Municipal governments around the world are on the front lines of dealing with climate
change impacts like storms, flooding and heatwaves. They provide critical infrastructure
and services to communities, which often can't handle extreme weather events.
Many municipalities want to do their part, and are leading on climate change action.
But they don't have the same powers as provincial or federal governments, and have
limited freedom of action.
Tomorrow is World Cities Day. As newly elected municipal councils in Ontario plan
their first meetings, we are looking at some of the ways municipalities are addressing
climate change. A lot is already happening, but much more can be done.
The Challenge Of Urban Growth
Almost 9 in 10 people in Ontario live in urban areas. Our ten largest cities, each
home to more than half a million residents, make up a fifth of Canada's population.
As cities grow, urban sprawl forces people to drive longer distances. This contributes
to more traffic congestion and
GHG emissions from transportation. Over 70% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions comes
from people living in cities and towns.
To reduce Ontario's GHG emissions, more people will need access to cleaner, low-carbon
transportation options. They will also need affordable housing near transit in high-density
communities. It will be a challenge to balance these needs with climate adaptation
with efforts to expand green spaces and improve stormwater management.
"Municipalities have a key role to play in reducing vehicle use through smart urban
Municipal Government Authority
In 2015, the Association
of Municipalities of Ontario (444 municipalities) and the Union of Quebec
Municipalities signed a long-term Climate Change Action Covenant. This sent a strong
message to the federal and provincial governments that municipalities are ready
and willing to tackle climate change.
In 2017, Ontario's municipalities were given new powers to create climate-friendly communities. They
can pass bylaws related to climate change, and plan clean energy systems to reduce
The province also updated the Planning Act and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden
Horseshoe with requirements that municipalities have policies for reducing GHG emissions
and adapting to the changing climate. Municipal GHG emission inventories, targets
and strategies were also recommended.
Local Opportunities And Actions
Ontario municipalities have been inspired to take action with their new powers and
directives. They are adopting new technology for net-zero buildings and wastewater
treatment plants. Several municipalities fund these projects in new, creative ways.
For instance, revolving
funds are used by municipalities to recycle revenues from clean energy to
fund other cost-saving sustainability projects.
Basic Revolving Loan Fund Model. Source: ECO
Ontario's now-cancelled price on carbon pollution provided funding to 130 Ontario
municipalities and more than 50 social housing agencies for projects to address climate change. They included:
Many projects lost funding, and some municipalities had to find other ways to pay
for their projects when the price on carbon pollution was cancelled. These included:
What's Next For Ontario Municipal Climate Action?
Since 1994, more than 350 Canadian municipalities have committed to take action
on climate change through the
Partners for Climate Protection program. As elected mayors and councillors
settle in, climate change — which impacts capital budgets, infrastructure, and the
health and safety of residents and local economies - must be top of mind. With today's
uncertainty and a lack of clear climate policy from the province, action at the
municipal level is now more important than ever.
Learn more about the challenge of climate disruption and adaptation in Ontario municipalities
in our report Climate
Action in Ontario: What's Next? .