Ontario's Growth Plan puts focus on municipal climate action

Blog - May 18, 2017 - By Kelly O'Connor

Ontario's Greenbelt. Photo: Roberta Franchuk: Pembina Institute

Ontario’s much-anticipated Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) was released today. The Growth Plan for the GGH and the other plans that make up the coordinated land use planning review are marquee pieces of legislation that, while not perfect, have and will protect farmland, reduce sprawl, and help to build the kind of communities that people want to live in. Smart planning is critical for the Greater Golden Horseshoe — as the plan notes, it’s one of the fastest growing regions in North America, with a forecasted population growth to 13.5 million people and 6.3 million jobs by 2041.

With this growth in mind, encouraging transit-supportive density is critically important. As we highlighted in our recent report Getting on Board, the current roll-out of rapid transit infrastructure in Ontario is one of the biggest infrastructure builds in the province’s history, and cities with new transit are taking steps to get their land use plans up to speed, in part with the support of the Growth Plan. Effective transit, and land-use planning around transit, is crucial to giving people viable transportation options outside of the personal car. Reducing the number of cars on the road will lower carbon and air pollution: a win-win for everyone. 

Speaking of lowering carbon pollution, we were especially glad to see the Growth Plan’s requirement for municipalities to set climate policies and actions in their Official Plans. In our view, this is a critical step that will help ensure that all municipalities are taking action on climate change. As municipalities play a more direct role in our day to day lives, their participation in climate action is integral to success. It’s also encouraging to see that the Growth Plan indicates that the climate actions are to align with Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan and Climate Change Strategy, which helps ensure that the actions are laddering up to the bigger picture.

The Growth Plan also notes that municipalities are encouraged to set emission reduction targets that support the provincial goals, and develop greenhouse gas inventories. As we know “what gets measured, gets managed” so developing inventories is important for driving action on climate change. We hope that the provincial government gives municipalities the support and resources they need to see this through. 

While there’s still a long road of implementation ahead, there’s reason today to pause to celebrate. The Growth Plan is a result of many years of hard work and input from industry, non-profits, and government. We look forward to working with the provincial government and municipalities to ensure that citizens, and the environment, see the benefits of an effective Growth Plan. 

Kelly O'Connor

Kelly O'Connor is the associate director of communications for the Pembina Institute.


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