Carbon Pollution, Climate Policy, and the Built Environment: Introduction

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
- President Obama

In June, President Obama announced his new climate policy, promising to respond to the threat of climate change by implementing an action plan that consists of three key pillars: cutting carbon pollution in America, preparing the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and leading international efforts to combat global climate change. Specifically, to cut carbon pollution in America, President Obama made a commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels by imposing new regulations, eliminating investment barriers for renewable energy sources, and creating more economic incentives to cut carbon pollution. The plan promises to help develop and deploy strategies and technologies—in partnership with states, local communities and the private sector—to encourage energy efficiency and clean energy across the nation.

Notably, President Obama called for a limit on a carbon emissions from new and existing power plants: “So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.”

While limiting carbon emissions from power plants is an important step, we must also address other types of infrastructure in order to effectively mitigate climate change. To successfully reduce carbon pollution, we must understand the interdependent nature of the built environment and the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and find a holistic approach to tackle the problem.

The built environment, which includes the patterns of development, transportation infrastructure, and building location and design, has deep-rooted direct and indirect influences on US greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, understanding the current trends, as well as how and where we develop the built environment, is critical in achieving energy efficiency and sustainability. It is also important to change the ways we develop and design the built environment in order to tackle climate change and its harmful effects on public health.

In this series of blogs, we have reconstructed the EPA’s recent analysis of the U.S. built environment in “Our Built and Natural Environments,” focusing on the way it relates to greenhouse gas emissions and the new climate action plan. Each blog is divided into different sources of carbon pollution in the U.S., and the entries include current efforts to limit emissions from each source and the EPA’s suggestions for future development based on various case studies.

Here at Earth Day Network, we hope to help readers see the overarching role of the built environment in eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and recognize the need to shift trends of development. This way, readers can make educated and sustainable decisions in their everyday lives. Stay tuned each week for a new installment of the Carbon Pollution, Climate Policy, and the Built Environment blog series.

- Written by Jiin G. Park

**Jiin G. Park is an intern at Earth Day Network and a MA candidate in Environmental Conservation Education at New York University