation and adaptation response. While the framework for international action on climate change continues to evolve, there is mounting pressure from researchers to include cities as significant actors in the global climate change management strategy. Cities are centers of production and consumption in our society and as such will be crucial for global climate change management strategy. Despite these links, demands for consideration of climate change management issues in local policy making have remained a research rhetoric and have not yet translated into planning action. This gap between planning research and practice is probably due to lack of evidence based research on this issue. This study fills in this gap and provides empirical evidence supporting the key role of local development plans in climate change management. Specifically, in the first step, this research investigates the influence of local development plans on climate change mitigation by comparing change in carbon dioxide emissions in groups of cities with and without plans. Thereafter, climate change management capacity in local development plans is analyzed through policy analysis. Finally, this research study examines the effect of plan quality on the change in carbon dioxide emissions, while controlling for socio-economic, landscape and policy characteristics. Results of this study support the demands for using local development plans as tools for climate change management. This study identifies numerous planning policies in local development plans with potential to influence climate change management. The analysis also reveals wide variation in the quality of the climate change management policies. For example, policies related to site planning regulations and transportation are fairly detailed, whereas acquisition and incentive/disincentive tools are not. The detailed review of plan quality suggests that although development plans have the potential to significantly influence climate change, there is need for further improvement, especially of the overall plan implementation capacity. Finally, the research findings show that the quality of climate change management planning policies in local development plans have a significant impact on a communities? emissions. Communities with better plan quality had significantly lower increase in per-capita emissions over the period of analysis. The study also discovered significant effects of wealth, travel behavior, occupation base and state policy on the change in emissions. Based on the research findings this study recommends evolving integrated local development policies that focus on dual goals of climate change management and sustainable development. Further studies are recommended to examine the opportunities and challenges to use of local development plans for climate change management.