Climate Change

The Atlanta region is facing many factors that can potentially drive a rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at a time when national policies are stressing the reduction of all GHG emissions.  ARC has begun to consider strategies for reducing transportation-based GHG emissions and is evaluating the role these strategies might play in the Regional Plan.

Regional planning for climate change is gaining more attention across the country. Hundreds of local governments, including several here in the Atlanta region, are taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. While the debate on climate change continues, the benefits of reducing harmful emissions extend beyond adapting to a changing climate and to new federal regulations. Taking appropriate actions now can help alleviate congestion and improve public health. The region's current plan, PLAN 2040, contains strategies that lead to reductions of primary pollutants, as well as GHGs.

To date, ARC has undergone two major planning studies and hosted one national workshop on climate change. The two studies are outlined below, with links on the right. In 2010, ARC hosted an FHWA sponsored workshop on scenario planning and climate change. The materials from that workshop are also available on the right.

TEAM - Transportation Efficiency Assessment Method

In 2015 ARC partnered with USEPA to evaluate emission benefits from implementing certain transportation policies and programs. These policies focused on nontraditional transportation and land use improvements such as employer-based transportation management programs, transit improvements, smart growth and related land use strategies, as well as road and parking pricing. These strategies were aimed at reducing mobile source emissions by reducing vehicle travel activity. These programs are comprehensive and the emissions are difficult to account for using ARC’s existing models and methods. Pollutants of air quality concern are evaluated as well as GHG emissions.

The full report is available here. The report explored 4 basic scenarios for the Atlanta region.

  • Expanding employer-based transportation management programs
  • Improving transit frequency
  • Pricing parking in major employment centers
  • Improving land use mix around transit and employment centers

Each scenario is built on the one before it. In total, by implementing all four strategies, USEPA estimates that the Atlanta region could reduce emissions by as much as 9%. Improving the region’s parking pricing policies and better supporting smart land use near transit and major employment centers were the most effective strategies in reducing GHG emissions.

Understanding Climate Change and the Impact of Community Design on GHG Emissions (2014 Study)

GHGCover_THPrevious efforts by ARC to quantify greenhouse gas emissions focused on the regional level, with little detail about how community characteristics impact emissions directly. This study calculates the Atlanta region’s contribution to climate change, as measured by GHG emissions produced by transportation and household energy use, at a community scale.

With improved knowledge of how planning and development decisions impact GHG emissions throughout the Atlanta region, planners, policy-makers and citizens can make more informed decisions for future growth. Communities with sustainability goals that include GHG mitigation should consider the key findings in this report when drawing up future changes to land use and transportation plans. GHG emissions should be included as an important component of any future planning work.

A link to the full report, executive summary and appendices is provided in the right side bar. In addition, interactive emissions inventory maps created as part of the study are available to explore at a neighborhood level.

Transportation and Land Use Scenarios (2009 Study)

Five scenario tests incorporating different land use strategies, as well as the new CAFE standard for fuel economy were analyzed for future impact on CO2 emissions and compared to 1990 conditions.  All 2030 scenario tests still result in an increase of at least 50 percent in CO2 emissions.

Graph of on-road CO2 emission scenarios

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