immage of Beach

Municipal Role in Environment Protection

Backgrounder January 13, 2022

Municipal governments play a key role in safeguarding local environmental quality, building resiliency, and protecting their residents from significant climate change events. While legislative, regulatory, and financial resources reside with the provincial and federal governments, municipal governments are often at the forefront and must take action.

Ontario’s new Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan established new targets for Ontario’s greenhouse gas reductions and increased the focus on climate change adaptation, stormwater and wastewater management and waste reduction and reuse, amongst other priorities. These targets will impact municipal environmental action.

Ontario also announced that it will be working with federal and municipal governments to invest the $7 billion Green Infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan in areas such as transit, wastewater, and storm water infrastructure. Municipal governments welcome these investments and look forward to the opening of applications.

Climate Change Papers Series

Combatting climate change has been a long-standing advocacy issue for AMO because municipal governments across Ontario are at the forefront of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Over the years, municipal councils have declared climate change emergencies and developed climate change action plans to complement the municipal energy plans they are required to complete.

Since March 2020, AMO and LAS staff have jointly prepared a series of discussion papers that integrate and lay out a climate change lens on our policy and advocacy efforts. To date, four papers have been released on the following topics that can be found at the AMO website:

Additional papers on food and organic waste, municipal water and wastewater systems, and renewable natural gas will be released in 2022 to complete this stream of work.

Waste Diversion

Municipal waste diversion programs reduce the amount of garbage dumped in landfills. Fifty percent of the cost of diverting and disposal of solid waste is currently being borne by the municipalities. With the Made-in-Ontario Environmental Plan and Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 municipalities welcome the provincial government’s commitment to moving to full producer responsibility. See AMO’s full Waste Diversion webpage for further information.

Climate Change Adaptation

Municipalities invest heavily in core infrastructure services to mitigate the effects of climate change. Investments in roads and bridges help to reduce future service issues that result from freeze and thaw cycles and erosion. Municipal investment in sewer systems ensures their integrity during storms, safeguards the environmental quality of water bodies, and protects residents’ properties from adverse impacts. More investments in these and other infrastructure systems, such as stormwater management, are needed to protect communities.

Water, Wastewater, Stormwater, and Flood Mitigation

Municipal governments also provide water, waste water, and stormwater management and treatment services. However, smaller communities face challenges in finding the right balance between appropriate rate base and efficient service delivery. Provincial investments in better technology can be a significant contribution to improving local services and make municipal systems more sustainable and energy efficient. With more frequent and intense storms in recent years, residents are experiencing more flooding and demanding action from all governments. The capacity of stormwater systems must be increased to better handle these storms. This requires sustained increased levels of investment from the provincial and federal governments as well as local support.

While municipal governments often take up additional environmental protection roles than those required through regulations, they rely upon the federal and provincial governments for key investments to safeguard Ontarians.

A partnership approach amongst all three orders of government is essential to ensure that municipal governments have access to adequate long-term financial resources to support capital works for infrastructure that protects the environment, like waste management, water, wastewater, stormwater, and transit. AMO hopes that the renewed focus on flood preparedness and mitigation is done strategically and collaboratively with the municipal governments.


Craig Reid
Senior Advisor