The Green Economy
Efficient urban land use: pillar of the green economy
Cities and communities across Canada are experiencing growth in their urban areas and the creation of new neighbourhoods. This presents new challenges for municipalities as managing growth is one of the most expensive things that local governments have to finance.
Driven by the private sector, new neighbourhoods tend to be built on undeveloped, low-cost land - where homeowners are drawn by the prospect of a desirable lifestyle at a reasonable price. Tax revenue from these subdivisions is generally lower and even with development charges levied on private developers, the cost to build roads, sewers and other infrastructure ends up being subsidized by the rest of the community at a higher unit price.
This model drives the underutilization of existing assets and pushes up service delivery and energy costs - compounding the infrastructure deficit. Often councils and citizens are not fully aware of the impacts and lost opportunities associated with this model of growth. If they did, fostering support for policies to generate greater value for money might be easier.
Making value for money a top priority is key to building a green economy from the ground up in Canada, and is discussed in a recent FCM report.
Starting a dialogue on the role of municipalities in the Green Economy
The world's economy is going to get greener. Innovations will be spurred by rising energy prices and an increased scarcity of resources. Canada should be a world leader in the transition to a green economy, but that is far from certain today. Innovation is taking place around the world, and Canada is capable of contributing. The question is - will we be a net consumer or net producer of these innovations?
- New discussion paper: Building Canada's Green Economy
Municipalities drive economic growth, and supported by the right mix of federal and provincial policies and investments, they can make better use of their own policy levers to build a greener economy for Canada. The result? New jobs, GDP growth, lower environmental impacts and improved quality of life for Canadians.
Local governments can act in many sectors and employ a wide range of innovative approaches to produce results for both the environment and the economy. To name a few:
FCM to senate committee: Local governments are key partners in Canada's energy
FCM presented the municipal perspective on Canada's energy sector to the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources on October 27. The committee is developing a plan for Canada's energy future. It has been interviewing stakeholders across the country, to understand the current state of Canada's energy systems and untapped opportunities to improve them.
A preliminary report, Attention Canada! Preparing for our energy future, presents the committee's findings to date. A final report with policy recommendations should be released in 2012.
Municipalities control nearly ½ of GHGs
In its statement to the senate committee, FCM pointed out that local governments are important partners in building Canada's energy future. Aside from managing their own operational uses of energy, municipalities can also influence the energy consumption patterns of their citizens through policies, urban design, municipal levers and more. According to FCM's milestone report, Act Locally, local governments control more than 45 per cent of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada. Most of that control is indirect - it is linked to municipalities' influence over the choices of their citizens.
There are many low-cost, high-impact initiatives communities can undertake that will reduce energy demand , including retrofits for efficient lighting and insulation, as well as combined heat and power projects. However, an enabling policy environment is needed for these and other initiatives to take flight.
Creating sustainable communities
During its senate committee presentation, FCM also shared its experience in delivering sustainable community-based programs, and in empowering local energy champions. The Federation cited its Green Municipal Fund$trade; and Partners for Climate Protection program as leaders in helping our cities and communities make more efficient use of energy and contribute to renewable energy production.
We drove home an important message: FCM has discovered - through research and program delivery experiences - local governments can help achieve national environmental and energy policy objectives. Canada can create a brighter energy future if all orders of government work together to find the right solutions.
FCM was joined at this senate committee appearance by Sustainable Prosperity, whose green economy and municipal sector work contribute immensely to Canada's energy dialogue.