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Partners for Climate Protection

Creating a shared sustainability language

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Students getting on city bus. Bus sign states “Express stops only.” Bike secured on rack.  (Credit: City of Kingston)

This is part of a series of seven case studies that highlight members of the ICLEI Canada and FCM's Partners for Climate Protection program that have reached Milestone 5.

Kingston views its plans and projects through a sustainability lens

Population PCP member since GHG reduction target
123,798 (2016 Census) 2001

Corporate: 8% below 2011 levels by 2020

Community: 15% and 30% below 2011 levels by 2020 and 2030 respectively

Targets met: 11% corporate decrease and 18.6% community decrease, between 2000 and 2014

"I'm proud of the successes we've had in meeting our sustainability goals. We've made strategic investments throughout Kingston and are seeing a return on those investments in areas such as transit ridership, waste diversion and GHG reductions. It's great to see the community's involvement and enthusiasm as we continue to pursue these sustainability initiatives."
— Bryan Paterson, Mayor of Kingston


​The Kingston Climate Action Plan is meant to be read. KCAP, for short, sets forth the city's vision, goals and framework, which together have helped Kingston, ON, reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But it's also colourful, well documented, easy to read, and showcases the many local stakeholders who took part.

"When we were creating the plan we felt that it was important that the community took ownership of it," says Paul MacLatchy, Environment Director. "We also wanted to describe how climate change would affect Kingston and not rely just on information that referenced polar regions or other parts of the world." The city was the first Canadian municipality to use IPCC* climate data modeling in its local projections. "The results have been very useful in describing what climate change is going to look like locally and will be useful again as we develop more robust adaptation plans."

Sustainable Kingston, a non-profit corporation created by the city, supports on-the-ground initiatives that cover KCAP's six themes: climate action, environmental stewardship, economic prosperity, sustainable transportation, sense of community, and food security.

As the city goes forward, MacLatchy says that there is a strong argument to combine corporate and community emissions and energy data to avoid overlap. "From a municipal perspective, that overlap can be tricky. One recommendation we'll be making in our KCAP update is to integrate corporate and community emissions with energy planning. We need to combine all three of those in a single emissions and economy of energy planning context." 

*United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Key projects and results

Keeping the city moving

In recent years, Kingston has made substantial investments in its public and active transportation programs and infrastructure. The city expanded its transit express service, added the Rack and Roll service to allow riders to secure bicycles on buses, introduced a transit orientation program to high school students along with free student bus passes, and created an employee transit pass program. The city has a small fleet of electric vehicles, and plans to purchase more electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as its fleet is renewed. Kingston will also invest $760,000 in 50 new Level 2 and 3 electric vehicle charging stations, which will be installed in 2018 at 25 locations. Following the completion of a successful pilot project in 2017, the city will implement a community bike-sharing program and complete its Active Transportation Master Plan in 2018.

Environmental benefits

  • The total potential reduction in GHGs if all proposed actions are implemented is about 28,000 tonnes by 2020 and more than 250,000 tonnes by 2030.
  • Transit ridership growth includes a 33 per cent increase in commuter trips from 2011 to 2017.

Economic benefits

  • The city is providing free student passes as an investment that is expected to increase new ridership for Kingston Transit.
  • Investments in Kingston Transit have generated a 73 per cent increase in ridership between 2011 and 2017. 
  • The cost of the passes was incorporated into Kingston Transit's operating budget.

Social benefits

  • The city is providing infrastructure that will support the uptake of electric vehicle purchases.
  • Fewer transportation emissions mean fewer pollutants and cleaner air.
  • Robust public transit and investments in community bike-sharing, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure provide affordable transportation for all Kingstonians.

Giving new life to brownfields

Kingston's brownfield remediation project in Emma Martin Park garnered the city a 2015 Sustainable Communities Award, and has made Kingston a leader in FCM's Leadership in Brownfield Renewal (LiBRe) program. "We act as a mentor and give presentations to other municipal leaders," says MacLatchy. "With brownfields, the devil is in the details, so it's good to have those peer-to-peer discussions with those who've been in the trenches and moved from planning into implementation."

Kingston has recently revised its Brownfields Community Improvement Plan and Program to focus on future brownfield incentives for its inner harbour - an older industrial area - and to support its goal of increasing urban density.

Environmental benefits

  • Since 2006, the city has approved 16 brownfield remediation and redevelopment projects.
  • Brownfield projects are infill projects that leverage existing infrastructure investments and support active transportation choices.
  • The Emma Martin Park project removed 237 tonnes of contaminated soil and reduced arsenic in groundwater by 99.98 per cent. Due to significant on-site remediation, 75 per cent less soil was trucked to landfill, reducing the associated transportation emissions.

