Climate and biodiversity | Municipalities at the forefront of environmental crises

Although the international climate conference in Egypt (COP27) ended with mixed results, the world is now heading to Montreal, where we will gather in December at the UN conference (COP15) to agree on a new framework for protecting biodiversity. We call on municipalities to be at the center of solutions to accelerate greenhouse gas reduction and nature conservation!

The two most important environmental crises of our time, climate change and biodiversity erosion, are linked. Therefore, to achieve satisfactory results, it is necessary to act on these two fronts. Land use planning is one of the key levers to achieve this.

Consider the integration of natural infrastructure, which in addition to air and water purification, helps combat especially floods and heat islands. Consider consolidating existing neighborhoods to provide housing without interfering with the natural environment and agricultural land. On a larger scale, nature-based solutions can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

All of these are concrete solutions to land use planning and major environmental crises.

It is necessary to admit that the way of development of our cities in recent decades is one of the causes of ecological degradation. In Quebec, as elsewhere, urban sprawl is forcing households into energy-intensive modes of travel while also wreaking havoc on natural environments.

Accelerating role of municipalities

In the spring of last year, the report of international experts on climate (IPCC) suggested that the transformation of cities is a priority, especially the achievement of the goals of reducing polluting emissions from buildings and transport. Then, three summary reports during COP271 Information addressed to “city decision-makers” has been released to the public. It argues that mobilizing local actors is essential to accelerate climate action.

The innovation potential of municipalities is undeniable. In Quebec, there are many municipal initiatives in terms of sustainable mobility, decarbonization of buildings, management of residual materials, renewable energy production and protection of the natural environment.

By daring to act, cities create emulation and can greatly contribute to changing the legal and regulatory framework at higher levels.

We will benefit from changing municipal taxes, as raised again during the last Quebec election campaign, to move freely to protect natural environments. Investing in public and active transport infrastructure is also a priority in all regions, as their use is closely linked to achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Emulation can also appear internationally in various forms. For example, as part of COP15, municipalities around the world will be able to subscribe to the Montreal Commitment.2 aimed at biodiversity conservation.

For land use planning that respects ecosystems

It remains important to operate outside municipal boundaries. Last June, the Quebec government adopted the strategic vision of the National Policy for Architecture and Land Use Planning (PNAAT). For several years, several cities and villages, with the support of civil society, have been calling for the reform of the planning framework, so that territorial development, in particular, is carried out with respect to ecosystems.

An implementation plan is planned for the winter of 2023. This plan specifically aims to “support the creation of quality, complete and sustainable habitats, strengthen the protection of the natural environment and agricultural lands, as well as strengthen the fight against climate change”. Major investments will be needed to support the municipal sector to change course and create sustainable habitats, while respecting the capabilities of ecosystems across Quebec. In the medium term, the contribution of the federal government will also be welcomed.

As COP15 approaches on biodiversity, we reiterate that the solution to the climate and biodiversity crises depends to a large extent on the transformation of municipalities. Let’s make it a priority!

Co-signers: Doreen Assaad, Mayor of Brossard; Évelyne Beaudin, Mayor of Sherbrooke; France Bélisle, Mayor of Gatineau; Julie Bourdon, Mayor of Granby; Marc Bourcier, Mayor of Saint-Jérôme; Stephane Boyer, Mayor of Laval; Guy Caron, Mayor of Rimouski; Sébastien Couture, Mayor of Stoneham; Geneviève Dubois, Mayor of Nicolet; Catherine Fournier, Mayor of Longueuil; Philippe Guilbert, Mayor of Trois-Pistoles; Alexandra Labbé, Mayor of Chambly; Stéphanie Lacoste, Mayor of Drummondville; Bruno Marchand, Mayor of Quebec; Sébastien Marcil, Mayor of Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan; Philippe Pegé, Mayor of Saint-Camille; Isabelle Perreault, Mayor of Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez; Mathieu Traversy, Mayor of Terrebonne

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