Category: Climate change & energy

Joint Comments from Fairfax Healthy Communities Network on the Community-wide Energy & Climate Action Plan (CECAP)

Dear Chairman McKay & and Members of the Board of Supervisors, 

We, the representatives of the undersigned organizations, as part of the Fairfax Healthy Communities Network, are excited to support the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP). As Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, Fairfax County can stand out as a leader in the region and have an outsized impact on the race to reduce carbon emissions.

Our network partners envision a Fairfax County where people can live, work, and play in connected communities that are healthy, sustainable and inclusive. In fact, there may be no policy endeavor that better embodies our joint work than a climate plan that addresses all aspects of providing clean air, clean energy, reducing reliance on dirty fossil fuels for transportation, and ensuring natural green space for all county residents. This is a large part of our vision for a healthy community.  

The newly-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth Assessment Report on the science of climate change provides a dire picture of accelerated impacts.  Warming of the planet is happening at an alarming rate, far faster than predicted. 

The report predicts that warming of greater than 1.5 C (2.7F) will cause more extreme weather events such as fires, droughts and flooding. These events are already happening. Hurricane Ida, the Caldor Fire, the extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest and even our local intense pattern of rain are all very real “canaries in the coal mine” for all policy makers.  

Today, we do not feel the most severe and dangerous impacts here in Fairfax County. However, the current fires and storms serve as the newest wakeup call – we have the opportunity to try to get ahead of the most severe local impacts. Fairfax County is a significant contributor to the emissions problem in the metro area and shares the responsibility to solve it. Only by large and rapid cuts in emissions can these dire impacts be addressed.  There is no time to waste, and every jurisdiction has to play a role.

Core to this plan are twelve strategies that outline areas of focus. Each is important, but some will have greater mitigation impacts, such as energy efficiency in buildings and changes in transportation, particularly vehicular impacts. Others come with multiple benefits, such as preserving and expanding our natural resources throughout various land use processes to both sequester carbon and provide additional climate resiliency. Given the complexity of climate change and the world’s evolving response, we cannot rely on residents and businesses to voluntarily change behaviors or know which climate-friendly steps are most beneficial to prioritize, so we count on innovative and ambitious government policies and actions to influence change.  

Reaching the goals in CECAP will only be possible if the County moves from ideation to the implementation phase at full speed. An implementation plan must be crafted and put in place with the urgency that is needed. As with all County programs, it is critical that each facet of this program comply with the One Fairfax policy by asking who benefits, who is harmed by any actions, and how we prevent harm.

As advocates representing environmental, smart growth, transportation, affordable housing, and social justice, organizations, we urge the Board of Supervisors to: 

  1. Develop an aggressive timeline for the CECAP Implementation Plan
  2. Hire a team of climate experts to guide and support staff in implementing the plan
  3. Fund programs and provide incentives in FY 2023 to begin immediately mitigating carbon emissions

We are counting on the Board to offer its considerable leadership to this formidable task. If it is to be successful, it will also require dedicated, creative, and visionary staff to permeate throughout the government and into the private sector. Success is the only option.  

Thank you for taking this important next step in the climate fight.

Sincerely,

Audubon Naturalist Society, Renee Grebe, Northern Virginia Conservation Advocate
Coalition for Smarter Growth, Sonya Breehey, Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager
Friends of Holmes Run, Whitney Redding, Primary Conservator

Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, Michelle Krocker, Executive Director

Sierra Club, Great Falls Group, Ann Bennett, Energy, Climate and Land Use
South County Task Force, Mary Paden, Chair

Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Bridget McGregor, Senior Northern Virginia Organizer

Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Stephanie Piperno, Trails Coalition Manager

RELEASE: COG’s Initiative for Equity, Smart Growth, Climate

RELEASE: COG’s Initiative for Equity, Smart Growth, Climate

PRESS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release: 
September 23, 2021 

Contact: 
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437 
Cheryl Cort, Policy Director, 202-251-7516 

CSG Applauds COG’s Initiative for Equity, Smart Growth, Climate 

COG Proposal to Focus Development around DC Region’s High-Capacity Transit Stations Vote Scheduled for October 13 

Today, the Washington Post reported that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, composed of the region’s local elected officials, some state legislators, and state and federal representatives, are on the verge of agreeing to focus development around the DC region’s high-capacity transit stations. These include Metrorail, Purple Line, VRE and MARC commuter rail, and bus rapid transit stations. At the same time, COG intends to prioritize transportation, housing, trails, and other investments around stations within equity emphasis areas, which have high concentrations of lower income residents and high numbers of Black, Latino, or Asian residents. 