Economic benefits

  • The 16 brownfield remediation and redevelopment projects represent more than $250 million in development investment.
  • The Emma Martin Park project saved an estimated $30,000 annually by avoiding the use of a groundwater pump and treatment system.
  • Brownfield remediation, and the subsequent development on cleaned-up lands, can be a boost to local job creation and neighbourhood revitalization.

Social benefits

  • The remediation of brownfields has reduced health risks to humans and wildlife.
  • Contaminated groundwater and soil are being dealt with responsibly and land is being returned for redevelopment.

One-stop shopping for all your utility needs

Utilities Kingston (UK), wholly owned by the City of Kingston, is unique in Ontario. It combines water, wastewater, gas and electrical services, and is a broadband fibre optics provider. In collaboration with Sustainable Kingston and other community organizations, UK delivers several conservation and efficiency programs for residential, commercial and institutional clients, and offers rebates on home renovations and customized energy and water reports to residential customers. UK also won the Independent Electricity System Operator's LDC Champion Award in 2016.

Environmental benefits

  • Between 2011 and 2015, the GHG reductions associated with UK's electricity, water, and natural gas conservation programs were 1,516 tonnes, 4.2 tonnes, and 205 tonnes, respectively.
  • Over the same period, UK programs saved 46 GWh (124 per cent of its original target), and lowered energy demand by 7.4 MW (113 per cent of its original target).

Economic benefits

  • All utility customers that participate in UK's programs enjoy lower bills.
  • The incentive programs support home renovations, which can lead to higher resale values for residential customers.
  • Reduced energy spending frees up dollars that may benefit the local economy

Social benefits

  • Reduced fossil fuel use improves indoor and outdoor air quality.
  • Reducing electricity demand - particularly at peak times - can reduce the incidence of periodic brownouts.


    • How can Kingston, and other municipalities, pay for the changes needed to get to the next level? Like many other communities, Kingston has captured a lot of the "low-hanging fruit" in terms of emissions reductions. "To reach our 2030 goals, we need to look at new approaches to energy generation, construction and transportation that will likely be expensive and disruptive," says MacLatchy.
    • There will always be elements of cynicism in the community regarding sustainability, says MacLatchy - especially when sustainability efforts require change or are perceived to conflict with economic development or lifestyle. Keeping sustainability issues relevant and "on the radar" is a continuous process.
    • Kingston is a growing community and that puts upward pressure on its carbon footprint. The importance of developing the economy through efficiency and productivity, and not just by increasing size and scope, needs to become part of the discussion locally and nationally. 

    Lessons learned

      • Use a sustainability lens when developing plans. "Community strategic planning tends to garner a lot of community interest and involvement, so it was a great opportunity to develop the language of sustainability in speaking about our community's future," says MacLatchy of the creation of KCAP.
      • The early support of political and administrative leaders will energize efforts to address climate change. MacLatchy says that the city's work on sustainability didn't really begin to take off until there was a groundswell of senior-level support that aligned with community desires for innovation and change. "It's become more intense now," he says, "and that lets us engage with more people, consider more ambitious projects and become more involved with city departments and agencies."
      • Leverage community capacity. The implementation of KCAP benefited directly from the creation of the Sustainable Kingston Corporation so that projects could get started right away. "Getting started was slower than anyone anticipated, but it has provided a mechanism to get the implementation of these plans out of city hall and into all sectors of the community," says MacLatchy. 

      Other resources

      Milestone Completion:

      Milestone 1 - 2004 (Corporate, Community)
      Milestone 2 - 2004 (Corporate, Community)
      Milestone 3 - 2016 (Corporate, Community)
      Milestone 4 - 2017 (Corporate, Community)
      Milestone 5 - 2017 (Corporate, Community)

      Green Municipal Fund: Kingston received support from FCM's Green Municipal Fund to create KCAP, as well as support to conduct a number of feasibility studies (environmental site assessments, brownfield remediation, wastewater control, and net-zero energy development, to name a few).


      The following resources can help on your journey to achieving Milestone 5:

      Kingston Climate Action Plan
      Land Quality & Brownfields and the Brownfields Community Improvement Plan

      2018 Sustainable Communities Award for Transportation Co-Winner: Kingston gets more youth riding public transit
      2015 Sustainable Communities Award for Brownfields: Emma Martin Park

      Partners and collaborators

      Sustainable Kingston
      Utilities Kingston


      Paul MacLatchy
      Environment Director
      City of Kingston, Ontario
      T. 613-546-4291, ext. 1226

      Bryan Paterson
      City of Kingston, Ontario
      T. 613-546-4291, ext. 1400

      Page Updated: 04/07/2018