Ontario’s proposed Highway 413 will increase transportation emissions in the province, increase suburban sprawl alongside the highway, and cause billions of dollars in damages from increased air pollution in nearby communities. That’s the conclusion of Environmental Defence’s new report: Paving Paradise: The Impact of Highway 413 on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Air Pollution and Suburban Sprawl.

Transportation emissions have been rising in the GTHA and Canada-wide for years. The province’s plan to build the multi-billion-dollar Highway 413 will make this trend worse by encouraging more people to drive longer distances and putting more cars and trucks on the road.

Environmental Defence teamed up with Eunomia Research & Consulting to calculate that the vehicles using Highway 413 will add up to to 700,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2050 if today’s vehicle mix remains unchanged. This would mean a cumulative total of 17.4 million tonnes of emissions by 2050, the same year the federal government has pledged to reach net-zero emissions. This is more pollution than the entire City of Toronto emitted in 2018.


Red button that says "take action"Building a new 400-series highway would also mean direct health impacts on nearby communities. The risk of premature death from respiratory illnesses like asthma or lung cancer skyrockets for people who live close to a highway or major road. Our modelling shows that Highway 413 could cause up to $1.4 billion dollars in cumulative damages from air pollution by 2050. These damage costs will increase more quickly if developers build more suburban sprawl close to the highway, exposing more people to air pollution.

To get a sense of how much Highway 413 could accelerate sprawl, we don’t have to look far. Our report examines how quickly farmland and green spaces near the underused Highway 407 were converted to sprawl over the last thirty years. We can expect the same to happen to the land near Highway 413.  This means more car-dependent communities with high carbon footprints, and more people exposed to damaging air pollution.

Even in an extremely optimistic scenario where all governments deliver much stronger action to get electric vehicles on the road, Highway 413 will still lock in a cumulative total of about 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, an annual total of about 350,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and over a billion dollars in cumulative damages from air pollution by 2050. No matter how you spin it, building Highway 413 will have devastating impacts to our health, climate, farmland and green spaces. This is the opposite of the healthy future Ontarians want and deserve.

Highway 413 is still only sketched out on paper. It’s not too late to listen to reason and take the path towards net-zero by prioritizing affordable, accessible public transit, and walkable, bikeable, communities in all corners of the GTHA. Ontario’s current government should look at the facts and evidence before them, and cancel this highway again, this time for good.

You can take action now by telling your MPP and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney that you want the province to cancel Highway 413.

Stay up-to-date on Environmental News. Join our email community.