Salt Lake City, Utah Adapts to Improve Air Quality Through Smart Growth

Salt Lake City, Utah Adapts to Improve Air Quality Through Smart Growth

Project Summary

Salt Lake City’s GREENbike bike share program

In 2014, Salt Lake City was designated a Climate Action Champion Community for their leadership in reducing emissions and increasing climate resilience and adaptation to air quality concerns from climate change. The Sustainable Salt Lake Plan 2015 (PDF)(30 pp, 23 MB, About PDFarticulates the city’s broad and ambitious agenda to protect its resources, enhance its assets and establish a path towards greater community resilience. The plan set goals to improve air quality, protect community health and reduce particulate matter and ozone pollution, which are both projected to be exacerbated by climate change. The City adopted specific transportation measures to decrease miles traveled, reduce vehicle idling and promote alternatives. These clean air strategies reduce current air pollution that is expected to be exacerbated by climate change.

While continuing to address air quality issues, Salt Lake City formulated a vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan. The Salt Lake City climate response plan, called Climate Positive 2040, includes a climate vulnerability assessment, a greenhouse gas mitigation plan and an adaptation plan. This comprehensive approach to climate adaptation builds off of previous adaptation efforts to better help the city anticipate, plan and prepare to take action to protect residents from future public health and air quality concerns.


To start, Salt Lake City identified air quality as a critical vulnerability – one that is an immediate problem and one that is likely to be exacerbated by climate change.
In response, Salt Lake City increased city department’s adaptive capacity through training staff in a climate leaders program to better understand how climate change will affect their department’s mission. The City created a climate dashboard to track progress and provide up-to-date information on accomplishments to the public, and they completed their vulnerability assessment of climate impacts on every city department. To develop its Climate response plan, Salt Lake City convened an internal city government steering committee to assess risks and vulnerabilities and received input from all city departments.

Throughout the process, Salt Lake City prioritized adaptation actions that provide co-benefits. Even before completing an adaptation plan, Salt Lake City knew that reducing vehicle emissions, upgrading municipal fleets and encouraging comprehensive regional transportation programs would both reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and benefit public health by reducing air pollution that will be exacerbated due to a changing climate. Salt Lake City has also participated in mitigation measures through Climate Showcase Communities, a program funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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