COG also announced preliminary findings that show a combination of smart growth, electric vehicles, and pricing tools will be necessary for the region to slash its greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Focused growth in transit communities is an essential part of this strategy. 

“We applaud COG’s proposal which is to be voted on at their October 13 meeting,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “COG’s action is the natural outgrowth of the work and long-time advocacy by our organization and COG’s own studies and vision statements over the past two decades. But now this agreement must be followed by action.” 

Founders of the Coalition for Smarter Growth first proposed a “network of livable communities” centered on the region’s transit hubs in reports released in 1992 and 1996, and in CSG’s 2002 Blueprint for a Better Region. It was a vision largely endorsed by the Urban Land Institute’s “Reality Check” conference in 2005, COG’s Region Forward vision of 2010, COG’s follow-on studies and plans, and by many local elected officials who have been approving transit-oriented developments.

“Anyone frustrated by sitting in traffic, or concerned about the growing evidence of climate change including frequent floods in the DC region, should support this COG initiative. Mixed use, mixed-income, walkable, transit-centered communities mean many more people will be able to drive less and reduce the air and climate pollution they generate,” said Schwartz. 

“The region’s east-west economic and racial divide, first highlighted in the 1999 Brookings report ‘A Region Divided,” has persisted for too long. Accelerating investment in transit communities in Prince George’s, eastern Montgomery, and eastern Fairfax and Prince William would shorten commutes, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and improve access to jobs and opportunity,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for CSG. “In fact, building out transit-oriented communities on the east side of our region and investing in affordable housing near transit throughout our region are key transportation and climate solutions.” 

“But there was also sobering news from the meeting of COG’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) yesterday,” said Schwartz. “Early findings from their climate scenario study confirm that neither the rate of adoption of electric vehicles, nor land use changes, will be enough to slash our greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently by 2030. We’ll need to move on a number of fronts – much faster adoption of electric vehicles, much stronger action to focus growth and reduce sprawl in order to reduce vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled, increase telecommuting, and use pricing (congestion pricing or vehicle miles traveled fees, and parking pricing), if our region is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to do our part to address the climate emergency.” 

“Electric vehicles alone can’t save us. We must stop sprawling outward where people have no option but driving, and create inclusive, walkable, transit-centered communities, in order to slash our greenhouse gas emissions. In the process, we will increase access to opportunity and address regional inequity, while improving quality of life for everyone,” concluded Cort. 

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Take Action: Support a stronger Climate Action Plan in Prince George’s County

Given the urgency of the recent U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, we know we don’t have time to neglect key solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, you can help Prince George’s County adopt smart growth climate solutions that are a win-win for people, the economy, and the climate. 

Here are two ways to help: (1) send an email to the County Climate Action Commission (if you haven’t already), and (2) attend the upcoming virtual Climate Action Plan community meeting on August 19th.

TAKE ACTION: Voice your support for stronger County climate actions

Transportation (mostly from cars and trucks) makes up the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions at 48%, but the County’s draft plan misses opportunities to reduce emissions with smarter land use and transportation policies. Electric vehicles (EVs) and telecommuting are important but not enough. Smart growth solutions — transit-oriented development (TOD), affordable housing options close to jobs and services, better transit, and safe walking and biking, are effective and equitable strategies to reduce transportation-related climate pollution AND improve livability and prosperity in the county. 

We commend the County Climate Action Commission for including three recommendations to reduce emissions through smarter land use and transportation. But to make an impact, these must be strengthened, including by:

  • Prioritizing walkable, transit-oriented development and affordable housing
  • Expanding employee transit benefits and implementing free fares
  • Expanding transit service
  • Making streets safer for people walking and biking

Want to get more involved? Join the upcoming Prince George’s community meeting on the Climate Action Plan on August 19 evening. 

RSVP: Climate Action Plan Virtual Community Meeting Thursday, August 19th, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Get more background by reading CSG’s climate recommendations for Prince George’s.

