How can smart planning help cities adapt to climate change?


US-based Center for Clean Air Policy releases report that quantifies value of green infrastructure

A new report from the Center for Clean Air Policy found that cities that implement  best practices in city planning – specifically green infrastructure – can help communities improve air quality and human health, while creating economic prosperity, and a lower demand on energy.

The report documents the ways in which pioneering cities and counties have developed and applied proactive approaches to increase community resilience by planning for and adapting to emerging climate change impacts.

What is Green Infrastructure?

“Originally, ‘green’ infrastructure was identified with parkland, forests, wetlands, greenbelts, or floodways in and around cities that provided improved quality of life or ‘ecosystem services’ such as water filtration and flood control,” states the report. “Now, green infrastructure is more often related to environmental or sustainability goals that cities are trying to achieve through a mix of natural approaches.”

“Examples of ‘green’ infrastructure and technological practices include green, blue, and white roofs; hard and soft permeable surfaces; green alleys and streets; urban forestry; green open spaces such as parks and wetlands; and adapting buildings to better cope with floods and coastal storm surges.”

Quantifying the Benefits

The report identifies the following cities that are seeing major benefits from putting green infrastructure initiatives into practice:

  • Portland’s Green Street projects retain and infiltrate about 43 million gallons of water per year.
  • New York City’s 2010 Green Infrastructure Plan estimates that every fully vegetated acre of green infrastructure will lead to $US8,522 in reduced energy demand, $US166 in reduced CO2 emissions, $US1,044 in improved air quality, and $US4,725 in increased property value.
  • Since 2006, Philadelphia has dramatically reduced storm runoff and saved approximately $US170 million.
  • Chicago values its urban forestry at $US2.3 billion with a total carbon sequestration rate of 25,200 tons/year, value of $US14.8 million/year.
  • Seattle’s King Street Center uses rainwater for toilet flushing and irrigation. The system provides 60% of the annual water needed for toilet flushing, conserving approximately 1.4 million gallons of potable water each year.

Steve winkleman (120p)The Value of Green Infrastructure for Urban Climate Adaptation is intended as a resource for planners and decision makers at all levels of government,” said Steve Winkelman, Director of Adaptation Programs. “The innovative examples we review indicate that green infrastructure investments can provide a cost-effective way to enhance community resilience and prosperity.”

To Learn More:

Since 1985, the Center for Clean Air Policy has been a recognized world leader Center for clean air policy - logoin climate and air quality policy and is the only independent, non-profit think-tank working exclusively on those issues at the local, national and international levels.To download a copy of their report, click on The Value of Green Infrastructure for Urban Climate Adaptation.

The report concludes that when green infrastructure approaches are used in place of or in conjunction with traditional ‘grey’ infrastructure investments, urban communities can benefit from increased resilience to climate impacts, often at lower costs, while reaping multiple co-benefits through improvements in land-value, quality of life, public health, hazard mitigation, and regulatory compliance.


Posted March 2011