This report synthesizes research investigating the relationship between characteristics of urban design and GHG emissions. Municipal and local governments have the capacity to respond to the demands of climate change by reducing GHG emissions through compact higher density mixed use development. Such development gives residents access to greater transportations choices including walking. Reduced reliance on auto travel has significant effects on GHG emissions reductions.
Reducing auto trips and distances traveled on each trip is the most significant factor in reducing per capita emissions. Studies show that higher density mixed use developments have the greatest impact on auto travel. Local governments can use an array of policy instruments including provincial legislation to meet or exceed emissions targets. The greatest impact will come from increasing density, promoting mixed-use development and providing efficient and frequent transit service within walking distance to high-density developments.
Urban density, in terms of both housing and employment; urban land use and zoning; distance between housing and employment; transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; and local energy production all play a role in determining the GHG emissions of households. Density is the most important variable and affects the success of all other variable in reducing auto travel. The higher the density the more successful the other strategies will be. High density enables mixed land uses and shorter distances between land uses and the more viable the transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.