Policy Savant Panel: Can the Utah Climate & Clean Air Compact make a difference for Utahns?

October 26, 2020 (UtahPolicy.com)

Utah is fortunate to be served by a number of capable think tanks and policy institutes. Periodically, UtahPolicy.com poses a question to leaders from these organizations regarding important and timely policy issues. For this week’s question we noted the large group of Utah leaders that promoted and signed the Utah Climate & Clean Air Compact, which encourages all citizens and organizations to follow “The Utah Roadmap: Positive Solutions on Climate and Air Quality.” The roadmap was commissioned by the Utah Legislature and developed by a wide range of experts convened by the Gardner Policy Institute. To the panel of policy savants, we asked:

“Can this broad-based community initiative really make a difference in improving Utah’s air quality and combatting global climate change, or is it mostly a feel-good, symbolic gesture?” Here are their answers:

Peter Reichard, President, Utah Foundation. We can admit that any effort Utah makes to address global climate change will be a drop in the world bucket, and Utah Foundation’s 2020 Utah Priorities Project shows that Utahns in general are not particularly concerned about climate change. But Utahns are worried about air quality. And if Utah makes major strides on the air quality front, it might thereby do more than its part in the climate change arena.

There’s no reason Utah can’t advance pragmatic approaches that not only improve air quality, but also boost the economy and enhance quality of life. In the 2019 report, “Building a Better Beehive: Land Use Decision Making, Fiscal Sustainability and Quality of Life in Utah,” Utah Foundation explored active transportation amenities and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes as a vital means of improving community spaces.

Along these lines, it also explored land use strategies that employ live-work-play development patterns, including transit-oriented developments. Better pedestrian amenities and better-integrated land uses can help to reduce the need for commuting and other driving trips, taking more cars out of traffic and thereby improving our air.

Our work around alternative fuel vehicles last year (Driving Toward a Cleaner Future: Alternative Fuel Vehicles in Utah) suggests that there are opportunities to address the worst offenders on the road: older, heavy-duty trucks. We are currently finishing a study that will address the potential for teleworking as an additional air quality strategy.

Other options worth a closer look include: cracking down on wood smoke on red-air days with stiff penalties for noncompliance; a cash-for-clunkers program focused on heavy-polluting cars; promoting transit ridership through investments to increase convenience; making the Inland Port an international model for air quality stewardship; and updating building codes with a focus on air quality…

  View Article