Banking carbon in the greenbelt
Christian Jug is an editorial intern at Corporate Knights magazine.
Ontario’s protected “green” zones don’t have many factories, cities or highways to keep provincial government accountants happy. But if Queen’s Park follows new policy recommendations from the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) it may help balance more than just the books.
DSF published Tuesday its “Carbon in the Bank” report, which shines a light on the Ontario Greenbelt as a potential climate-change mitigation tool. Mass suburban development, as seen in the cities of Markham and Mississauga, is not permitted in the Greenbelt. Farmlands as well as small towns, golf courses and aggregate extraction facilities are currently the main occupants, but most of the zone’s 1.8 million acres consist of forest, wetlands and natural ecosystems.
According to the DSF, all this green space can and should be quantified to demonstrate its worth as a way to mitigate carbon emissions. It calculates that the Greenbelt alone, at its current size, functioning and land use, represents $366 million in carbon storage per year over 20 years, as well as $10.7 million of carbon sequestration services each year. Think of it as a carbon bank: the principal balance is $366 million and $10.7 million worth of deposits are made each year in the form of new plant growth. These currently unrealized values could increase more, DSF says, with better-utilized farmland and improved forestry and watershed management practices.
Among the report’s recommendations is that government improve management of current transportation routes to allow for future growth of the Greenbelt. It also recommends stricter regulations for aggregate producers, requiring them to rehabilitate excavated sites, and suggests the government formally acknowledge the accumulated mitigation potential of protected areas, using the Greenbelt as their model.
The Greenbelt was originally developed as a tool for stopping sprawl, but has the potential to become a key component to Canada’s climate change mitigation strategy, right in our backyard, and a model to be emulate across Canada and worldwide.
Click here to read DSF press release and here to explore the full report more fully.