Greenbelts Around the World Responding to Local and Global Challenges

Greenbelts Around the World Responding to Local and Global Challenges examines how greenbelts are evolving to respond to current and emerging conditions found within cities and regions around the world, as an update to the Greenbelt Foundation’s global greenbelt research first published in 2010."

Jun 22, 2022   •   Featured , Research

Greenbelts Around the World Responding to Local and Global Challenges, a report developed by the Greenbelt Foundation, examines how greenbelts are evolving to respond to current and emerging conditions found within cities and regions around the world.

Greenbelts are becoming increasingly important in the face of mounting global challenges, such as climate change, disruption in global food systems, extreme weather events, rising energy prices, and water issues and needs. There are also positive changes and benefits to report including urban growth control, climate change mitigation and adaptation, supporting local economies, nature conservation, tourism and recreation, and protection of agricultural land. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the significance of proximity to nature for the health and well-being of residents more than ever before. 

Greenbelts Around the World Responding to Local and Global Challenges includes eight international case studies, and it provides an update to a similar report published in 2010. For the study, interviews were conducted with experts from around the world on four main themes: 1) nature-based solutions; 2) the food and agricultural system; 3) outdoor tourism and recreation; and 4) growth management. 

Greenbelts have come under increased stress since 2010 from a combination of forces, including urban and suburban development, the creation and expansion of infrastructure projects within protected areas, and changes in political agendas. "

 This report studies and compares the following eight greenbelts:  

1. British Columbia Agricultural Land Reserve, Canada 2. Copenhagen Green Wedges, Denmark 3. European Green Belt
4. Green Heart, the Netherlands 5. London Metropolitan Green Belt, England 6. Melbourne’s Green Wedges, Australia
7. San Francisco Bay Area Greenbelt, USA 8. São Paulo City Green Belt Biosphere Reserve, Brazil  

Read the full report here:


Key Findings:

  • Greenbelts reflect the historical, social, political, and environmental contexts of the jurisdictions in which they are located.
  • Strong public awareness and support are important for the long-term protection of greenbelts, which is especially critical since the research shows that greenbelt policies are most often vulnerable to development and political pressures.
  • Threats to greenbelt protections have increased since 2010.
  • Greenbelt policy and implementation can be threatened or diminished by changes in governing political parties and a lack of municipal cooperation.
  • Greenbelt policy goals have become increasingly multifunctional and are expected to fulfill more objectives than ever before.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic affirms the importance of greenbelts for public health and well-being, contributing to increasing demands for access to natural spaces including the attractiveness of housing in urban peripheries.

Key Recommendations for the Ontario Greenbelt:

  1. Ensure the continued permanence of firm boundaries for the Greenbelt; 
  2. Municipal planning and development decisions regarding Greenbelt lands can be supported through enhanced guidance;  
  3. The Ontario Greenbelt needs to be supported by programs and funding priorities that align with its planned functions and policy goals; 
  4. Re-affirm the strong leadership and supportive role of the Greenbelt Foundation in order to further raise the awareness of the Ontario Greenbelt;  
  5. Leverage regional research programs to further advance the Greenbelt Plan objectives, beyond land use planning; 
  6. Call for higher standards and levels of coordination for infrastructure projects and resource extraction within the Ontario Greenbelt, including a fuller assessment of cumulative impacts; 
  7. Enhance equitable access to the greenbelt;
  8. Explore ways to increase the supply of Greenbelt-grown products in the local marketplace; 
  9. Plan celebrations for the 20th anniversary, in 2025, of the Ontario Greenbelt. 

Overall, this research confirms that Ontario’s Greenbelt is an international leader in greenbelt planning. It is underpinned by a strong policy framework, has broad public support, and its implementation is supported by dedicated civil society groups and the Greenbelt Foundation, all of which contribute to making the Ontario Greenbelt a vibrant and thriving landscape.  Learn more about the Ontario Greenbelt here.