Urban planners' changing worldview

January 10, 2018


Policy books

International Energy Association research confirms that successful urban energy planning is only possible, if energy is integrated in the entire urban planning process. But in many countries, including Canada, consideration of energy issues is still largely absent in the land use planning process.

Community energy plans, developed under the leadership of municipal governments, are emerging as a standardized and structured approach to transformative urban greenhouse gas reductions, and enhanced energy system resilience, in communities across Canada.

Recognizing that municipalities, both directly and indirectly, influence approximately sixty percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the Province of Ontario is incenting the development of community energy plans, and their integration into land use planning.

They have updated the Provincial Policy Statements on Land Use to promote energy and climate policy making in municipal Official Plans.

The Climate Change and Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act has set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the recently-launched emissions trading program is a key part of achieving these targets. The Climate Change Action Plan also enables progress towards these targets, and has committed to help municipalities develop community energy and climate action plans.

The updated Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe takes things one step further, requiring municipalities to incorporate climate change policies into their official plans. A soon- to-be-completed guideline will help municipalities meet their commitments to develop greenhouse gas inventories and emission reduction plans.

Finally, the recently-updated Long-Term Energy Plan acknowledges that municipal-level community energy plans are critical in meeting energy conservation targets and sustaining a reliable and secure supply for Ontario’s energy customers.

Given their planning and regulatory roles in a community, municipal governments have an essential role in building an enabling policy environment in support of community energy plan implementation. Private sector professionals also need to know how to address these changing regulations to effectively address them in development applications, if we want to transition to net zero communities.

This is considerable policy change in short period of time. Given the province’s ambitious, but vital, targets for greenhouse reductions, we will additional programs focused on accelerating the uptake of provincial policies and programs at the municipal level, by building capacity throughout the system.

While a strong connection should exist between urban development and energy development, the legacy of siloed urban land use and energy systems planning remains a barrier to achieving a more coordinated, and timely, transition to low carbon and climate resilient communities. These barriers also exist among related professions, including building professionals, engineers, finance professionals and others.