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Innovative U.S. State Laws that Help Move Land Uses Toward Zero Carbon Emissions

Warren G. Lavey


Several U.S. states are leading in a variety of laws that help move land uses toward zero carbon emissions. Recent state laws address a wide range of issues related to climate resiliency, with rural and urban land uses key to many mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gases (GHG). This paper describes three sets of state GHG mechanisms related to land uses: to transform land development to meet GHG standards and build resilient communities, to increase carbon storage in forests and agricultural soils, and to assist disadvantaged communities. The analysis shows that GHG considerations in environmental impact reviews and local planning can transform major aspects of land use conversions and community design; GHG mechanisms which supplement existing land use programs can increase stakeholder support, adoption and effectiveness; and climate tools can and should integrate special assistance for housing, transportation, energy, vegetation, and environmental conditions in low-income communities. In the absence of a comprehensive U.S. national framework, the terms and effectiveness of these state initiatives are important in advancing sustainability and providing models for other domestic and non-U.S. laws.

Adjunct professor, University of Illinois Campus Honors Program and College of Law. I am grateful to the students in my Climate Change, Law & Health course. JD, MS (applied mathematics) and BA, Harvard University; Diploma in Economics, Cambridge University. <>.


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