Community Climate Change Agenda

Taking action on climate change can strengthen an integrated sustainability agenda that advances fundamental economic, social and environmental priorities in the community. The OCP creates an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across every sector of activity.

Land Use | Transportation | Buildings | Infrastructure | Government Operations

Cross Cutting Action

  • Community Vision is strengthened with climate action initiatives. Congestion, air pollution, community livability, community economic development and local government fiscal performance are all part of integrated framing that ensures climate action plans support other fundamental community priorities.
  • Climate Planning through an OCP or Climate Planning plus an OCP. Under the Local Government (Green Communities Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 27, 2008), local governments are required to include targets, policies and actions for the reduction of GHG emissions in their Official Community Plans (OCPs) by May 31, 2010. Find guides and more information resources about Bill 27 here.
  • Other local governments are carrying out more extensive, energy and emission planning processes independently that would then be integrated into an OCP. Both approaches work. Ultimately, some concerted energy and emission planning following by action is important to make significant reductions and ensure communities are protected from skyrocketing energy prices.
  • Isolated and Integrated: High level climate change targets, goals and actions can be acknowledged in one section of an OCP. These targets and goals, then, should be integrated into other parts of the OCP. Some of the cross cutting opportunities include:
  • Establish climate protection and energy sustainability as fundamental considerations in meeting the community’s economic, social and environmental goals.
  • Set a target to inform development of more detailed policies and actions.
  • Establish a climate and energy working group to advise Council or Board on opportunities and build relationships with key partners in the community, utilities, neighboring communities, and senior levels of government.
  • Establish some innovative financing measures to hurdle a major barrier to taking action.

A range of sector by sector opportunities are listed below.

Land Use

Land use planning is at the very top of an energy planning hierarchy. Over the medium to long term, land use decisions are likely to have more of an impact on energy and GHGs than decisions made at the site or building scale. A climate-friendly OCP can be achieved by addressing land use patterns to ensure the following:

  • Development is directed to areas of existing infrastructure to maintain compact development that supports a diversity of transportation choices from walking, cycling, transit as well as the car;
  • Mixed use neighbourhoods that include a wide diversity of housing, amenities, schools, open space, commercial / retail development and job opportunities. Mixed use is a primary building block for a healthy community – including addressing evolution of current single use areas (such as subdivisions) to include a greater mix of uses in key areas;
  • A nodes and corridors structure focusing density in village / urban centers connected by corridors of denser development to support the most sustainable transportation options. These corridors should be accessible within ½ km of the majority of the population and ideally serviced by convenient and frequent transit. This structure can be set out far in advance of growth into various areas with appropriate phasing based on infrastructure;
  • Densities that support convenient frequent transit service along a transit route, typically over 10 units/acre as a rule of thumb; 
  • Support for infill and redevelopment, including brownfield redevelopment;
  • Office, institutional, educational and other high employment density areas that are located “only” in central areas that can be easily connected by transit and active transportation networks to most residential areas (to shift commuting trips to non-auto modes); 
  • Industrial lands that are located to support green (and innovative district) infrastructure systems and that are easily accessed by transit where job densities are higher; and
  • A network of green areas that link parks and greenways with agricultural or sensitive and protected natural areas, providing a network of paths, local food opportunities and recreation potential. Putting ecological targets in the OCP enables benchmarking and can contribute to a better understanding of ecological resilience.


Transportation is responsible for close to 50% of emissions in many communities. An OCP will establish a policy and land use framework for a community’s transportation system – likely supported with detailed transportation plans. Transportation patterns in a community are primarily an outcome of land use patterns – in that people travel between areas of activity – but major transportation investments can also shape land use.

Compact development can result in a 7 to 10% reduction in total transportation CO2 emissions by 2050 relative to continuing sprawl. Growing Cooler

The transportation elements of an OCP need to establish vision, policy and investment commitments that will significantly change the amount and mode of travel from higher emission patterns to those that will support a significant reduction in emissions.

For instance, for a community growing at 1.5% / year between now and 2020, the transportation plan needs to be built around a scenario of a 50% reduction / person if the community plans to meet a 33% reduction overall by 2020 (growth ~ 17% over 11 years + 33% reduction target = 50%). Reductions can be achieved through increased fuel and vehicle efficiencies, but also through support of pedestrian, cycling and transit infrastructure as well as careful planning and development.

