Urban land planning: the role of a master plan in influencing local temperatures

04 May 2015

Land use planning (LUP) is central for managing issues related to climatic variation in urban environments. However, Master Plans (MPs) usually do not include climatic aspects, and few studies have addressed climate change at the urban scale, especially in developing countries. This paper proposes a framework with ten categories for assessment of climatic variation in urban LUP. Each category comprises attributes that describe a complex of relationships in influencing local temperature variations. They are analyzed for the case of the Master Plan of Porto Alegre (MPPA), the Southernmost metropolis of Brazil. It is concluded that the MPPA is strongly grounded in climate-related land and zoning coordination, but exhibits weaknesses in building, cartographical and social aspects considered synergistically relevant for tackling problems related to urban climate variation. Furthermore, the MPPA does not contain provisions related to monitoring of local climate and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and it is ineffective for improving energy efficiency. Specific MPPA failures stemming from these weaknesses include: an increase of 21.79% in the city’s urbanized area from 1986 to 2011 to accommodate a similar increase in population, with significant horizontal sprawl; average temperature rise of 0.392 C from 1991–2000 to 2001–2010, with statistically significant increases in temperature found since 1931; significant vehicle traffic increases, especially since 2007. From these findings, it is possible to conclude that the MPPA does not offer answers to all the imbalances related to land use, and therefore gives insufficient support to tackle the issue of rising temperatures.