Environmental protection, climate regulation, and the persistence of sprawl in California

Stephanie Pincetl, Sean Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


California is widely seen as a climate and environmental policy leader in the U.S. and beyond. However, allowing local land use decisions to proceed as usual represents a major gap in the state’s climate policy framework. Climate mitigation rules and formulae are utilized to claim zero net emissions for large-scale land development at the urban fringe. Such developments continue to destroy habitats and radically transform landscapes. Newhall Ranch, a subdevelopment at the edge of urbanized Los Angeles County, has claimed emissions offsets such that the development of 60,000 homes will have less than zero greenhouse gas emissions. Offsets largely rely on using disadvantaged communities, and significant threats to endangered species on site are compensated by payments to the project's environmental opponents. The net result is land development as usual, with a veneer of solarization and investments in GHG mitigation projects with poor quantification and verification. This situation demonstrates the enduring structures of land use development that drive GHG emissions and environmental change, and calls for stronger requirements for local compliance with state emissions-reductions targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3877-3894
Number of pages18
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • California
  • GHG emissions
  • Land development
  • Mitigation
  • Regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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