Ontario’s Greenbelt in a Global Context
Written by Sara Macdonald, report co-author and Senior Research and Policy Analyst, Greenbelt Foundation; and Aleigha Kampman, Communications Coordinator Greenbelt Foundation.
The protection and enhancement of greenbelts around the world is more important than ever to the future of the adjacent cities and regions. Greenbelts Around the World Responding to Local and Global Challenges, a report published by the Greenbelt Foundation in 2022, examines how greenbelts around the world, are evolving globally to respond to current and emerging conditions. The report explores eight international case studies to identify trends, threats and opportunities for greenbelt protection and enhancement on a global level.
Greenbelts are becoming increasingly important in the face of mounting global challenges, such as climate change and extreme weather events, disruption in global food systems, rising energy prices, and water quality and supply."
Greenbelts are becoming increasingly important in the face of mounting global challenges, such as climate change and extreme weather events, disruption in global food systems, rising energy prices, and water quality and supply. In the past decade, policymakers, planners, and the public have become more aware of the environmental and economic importance of protected natural and agricultural areas.
Urban growth management, climate change mitigation and adaptation, supporting local economies, nature conservation, tourism and recreation, and protection of agricultural land are just a few on the long list of benefits provided by greenbelts. The COVID-19 pandemic has also further highlighted the significance of proximity to nature for the health and well-being of residents more than ever before. Having access to nature or some form of greenspace is a key factor for a healthy and happy life. Additionally, it allows residents to feel more connected to the land they live on, and maintaining that connection is a challenge for many cities and regions.
The research reveals many examples of innovative practices other regions have developed to support and enhance greenbelt policies and promote the presence of greenbelts in the lives of local residents. In British Columbia, for example, the provincial government created the Buy BC program to help promote regional agriculture, food, and drink. In São Paulo, Brazil, a variety of agritourism and ecotourism programs are designed to showcase natural, historical, and gastronomical features of the Green Belt Biosphere Reserve. In Frankfurt, Germany, a green mascot for the city’s greenbelt is used in educational and tourism material, including signage for hiking and cycling trails, and in the school curriculum. These popular and creative initiatives provide unique opportunities for residents to create stronger relationships with their greenbelts and develop an understanding of their importance.
(Pictured: Greenbelt in Frankfurt, Germany
Credit: Sara Macdonald)
The information and insights gained from this research are aimed to provide recommendations for international greenbelt planning in general and for Ontario’s Greenbelt more specifically. Greenbelts reflect the historical, social, political, and environmental contexts of the jurisdictions in which they are located. The case studies illustrate how each greenbelt has been shaped (quite literally in most cases) in response to unique local and regional contexts. Not all the cases have the traditional spatial form of a greenbelt, which is a belt of continuous protected land surrounding a city or region. For example, the Green Heart in the Netherlands is a protected area surrounded by a ring of cities within the Randstad.
Ontario’s Greenbelt is seen as a world leader for its protection of critical natural heritage and agricultural systems close to Canada’s largest urban centre. Sustained strategic investment by the provincial government allows the Greenbelt Foundation, which is a unique organization among the case studies, to act as a steward of the Greenbelt. The Ontario Greenbelt is also a big contributor to the local economy and regional food security, including by providing over 40 per cent of the province’s fruit and tree nuts.
Greenbelts have been used to manage urban development and protect farmland and natural areas for more than 100 years. Safeguarding greenbelts and biodiversity are not an option but a requirement for a viable and resilient future.
To read the full report, please click here.