Low-Carbon Land-Use Laws

Zoning Practice — April 2022

By Margaret Byerly Williams


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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group II warns that, without immediate intervention, continued greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at today's levels will cause higher global average temperatures. And this warming will lead to extreme heat waves and drought, the spread of diseases like malaria, extreme flooding, increased storm events, and sea level rise that will engulf island nations.

While climate change is global, the effects are local. People will face disruption from flooding, storm surge, wildfires, drought, extreme heat, and mudslides, among other catastrophes. The threat of these effects is motivating a growing number of local jurisdictions to take action to reduce and sequester greenhouse gas emissions.

This issue of Zoning Practice explores how cities, towns, and counties can use land-use regulations to respond to climate change by implementing low-carbon land-use strategies that reduce GHG emissions associated with new development. It highlights the role of zoning in promoting energy-efficient and zero-emission buildings; development patterns that encourage walking, bicycling, and transit use in lieu of personal automobiles; and preservation and expansion of green infrastructure.


Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2022
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Meg Williams
<p>Meg&rsquo;s experience includes helping municipalities implement regulatory, planning and policy initiatives to facilitate sustainable development within their communities with extensive experience developing trainings, manuals, reports, publications, and planning and zoning recommendations on environmental and sustainable development topics. She has served as lead author on the U.S. Green Building Council&rsquo;s Technical Guidance Manual for Sustainable Neighborhoods and has helped numerous municipalities use this manual to audit zoning district regulations and identify zoning amendments that facilitate sustainable neighborhood development. Meg also contributed to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality&rsquo;s Environmental Justice Study, for which she helped develop an EJ strategies framework and drafted the legal authorities section. She serves as in-house counsel for Skeo Solutions, Inc. where she also develops and implements corporate compliance policies. Prior to joining Skeo, Meg worked as a staff attorney at the Land Use Law Center at Pace Law School and she continues her work for the Center as a sustainable development consultant. Meg serves as the Ex Officio Member of the Divisions Council Executive Committee and Editor of the Case Law Digest for the American Planning Association&rsquo;s Planning and Law Division. Meg is a member of the Virginia State Bar.</p>