Skip to content
You are here > Home > Your Ministry > Land Use Planning > Provincial Policy Statement > Provincial Policy Statement: Support Materials > Improving Air Quality

Link to Follow usFollow us

Improving Air Quality

Email this page

Print-friendly PDF Version 

Clean air is the foundation for a good quality of life and has important public health benefits.

Did you know...

  • The Planning and Conservation Land Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006, includes measures to promote energy conservation, efficiency and supply, and sustainable development..

  • The 2006 Building Code has the toughest energy-efficiency standards of any building code in the country and will help cut climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions across Ontario.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 provides policy direction on matters relating to land use planning that are of provincial interest. It is issued under the authority of Section 3 of the Planning Act and applies to all applications, matters or proceedings commenced on or after March 1, 2005. 

The statement plays a key role in Ontario’s planning system by providing the policy foundation necessary for the development and use of land. It is the basis of the province’s policy-led planning system, and supports the provincial goal of strong, livable and healthy communities. 

The Link Between Land Use Planning and Air Quality

There are numerous local and regional factors that affect air quality in Ontario. The choices that municipalities make in how their communities are planned can affect local, regional and global air issues. Improving air quality benefits everyone by creating healthier, stronger communities. Some factors, such as pollution from other regions, require a cross-jurisdictional approach.

The physical characteristics and patterns of land use in our communities have direct impacts on air quality. Cleaner air and reduced climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved through well-designed communities, neighbourhoods, sites and buildings that promote energy efficiency and provide for a mix of land uses, employment opportunities and transportation alternatives. This can result in an improved quality of life for all residents.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005, provides planning authorities with policy direction to help promote local solutions to air quality issues. Policy 1.8 sets out the specific policy guidance on both energy and air quality. Other complementary policies throughout the statement support development that will have a positive impact on air quality, such as policies to protect natural areas, open spaces and agricultural lands.

Poor Air Quality Affects Us All

Air quality matters because of its impact on human health and the overall quality of life. In Ontario, smog advisories are issued by the Ministry of the Environment when there is a probability of elevated smog levels, the most visible indication of poor air quality. Smog advisories are not limited to urban areas; they occur throughout Ontario, at any time of year.

Poor air quality has been linked to a number of health issues, such as asthma and increased risk of heart attacks. Poor air quality can also be detrimental to the natural environment and can negatively affect agricultural production as well as the sustainability of forests, waterways and other natural heritage features.

Emissions Reduction and Air Quality

Policy directs that land use patterns within settlement areas be based on densities and a mix of land uses which minimize negative impacts to air quality and climate change. These patterns directly affect vehicle travel which is a key contributor of climate-altering greenhouse gases and the single largest source of air pollution in urban areas. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react to form ozone. Ground level ozone and airborne particulate are key components of smog. The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 requires that planning authorities support energy efficiency and improved air quality through land use and development patterns which:

  • Bicycle LaneCompact Form
    “promote compact form and a structure of nodes and corridors.” (Policy 1.8.1 (a))
  • Mixed Use
    “improve the mix of employment and housing uses to shorten commute journeys and decrease transportation congestion.” (Policy 1.8.1 (d))
  • Transportation
    “promote the use of public transit and other alternative transportation modes in and between residential, employment (including commercial, industrial and institutional uses) and other areas where these exist or are to be developed.” (Policy 1.8.1 (b))

    “focus major employment, commercial and other travel-intensive land uses on sites which are well served by public transit where this exists or is to be developed, or designing these to facilitate the establishment of public transit in the future.” (Policy 1.8.1 (c))

Low density and/or single use communities that extend outward require residents to spend more time in their vehicles commuting to work and completing daily activities. Higher densities, compact form and a continuous structure of nodes and corridors that integrate mixed uses such as retail development, recreational facilities, schools, institutions, employment areas and a range of housing types encourage alternatives to vehicles (e.g., transit use, walking and cycling).

User-friendly road and street design standards that accommodate transit, walking and cycling, improve the efficiency, safety, comfort and appeal of alternative modes of transportation. For example, road design standards that include bicycle lanes, bus lanes, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and well-designed sidewalks can encourage alternative modes of transportation.

Taking Action On…

Compact Form - Municipalities need to set intensification and redevelopment targets in their official plans; this helps to discourage greenfield development and promote compact form and a structure of nodes and corridors

Mixed Use - Municipalities that permit a mix of uses, diverse housing types, retail uses, social and community services and recreational opportunities can reduce reliance on motor vehicles and increase the use of alternative modes of transportation

Transportation - Municipalities can promote transit as an alternative to vehicles by identifying areas in their official plans for higher densities that are, or will be, served by transit

Protecting Resources

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 provides direction for the provision and protection of natural areas, open spaces, and agricultural lands that are important contributors to improving our air quality. Trees and vegetation remove climate-altering greenhouse gases from the air while releasing clean oxygen back into the atmosphere.

