Climate Change, Consumption, and Cities

Fordham Urban Law Journal, 2009

Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2009-01

61 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2008 Last revised: 13 Mar 2009

See all articles by Alice Kaswan

Alice Kaswan

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: December 16, 2008


In this article, Professor Kaswan argues that hoped-for greenhouse gas reductions cannot be achieved without reducing consumption. Given their control over land use and buildings, cities can play a key role in reducing consumption. She argues that, while existing federal proposals for a market-based approach could indirectly create incentives that would reduce emissions from transportation and buildings, the invisible hand of the market will not suffice. Nor can the federal government succeed alone. Local and regional governments could play a key practical and institutional role, and many have already initiated greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

Local governments are, however, unlikely to take sufficient action on their own initiative due to collective action constraints, the socioeconomic complexities driving existing land use patterns, and federal and state disincentives to smarter growth. Professor Kaswan argues for a vertically integrated approach to overcome impediments to local action. She proposes that the federal government delegate emission reduction responsibilities to the states who would in turn delegate responsibility to regional or local governments. She also proposes that federal law require the integration of broader regional equity goals to address the complex socioeconomic factors that are inextricably implicated in land use decisions.

Keywords: climate change, local government, greenhouse gas reduction, land use

JEL Classification: K32, O13, Q38, Q48, R14, R41, R48, R52

Suggested Citation

Kaswan, Alice, Climate Change, Consumption, and Cities (December 16, 2008). Fordham Urban Law Journal, 2009, Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2009-01, Available at SSRN:

Alice Kaswan (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States
(415) 422-5053 (Phone)

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