Transportation elements for an OCP that can support emission reductions include:

  • Establishing the overall transportation network plan of highways, streets, transit corridors, bicycle routes, greenways, pedestrian paths and others to ensure all residents have reasonable access to non-automobile modes of transport for commuting, accessing school and shopping;
  • Clearly establishing a low-emissions modal priority of pedestrians, bicycles, transit and goods movement over the automobile for policy, design and capital investment;
  • Establishing policies for street design that support narrower streets, traffic calming design, bicycle and pedestrian support, and ecologically sound stormwater management;
  • Addressing parking policies to keep parking ratios as low as possible to increase housing affordability and apply gentle pressure to use alternatives to the car.


Local governments, with the exception of the City of Vancouver, do not have the authority to change building code requirements. Local governments are, however, able to indirectly and significantly influence energy efficiency through a variety of conventional policies and bylaws that can be addressed at a high level through an OCP.

  • Build capacity through education and recognition programs for staff, developers, builders and the public, including promoting incentives offered by utilities and senior governments;
  • Develop partnerships with developers interested in innovation to strengthen knowledge inside and outside local government;
  • Establish building efficiency and emissions targets to guide the design and performance of new development projects;
  • Encourage heritage preservation and re-use of existing buildings where possible;
  • Develop incentives for energy improvements such as density bonusing, revitalization tax exemptions, building permit rebates, development cost charge adjustments, and permit fast tracking; and
  • Develop regulations for density and form, efficiency and renewable requirements through development permit areas.

For further information see Energy Efficiency and Buildings: A Resource for Local Governments.


An OCP can provide the framework to determine where infrastructure development will occur and how it will be implemented. As such, the OCP can address a range of infrastructure issues related to supply, demand management, phasing, policies and inter-jurisdictional agreements for energy, water, wastewater and solid waste. Sustainable infrastructure delivery should consider full life-cycle costing, environment impact and natural resource depletion.

The OCP will primarily establish high level policies and strategies and subsequent infrastructure plans will be developed for each area.

Opportunities to address low emission infrastructure opportunities in an OCP include:

  • Limit the expansion of infrastructure to support a compact community;
  • Establish energy and emissions targets for infrastructure systems against which options can be evaluated;
  • Adopt practical analytical and decision making tools into infrastructure planning and procurement such as life cycle analysis and integrated resource management;
  • Integrate local renewable, low emission energy sources and systems into existing infrastructure such as micro-hydro, waste to energy systems, biogas recovery systems, sewer heat recovery, geo-exchange and geothermal systems and the distribution of energy through district energy systems. The OCP should include policies defining levels of support for energy efficient and renewable energy infrastructure and new utilities developed by the municipality, developers, large utilities and other levels of government within the municipality;
  • Develop water supply policies and practices that support efficiency targets along with other sustainable water management policies;
  • Develop rainwater (stormwater) management policies and practices to reduce the burden on infrastructure and enhance ecological and amenity values, including reducing impermeable areas;
  • Develop wastewater policies and practice, including priorities for treatment and re-use, renewable/low emission energy sources, energy recovery/generation, resource recovery, and strategies for centralized or decentralized systems and siting; and
  • Develop solid waste policies and practices that reduce emissions including waste reduction, recycling, composting, and managing landfill gas, as well as resource recovery and environmental protection.

Local Government Operations

An OCP does not frequently address local government operations directly. However, some OCP strategies can benefit areas of local government operations indirectly and vice versa. For example:

  • Building capacity through leading by example: By taking a leadership role in green buildings, fleets and infrastructure, local governments build knowledge inside city hall and out in the community that can be extended to community wide programs. This leadership also raises awareness of the potential for innovation.
  • Community water conservation: Conserving water can reduce energy consumption and emissions from water and wastewater infrastructure, and reduce the size of constructed systems.
  • Greening the fleet: Compact community planning, community waste reduction and backyard composting programs can reduce emissions from fleet operations.

More detailed work on emissions in these areas can be addressed in a government operations climate change strategy.

[1] Ewing, R., K. Bartholomew, S. Winkelman, J. Walters, and D. Chen., 2008. Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change. Urban Land Institute, 9.