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Integrating Adaptation and Mitigation in Local Climate Change Planning

Elisabeth M. Hamin

May 2011, English

Another land use planning issue related to climate policy is the potential tradeoffs in land use between adaptation and mitigation. Whereas typical mitigation measures, such as compact city structure and transit-oriented development, require a denser built environment, adaptive measures favor more open spaces to achieve cooling effects. More important, while mitigation policy has more long term global benefits, adaptation produces more near-term local benefits. Local communities, therefore, often prioritize adaptation over mitigation, supporting policy that may not be in accord with global or national CO2 emissions reduction efforts. In this paper, Elisabeth M. Hamin analyzes conflicts between mitigation and adaptation by reviewing the adaptation plans for London; Melbourne; Chicago; Toronto; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Keene, New Hampshire; and King County, Washington. She examines (1) whether the selected cities give higher priority to adaptation over mitigation in their policy statements; (2) the type of climate problems that these cities are trying to address; (3) conflicts between their adaptive actions and mitigation; and (4) preferences given by these municipalities to adaptive actions that complement global mitigation efforts.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Hamin reports that these cities are placing more emphasis on mitigation than on adaptation or searching for ways to integrate the two approaches. In designing adaptation policies, cities are trying to select programs that are either space-neutral or land-efficient, thereby maintaining or increasing their current densities. Many adaptive actions aim to increase cities’ future pleasantness and ecological conditions, which could enhance their desirability and thus attract new residents. Adaptation and mitigation are two essential components of any sustainable climate policy. They are not mutually exclusive, Hamin concludes.

This paper was presented at the Lincoln Institute’s Land Policy Conference of 2010 and is Chapter 6 of the book Climate Change and Land Policies.