York hosts Municipal Think Tank on Ontario’s new Growth Plan and Climate Change Action Plan

The Province of Ontario recently released proposed amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and related land use plans for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, as well as the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP). Given that these plans chart a course towards 2041 Growth Plan) and 2050 (CCAP) policy objectives, this emerging policy framework connecting land use decisions to climate action will have significant implications for municipal and other local government agencies over the long term.

Ian McVey
Ian McVey

To spark discussion around proposed amendments to the land use planning framework, York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies recently hosted a workshop, the “Think Tank on the Ontario Growth Plan and Climate Change Action Plan” in partnership with the Ontario Climate Consortium (OCC) and the Clean Air Council (CAC).

The workshop convened more than 90 participants representing municipal and provincial governments, conservation authorities, academia, private industry, NGOs and civil society organizations to discuss proposed amendments to the land use planning framework in relation to the province’s climate change action agenda, with respect to both mitigation and adaptation.

The Think Tank was opened by Noel Sturgeon, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), who highlighted the significance of FES – home to Canada’s largest graduate program in land use planning – as host of the event.

Ian McVey, a York FES alumni and current project manager with the OCC, then set the context for the Think Tank by highlighting the scale of the climate challenge in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region and the synergies and trade-offs between actions to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts. McVey was followed by panellists Laura Taylor, FES professor, and Marcy Burchfield, executive director of the Neptis Foundation, who highlighted key climate themes identified in OCC research: mainstreaming climate into land use planning framework; compact location efficient communities; transit-oriented design; community energy planning; green infrastructure; stormwater management; and integrated watershed management.

Breakout session during the workshop
Breakout session during the workshop

Taylor highlighted the significance of considering linkages between land use planning and climate change, and in her presentation proposed a framework for evaluating land use policy with respect to both the Greater Golden Horseshoe and municipal planners.

Following the presentations, the event featured a series of breakout discussion sessions, allowing participants to weigh in on the proposed Growth Plan amendments.

“I think the event was very successful based on the feedback I received from attendees,” said Taylor, adding that one municipal planner said the session was extremely useful because it was a good overview of provincial climate policy direction and a great opportunity to have a discussion with colleagues from around the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

“I also thought there was a very good mix of people with complementary talent and experience: some knew more about how municipal policy works in practice, such as influencing council decision-making, while others knew more about provincial energy reduction challenges,” said Taylor. “Some knew about climate change adaptation and public health, while others were students studying public engagement on climate change.”

OCC team members, including York’s McVey and Taylor, are considered experts in the field of climate change research and data interpretation.