How might a provincial mandate help cities legislate the most effective climate programs? Ontario is currently reviewing key pieces of municipal legislation to ensure that municipalities across the Province have the tools, powers, and flexibility they need to effectively serve their communities. As part of this review, the provincial government is soliciting feedback from the public on how to renew the City of Toronto Act and the Municipal Act to help municipalities better address climate change across all municipal departments. Given that most energy-related GHG emissions come from urban environments, local governments have a key role to play in advancing climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Municipal climate change legislation is a well-established best practice which has already been implemented by many leading jurisdictions across Canada and the United States. For example:
- British Columbia’s Bill 27 mandates that every municipal government in BC incorporate GHG emissions-reduction targets into their Official Community Plans (OCPs). Section 12.23.1 of Victoria’s Official Community Plan pledges to reduce GHG emissions by a minimum of 33% below 2007 levels by 2020. Similarly, Vancouver’s Official Development plan lays out GHG reduction targets and pledges that all new construction be carbon neutral by 2030.
- The California State Constitution contains home-rule powers that enable cities to enact ordinances on matters concerning municipal affairs. As such, San Francisco’s Environmental Code not only includes GHG reduction targets, but also mandates that all City departments consider the effect of their decisions and activities on greenhouse gas emissions.
- Manitoba’s Planning Act requires all municipalities to adopt a Development Plan that sets out environmental plans and policies for the city and directs sustainable land use and development in a planning area. Winnipeg’s Development Plan commits to reducing the City’s GHG emissions but also states that citizens must have access to up-to-date information on environmental conditions, and use these results as a benchmark for progress.
The actions of these cities can help pave the way forward for others and inform a conversation around the broader regulatory authorities of the City of Toronto Act and Municipal Act. Legislating GHG reduction targets, promoting conscious efforts to reduce emissions across all City departments, and reporting progress of GHG emissions and energy usage are key ways to enable significant municipal action on climate change.
These regulatory authorities can also assist the implementation of common programs throughout Ontario municipalities and/or the development and implementation of locally-relevant initiatives. For instance, Vancouver is expanding its Landfill Gas Recovery project; San Francisco has committed to mandatory retrofitting of buildings at time of sale; and Winnipeg has promised to replace existing traffic signals with high-efficiency LED systems. Ultimately, local regulatory tools must enable municipalities to advance the GHG reduction in buildings, energy sources, public health, waste, transportation and land development.
TAF is developing a submission on the municipal legislative review by consulting with key stakeholders on draft ideas. Please contact Amanda Iadipaolo if you would like to contribute to the TAF submission.
Or, get in touch with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing by October 31st, 2015.
Mail: Municipal Legislation Review
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Local Government- Policy Branch
777 Bay Street, 13th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
Image credit: Queen’s Park, Canadawatch.us