What We Do

climateplan_santarosa.jpgOur vision is of a healthier and more vital California, where communities are sustainable, and where people of all backgrounds and incomes have an opportunity to thrive.

To achieve this, we are changing how land-use planning and transportation investments occur throughout the state.

Our 2015-2018 Strategic Plan is available here (PDF).

The Evolution of Our Work

How we began

California adopted its ground-breaking climate law, AB 32, in 2007. In response to the need for coordinated action on that law,  11 land use, transportation, and planning non-profit groups came together as ClimatePlan.

Our goal was to make clear that, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the state needed to explicitly address land use and transportation. Transportation — largely driving — is the state’s largest contributor to climate-changing emissions, and land use — where homes and jobs are built — determines how much driving people must do.

We focus on land use and transportation strategies because they offer so many benefits, not just for our climate. The strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions also foster more diverse and compact communities, with homes available at a range of incomes, with convenient public transportation and streets that are safe for walking and biking — surrounded by protected natural and working lands. The state’s climate work can also help communities thrive — particularly disadvantaged communities, both urban and rural — and protect our natural heritage for future generations.

“Ambitious and achievable”

When ClimatePlan began, the state’s Air Resources Board was creating a Scoping Plan to determine how it would meet state climate goals. ClimatePlan’s first objective was for this plan to include land use and transportation strategies.

The draft AB 32 Scoping Plan was very weak on land use, with a target of reducing greenhouse gases through smarter growth just 2 million metric tons by 2020.

In response, ClimatePlan commissioned a national expert, Reid Ewing, who demonstrated that the state could use smart growth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11-14 million metric tons. ClimatePlan called for this much higher target, and dozens of organizations endorsed our position. Thanks in part to ClimatePlan’s organizing, land use became one of the most high-profile components of the climate law’ scoping plan.

In September 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 375 to do what we’d asked: get California to address land use and transportation as part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. SB 375 requires every region in the state to have a target for these reductions. The state Air Resources Board committed to adopting “the most ambitious, achievable” targets, and these were adopted in 2010.

Strategies for sustainability

Our work then focused on improving the regional plans, called Sustainable Communities Strategies, that regions must create to meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.

During the first round of Sustainable Communities Strategies, we particularly worked in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley to advocate for plans that invested in existing communities, urban and rural, rather than in sprawling new towns. We also worked to boost the plans’ funding for public transit, sidewalks, safe bike lanes, and local planning.

We then tracked how and whether regions were implementing their plans, and advocated for stronger measures in the second round of Sustainable Communities Strategies.

Tougher targets, meeting goals, and focusing on equity

Now we are working to make the regional targets for greenhouse-gas reductions stronger, and to make sure that the target-setting process considers impacts on vulnerable communities.

We continue to advocate for stronger regional plans and ambitious plan implementation. We share leading practices for Sustainable Communities Strategies and are working to accelerate innovation. We have also monitored how regions are implementing their strategies.

We are also working to improve state legislation and agency policy to help meet the goals set in AB 32 and SB 375. In particular, we are tracking state transportation spending and seeking to shift funds toward disadvantaged communities’ needs and to make sustainable, healthy alternatives to driving more convenient and affordable.

The challenge continues to be to get SB 375 successfully implemented, while ensuring its implementation benefits low-income communities and communities of color, and expanding on the law to meet new challenges.

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