Transportation, the Built Environment and Green House Gas Emissions in Developing Cities

April 06, 2010
P. Christopher Zegras, Urban Studies and Planning

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached their highest levels since before the industrial revolution. And, yet, under current trends, greenhouse gas emissions will only increase.  Much of this forecast growth will occur in urbanizing areas of the developing world.  After all, the 21st Century will be an urban century.  Already over one-half the planet’s population lives in urban areas and almost all net global population growth this Century will likely be in the world’s developing cities.  Thus, mitigating the climate change risk will require a strong focus on the urbanizing developing world.

In this presentation I examine the potential for altering the patterns of urban growth in developing cities as a way to mitigate transportation’s contribution to the climate change risk. I first outline a basic framework for understanding the factors contributing to transportation greenhouse gas emissions, including the potential influence of the built environment – that is, the form and design of the cities we build. I then examine evidence of the relationship between urban passenger transportation energy use/greenhouse gas emissions and the built environment in two very different developing contexts: Chile and China. I end with some discussion of the implications of this evidence, including within the context of the current global climate regime.

Please watch video below.