Toronto, ON – This week, delegates from all over the globe attended the first ever Global Greenbelts Conference to discuss how greenbelts can help manage urban growth, sustain local farming and protect valuable green spaces. A major conference focus was Ontario’s own Greenbelt, considered a model of success all over the world.
But, while Ontario’s Greenbelt is recognized worldwide and receives strong support from Ontarians, local environmental organizations are concerned about political support as the province heads into an election. Through the Comeclean.ca initiative these groups are asking elected officials where they stand on Ontario’s Greenbelt policy.
 
“Inside the conference, international delegates were celebrating Ontario’s Greenbelt, but outside of the conference, there is an air of uncertainty about the Greenbelt’s future,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.  “We are hoping that well in advance of the election, all parties and elected officials will come clean on their stance on the Greenbelt and safeguarding it from things like sprawl, highways and quarries.”
 
International experts from Poland, Germany and the U.S. are also vocalizing their support for Ontario’s Greenbelt policy as they begin to apply Ontario’s lessons to their own efforts to create and enhance greenbelts in their own communities.
 
“Ontario’s Greenbelt is the best example of what we’re trying to achieve in Europe. To hear that Ontario’s accomplishments are under threat, and that the Greenbelt might shrink rather than grow, is a great disappointment,” said Dr. Liana Geidezis, BUND (Friends of the Earth in English) Project Office Green Belt, Germany.  “I think it would push Ontario’s Greenbelt out of the world spotlight where it currently shines.”
 
“After researching Greenbelts around the world, we’ve concluded that Ontario’s Greenbelt is the model for us to emulate. We’re looking for a large-scale greenbelt that is multi-functional, with legal protection and strong agricultural, environmental and economic policies like what we see in Ontario,” stated Dr. Agata Cieszewska, Department of Landscape Architecture, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland.
 
“We’re stunned that any politician in Ontario would contemplate dismantling the Greenbelt,” said Jeremy Madsen, Executive Director, Greenbelt Alliance, San Francisco. “It’s the simple case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. Through one Act, Ontario obtained a future that has taken us more than 50 years to realize.”
 
The Conference also hosted an event to recognize local leadership on Ontario’s Greenbelt through the Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt. One of the Co-chairs of the Municipal Leaders of the Greenbelt, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton echoed the concerns of the international delegates and stated, “Ontario’s Greenbelt legislation protects our green spaces, local food and clean water for now and generations to come. Our Greenbelt is admired the world over. We need all candidates to be clear about their intentions for our Greenbelt.”
 
Ontario’s Greenbelt is the largest in the world. It protects 1.8 million acres of prime farmland and green space around the Greater Golden Horseshoe. It provides clean water, healthy local food, and $2.6 billion per year in ecological services.
 
The Greenbelts: Local Solutions for Global Challenges, held in Toronto from March 22nd to 24th, was hosted by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. Delegates will learn from over forty-five speakers from across the Globe about the economic benefits of Greenbelts, food access, biodiversity and more, in addition to participating in full-day site visits throughout Ontario’s Greenbelt. For more information, please visit www.globalgreenbeltsconference.ca
 
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca):  Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization.  We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
 
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of close to 100 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. 
 
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For more information, or to arrange interviews with local representatives or international delegates, please contact:
 
Erin Charter, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 258; (647) 210-7888 (cell)