Climate Action and Transferable Development Rights

Zoning Practice — December 2020

By Richard Pruetz, FAICP


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Communities across the United States are using transferable development rights (TDR) to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by controlling energy-wasting sprawl, preserving resources needed for carbon sequestration, and conserving the carbon already embedded within historic landmarks. Others use TDR for climate change adaptation by protecting natural areas, safeguarding water supplies, and redirecting growth from places that are increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic events such as wildfires and sea level rise.

This edition of Zoning Practice makes the case for why communities should consider adding TDR to their climate action toolbox and explores 10 TDR programs in municipalities across the United States that have used TDR for both mitigating their greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.


Page Count
Date Published
Dec. 1, 2020
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Richard Pruetz, FAICP
Rick Pruetz, FAICP, is a former planning consultant who continues to research and write about ecocities, bicycling infrastructure, and the preservation of natural, agricultural, and historic resources using transfer of development rights (TDR). He authored or co-authored over 40 TDR studies and/or ordinances and was one of authors of The TDR Handbook: Designing and Implementing Transfer of Development Rights Programs. In 2021, Rick published Smart Climate Action through Transfer of Development Rights, a book that uses case studies and profiles of 282 US programs to illustrate how TDR has been used to curb sprawl, promote energy-efficient communities, preserve farms and forests capable of sequestering carbon, and help jurisdictions adapt to climate change by protecting biodiversity and reducing or eliminating development potential in places vulnerable to wildfires, floods, and sea level rise. Rick also recently published Prosperity Comes in Cycles: Bikeways and the Virtuous Cycle, a book that documents how bicycle trails in 51 communities across the nation have increased business activity, employment, property values, and tax revenues while reducing healthcare costs and providing inexpensive options for exercise, recreation, and everday mobility. Rick is Vice President of Ecocity Builders.