Market News

 September 21, 2006
Cities adopt plan for environmental protection

 Toronto, Canada (GLOBE-Net) -- Mayors from Canada's largest cities have adopted an action plan to work with the federal government on priority areas that include a national public transit program and environmental protection in cities. Members of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Big City Mayors' Caucus, representing 22 of Canada's largest cities, unanimously adopted the action plan outlined in their June 2006 report "Our Cities, Our Future."

Along with revenue sharing and a re-alignment of financing according to government responsibilities, a top priority of the plan is to establish a national transit program.

Cities are home to 80 percent of Canadians, and city governments need revenue sources that can grow with the economy to meet their funding requirements, the FCM notes.

Gas tax sharing and federal budget commitments for transit are first steps, but permanent financing arrangements must be made for cities to invest in public transport infrastructure, the report says, adding that Canada is the only G-8 country without a national transportation program.

Achieving more sustainable transportation systems that reduce the need for automobiles is key to the future social and economic well being of cities, the mayors submit. Policy goals in this area include increasing the proliferation of public transit, greater energy efficiency, reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, fewer and shorter motorized trips, and use of alternative transport methods such as walking and cycling.

In line with these goals, cities are taking on responsibilities that include environmental protection and cleanup as well as promotion of alternative fuel and energy technologies. Municipal planning decisions on transportation, sanitation, and development have a 'profound' impact on environmental conditions, adds the report.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association estimates that cities will need to invest $20.7 billion to renew and expand transit services from 2006-2010. Only 56 percent of those needs can be provided with current funding, adds the Association.

Cities across the country are facing rising infrastructure deficits that undermine their ability to provide water and wastewater treatment, transportation, solid waste handling, and environmentally sustainable communities, warns the Mayors' Caucus.

Cities need to provide clean water for Canadians that consume 343 litres per day, and reduce urban smog from transportation, and need the appropriate funds to match this responsibility, says the report.

The remediation of brownfield sites also represents an important opportunity for economic growth, and municipalities face liability issues which need to be resolved, it adds.

Creating sustainable cities

Cities consume the majority of resources in our society and produce the most waste; but they also create the most wealth for our societies. Because of the all encompassing nature of municipal governance, cities have the power to change the manner in which these activities are carried out. In doing so, they have the means to achieve sustainability in all its dimensions.

Inadequate investment in urban infrastructure or environmental protection have saddled many cities with acres of contaminated land; inadequate waste management facilities; inefficient water/wastewater systems; and highly segregated and unequal distribution of opportunities for economic growth. Such cities experience an overall decline in quality of life marked by decreased income, lack of cultural vibrancy, and increased risks of environment-related health concerns.

But contrary to some perceptions, cities can be very 'green' places in which to live. Manhattan for example, the most densely packed area of New York - one of the world's largest mega cities - uses half of the electricity and far less gasoline for transport per capita than the national US average.

It is important for federal, provincial and municipal governments to work together to find ways to finance cities appropriately -- the issues that arise from failing to do so affect all levels of governance. Cities are often where sustainable technologies for green building, low-emissions transportation, and reductions in water or air pollution can be deployed, and therefore represent the greatest opportunity to enhance environmental conditions.

Canada needs to address the needs of cities for appropriate environmental infrastructure, and ensure that these important economic centres remain vibrant, healthy places to live. The entire country will benefit as a result.