Studies have shown that green infrastructure, such as healthy urban forests, leads to more liveable communities – enhancing physical and mental health, improving our kids’ learning abilities, and providing us with a better quality of life. Planning and maintaining more liveable communities and curbing sprawl must be a priority in the face of a changing climate. Urban forests made up of all of the trees and shrubs found along streets, in front and back yards, in parks and in ravines and other natural areas, reduce flooding and stormwater costs, improve air quality and reduce temperatures. More compact communities deliver benefits that include better transit utilization and the preservation of important natural areas. But despite growing recognition of the incredible value of urban forests and other natural areas and the high costs of sprawl, we need to do much more to safeguard the liveability of our communities. We need to make sure that provincial policy and provincial agencies put green infrastructure and stopping greenspace-destroying sprawl first to help us build climate resilient — and healthier — communities.
To build sustainable climate resilient communities, the province must:
- Work with municipalities on a province-wide urban forest strategy in order to preserve and grow our immensely valuable — but increasingly at risk — urban forests.
- Ensure that green infrastructure, such as urban forests, qualifies for provincial infrastructure funding and support municipal efforts to proactively manage green infrastructure as assets through research and sharing of best practices.
- Mandate a green infrastructure-first approach to providing urban services such as stormwater management and cooling.
- Ban the expansion of urban boundaries within both the Greenbelt and the Whitebelt for 10 years.
- Require all planning decision makers, including the Ontario Municipal Board, to more stringently consider environmental sustainability and climate impact in their decision making.
- Extend the Greenbelt Natural System throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe and take the lead on mapping a regional-scale natural heritage system.