RELEASE: IPCC Climate Change Report

RELEASE: IPCC Climate Change Report

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

August 9, 2021

Contact:
Cheryl Cort, cheryl@smartergrowth.net 
Jane Lyons, jane@smartergrowth.net
Sonya Breehey, sonya@smartergrowth.net

Today’s Alarming Climate Report – The DC Region Can and Should Do its Part 

Today, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued what the U.N. Chief calls a “Code Red for Humanity” highlighting worse climate impacts to come unless we act without further delay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. See today’s Washington Post story on the IPCC report. Lead author, scientist Claudia Tebaldi, is quoted in the article urging people to focus on what can still be done to quickly reduce our emissions footprint.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth therefore urges every local, state, regional, and federal official to make fundamental changes in our land use, transportation, housing, and energy policies to slash our emissions. The DC region has committed itself to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. With transportation now our number one source of emissions, we need to commit to reductions in this sector in particular. Electric vehicles are essential for meeting our climate targets, but studies show that they are not enough and that our cities and suburbs must also reduce the need to drive for daily needs.

The good news is that by focusing on creating walkable, bike-friendly, mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhoods, creating more housing and more affordable housing in these communities, expanding transit, and ending highway expansion, we can reduce the amount that we have to drive and slash our emissions.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, walkable, transit-accessible communities provide a wide range of benefits including lower combined housing and transportation costs, cleaner air and improved health, and access to opportunity for all levels of our workforce.

We can do this! The smart growth climate-friendly solutions are:

  1. More transit that serves travel outside of traditional 9-5 office commutes;
  2. More transit-oriented centers and corridors;
  3. More housing and dedicated affordable units close to jobs and transit;
  4. Streets where walking and biking are priorities for safe travel;
  5. 15-minute neighborhoods where you can walk or bike to daily needs within 15 minutes, without having to get into a car;
  6. Stopping the never-ending and futile highway and arterial expansion that simply increases sprawling development, driving and traffic;
  7. Greener, more energy-efficient buildings;
  8. Switching to clean, renewable energy, and electric vehicles starting with buses, high-use fleet vehicles, and trucks for maximum emissions reductions.

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Take action on Thrive 2050, new Montgomery County’s General Plan

Take action on Thrive 2050, new Montgomery County’s General Plan

Sustainable, efficient, equitable land use is core to a healthy future and ensuring a high quality of life for everyone. For nearly two years, Montgomery County has been working on a new general land use plan called Thrive 2050, a blueprint for how and where the county will grow over the next 30+ years.

Testimony to TPB re Climate & Visualize 2045

May 19, 2021 

Dear Chair Allen and TPB Board members: 

You have the opportunity to create a better Visualize 2045, not next time, but now. The region’s  residents and future generations are counting on you, and climate science says that we can’t delay  anymore. At last week’s COG Board meeting, TPB Director Kanti Srikanth said in regard to climate  change and Visualize 2045 that “Every option needs to be pursued as expeditiously as possible to  attain our 2030 goal.” We agree.  

193 of the 199 public comments submitted to TPB ask for sustainable and equitable transportation  investments that prioritize non-auto modes, including land use and demand management strategies.  This is consistent with the COG Voices of the Region survey. 

Please note these two key findings in today’s presentation on TPB’s Climate Change Study Phase 1  Report: 

“At the regional and local levels, the studies show that land use policies that bring housing  and jobs closer together and closer to transit reduce both GHG emissions and vehicle travel.  Travel demand policies such as teleworking are also effective at reducing GHG emissions and  vehicle travel and are also cost-effective.” and that “In contrast to most of the vehicle-related  strategies, many of these policy actions can be implemented in a shorter timeframe  contributing to critical near-term GHG reductions.”  

– The memo notes the promise of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), and we agree.  However, the TCI Program will only reduce on-road emissions by 7% by 2032. TCI clearly states  that substantial reductions depend on jurisdictions, including MPO’s like TPB, adopting  “complementary policies.”  

Given Director Srikanth’s statement that every option needs to be expeditiously pursued, we are  stunned by the staff response to the public comments — that the proposed project list with $40 billion in  highway and road expansion projects is generally consistent with and advances TPB’s climate and equity  goals, and that it is not as relevant to regional climate efforts. 

That is simply not possible. Road expansion fuels more driving and spread out development and diverts  billions of dollars from investing in transit and TOD to reduce emissions and address the region’s racial  and economic inequity. 

TPB’s own studies show we can avoid much proposed highway expansion if the region adopts effective  travel and greenhouse gas reduction strategies, which are travel demand and land use policies that  focus jobs and housing in walkable areas near transit, and expanding transit investments. 

Thank you. 

Stewart Schwartz Bill Pugh 

Executive Director Senior Policy Fellow