The protection of these resources can also improve air quality by reducing the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect is caused by physical changes to the landscape, such as increased ground cover from buildings and asphalt, that result in increased local temperatures.

Public Garden

  • Natural Heritage
    Policy 2.1 directs planning authorities to provide long term protection for Ontario’s natural heritage features and areas.
  • Public Spaces, Parks and Open Space
    Policy 1.5 indicates that planning authorities should provide for a full range of publicly-accessible built and natural settings for recreation needed for a healthy active community through its planning for public spaces, including parklands, open space areas and trails.
  • Agriculture
    Policy 2.3 directs planning authorities to protect prime agricultural areas for long-term agricultural use. This goal is complemented by policies that direct the focus of growth to settlement areas.

Natural areas and open space play an important role in the carbon cycle, by exchanging carbon with the atmosphere through photosynthesis and respiration, and by storing large amounts of carbon in vegetation and soil. At the local level there are a number of ways that planning authorities can promote greening to improve air quality. Examples include: implementing an urban forest strategy; increasing parkland and open space in urban areas; promoting tree planting; introducing green roof programs; protecting locally significant natural areas and features in addition to provincially significant natural areas and features; and planning for natural heritage systems and ecological functions.

Although agriculture is vulnerable to poor air quality, various normal farm practices can help to improve and mitigate its effect. Prime agricultural areas should be protected as they provide many of the same benefits of natural areas and open spaces. Planning authorities can protect these resources by: minimizing lot fragmentation, limiting the introduction of uses not compatible with agriculture, and avoiding the removal of land from prime agricultural areas in accordance with the policies of the statement.

Taking Action On...

Natural Heritage - Municipalities can implement and supplement the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 by strengthening official plan policies to identify and protect natural heritage systems and provincially/locally significant natural areas and features

Parks and Open Space - Plan for green infrastructure. Include parks, gardens and trails when planning for new development and redevelopment, and make use of the parkland dedication provisions of the Planning Act

Agriculture - Municipalities can adopt official plan policies to promote and protect all types, sizes and intensities of agricultural uses and normal farm practices in prime agricultural areas

Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Supply

Spring 2007 Energy production that relies on fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, contributes to poor air quality in the province. The emissions released by burning fossil fuels can have a significant negative effect on air quality at both the local and regional level and are a significant contributor to local greenhouse gases in the province. The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 directs planning authorities to:

  • Policy 1.8.1 (e) - support energy efficiency and improve air quality through land use and development patterns which “promote design and orientation which maximize the use of alternative or renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy, and the mitigating effects of vegetation.”
  • Policy 1.8.2 - promote increased energy supply and improved air quality “by providing opportunities for energy generation facilities to accommodate current and projected needs, and the use of renewable energy systems and alternative energy systems, where feasible.”
  • Policy 1.8.3 - permit alternative energy systems and renewable energy systems “in settlement areas, rural areas, and prime agricultural areas in accordance with provincial and federal requirements. In rural areas and prime agricultural areas, these systems should be designed and constructed to minimize impacts on agricultural operations.”

The physical pattern and distribution of land uses in our communities is a fundamental component of energy consumption and efficiency. Energy efficiency and conservation can be achieved in the design of individual developments. For example, site and/or building design can support conservation through building orientation and construction materials.

The promotion of alternative and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biogas and clean burning natural gas, can provide the province with clean viable alternatives.

Wind TurbineTaking Action On…

Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Supply 

  • Encourage new subdivision design that takes advantage of passive solar heating and cooling 
  • Promote the inclusion of higher levels of energy efficiency Green Roofin buildings. Improved site planning and landscaping practices can be used to reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling by taking advantage of solar radiation, wind protection and shade 
  • Look at opportunities to promote alternative energy production (e.g. wind turbines, biogas and district energy) within the community, and plan for infrastructure to supply the current and future community energy demands

This InfoSheet intends to assist participants in the land use planning process to understand the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005. As this InfoSheet deals in summarized fashion with complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter. This InfoSheet should not be construed as legal advice and the user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this InfoSheet. Although this InfoSheet has been carefully prepared, the Ministry does not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this InfoSheet or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.

For more information contact:

ISBN 978-1-4249-4130-8 (HTML)

ISBN 978-1-4249-4131-5 (PDF)