The Greenbelt and Energy Conscious Communities

September 25, 2023

Greenbelt Blog Image

The recent reversal of the Provincial governments decision to open up the Greenbelt to developers is not only a win for the protection of farmland, water resources and natural heritage, it also promotes the interests of energy conscious cities.

Globally, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas.1 So, it stands to reason urban areas have a central role in the global response to climate change. While urban areas account for only 2% of the Earth’s surface, they consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 70% of the world’s GHG emissions.2

Canada is a highly urbanized country with over 80% of Canadian living in urban areas.3 Canadian local governments have direct control or influence over more than 50% of GHG emissions that occur within their municipal boundaries. This gives them a key role in the nation’s efforts to decarbonize.4

As Canada’s urban populations continue to grow, sustainable urbanization is more urgent than ever to address climate change.
Ontario needs approximately 1.5 million new homes by 2030.5 Almost half of that demand will come from Toronto and communities in Peel and York Regions. If they are unable to meet that demand, it will spill over into surrounding communities. These new homes will be neighbours to the Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt and its sister legislation – the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan – encourage more compact communities and more sustainable urbanization. Compact communities create the conditions for more efficient and low-carbon options for heating buildings and personal transportation. That is not what would have occured on the Greenbelt lands proposed for development.

Transportation (32%) and buildings (25%) are the two largest emitting sectors in Ontario.6

As we respond to the urgent need for new housing in Ontario, policy alignment between all levels of government is essential to ensure we build sustainable urban energy systems that reduce energy waste and energy-related pollution. There is considerably more work to be done to achieve this in Ontario, but the restoration of the Greenbelt is a step in the right direction.


  3. Ibid
  4. QUEST (2016) Community Energy Planning: The Value Proposition. Available at: