City description

Founded by the British in 1749, Halifax Regional Municipality is now Nova Scotia’s largest and most diverse municipality. It is home to more than 43% of the province’s population. The Municipality has increased significantly in size in the suburban and rural areas, in addition to a large urban population mix. Halifax has a young population, with over six degree granting universities in the city, 59% of the population is under the age of 45.

Halifax’s geography includes a coastal region encompassing more than 400 kilometers of shoreline, the fertile farmlands in the Musquodoboit Valley, and the suburban communities of Sackville and Cole Harbour. Halifax’s historic downtown areas lie on both sides of the world’s second largest natural harbor. Halifax has a large international airport, Halifax Stanfield International Airport, which welcomes 3.5 million passengers per year.

Sustainability profile

In 2004, Halifax established the Sustainable Environment Management O ce (SEMO), a self-directing division to realign and consolidate Halifax’s policy and corporate strategy and to enhance the health, cleanliness, and sustainability of the environment. SEMO integrates various approaches including air, land, water, energy, and smart growth. The SEMO has the basis for the Sustainability and Environmental Policy, Strategy, Reporting and Performance Monitoring.

Halifax’s Regional Plan, adopted in 2006, aims to enhance the Region’s quality of life by fostering the growth of healthy and vibrant communities, a strong and diverse economy, and a sustainable environment.

Halifax’s Regional Plan seeks to address the needs of all sectors, recognizing the diversity of its citizens, community and geography, and:

  • Provide a framework which leads to predictable, fair, cost-effective and timely decision-making;
  • Support development of the regional economy;
  • Preserve and promote cultural, historical, and natural assets;
  • Support the Regional Centre as the focus for economic, cultural and residential activities;
  • Manage development to effectively use land, energy, infrastructure, and public services and facilities;
  • Ensure the protection of open space, wilderness, natural beauty and sensitive environmental areas; and
  • Develop integrated transportation systems in conjunction with the above principles.

Halifax has established a Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Plan that targets 20% reduction of 2002 levels by 2012. As a result of reaching these targets, City Council set a new target: 30% reduction of 2008 levels by 2020. Halifax identified the main contributors to fossil fuels which are buildings (electricity and temperature control) and outdoor lighting.

In response to the global climate change and impacts due to climate vulnerability, Halifax introduced Climate SMART (Sustainable Mitigation and Adaptation Risk Toolkit) in 2005. Climate SMART is a partnership between the City, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Government of Canada, and private companies. Its goals are to create and implement planning and management tools to prepare for climate change impacts. These include strategies to reduce contributing CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. The main concerns Climate SMART hopes to address are rising sea levels, land subsistence, and storm surge. Climate SMART includes:

  • Risk management and assessment tools;
  • Cost/benefit assessment tools to assist in decision making around climate adaptation planning;
  • Environmental impact assessment tools to assess both impacts of the environment on projects and vice versa; and
  • Communications and outreach tools.

Halifax has been actively supporting district energy in the city since 2004. Efforts have concentrated on bridging the gap between community stakeholders and building local capacity. Halifax has many district energy systems including those at Dalhousie University, Capital District Health Authority, Canadian Forces bases, and small systems at many municipal and public buildings throughout the city.

Alderney 5 is an energy project implemented in 2010 and the rst large scale geothermal seasonal cold- energy storage concept in the world. The geothermal system uses a patented heat exchanger design that is 300% more efficient than traditional designs. The project retrofitted various municipal buildings along Halifax’s waterfront. The project has generated savings of more than 400,000 CAD a year in energy costs. The system provides 90% of the cooling needs of the buildings through free, renewable energy. In 2011, the system achieved 100% cooling of all buildings in the system.

To ensure clean air quality to its citizens, Halifax created the Clean Air Strategy to investigate the strategic options the local government has to ensure clean air for residents. Through an impact assessment, Halifax found four main strategic areas the City can focus on to address clean air, including the establishment of an integrated air-shed management program, ongoing dialogue with government agencies, collaboration with NGOs and other organizations on education, and implementation of a regional plan. As a result, air quality in the city remains high. Studies found that the concentration of ambient ozone and fine particulate matter in the air were low in Halifax in comparison with other Canadian cities.

Halifax aims to make significant improvements in energy security, renewable technology, and environmental emissions over the next 10 years. The City has also been successfully reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. However it has become a great challenge to further this reduction, especially in response to Halifax’s amalgamated rural communities, which are expected to grow further. The City must examine how to achieve the same objectives in a rural context, by looking at land use planning, development policy, and transportation policy. Halifax is interested in learning about the low carbon development strategies of similar communities.

Goals: Along with Tallinn, Halifax’s project city partner, other cities are exploring a possible exchange visit of students between the two cities to work collaboratively on each of the respective LID projects, which would allow for cross-pollination of ideas, increased replicability of project, and an excellent opportunity for documentation of lessons learned and outcomes.

Halifax is interested in strengthening the integration of volunteer disaster response activities with community planning as part of its objective to foster a successful harmonization of community plans. Halifax intends to participate in this project with disaster response, academic, and planning stakeholders to catalyze its approach. As part of Halifax’s Climate SMART initiative, resilience to climate change through vulnerability assessment, and incorporating adaptation measures, are key parts to its environmental strategy.

As a coastal city with a large, natural harbor, Halifax is prone to ooding and is extremely vulnerable to rising sea-levels. Halifax Regional Municipality has raised the minimum ground elevations for buildings in response to the anticipated sea-level rise.

Goals: Halifax hopes to learn more from European cities about the risks associated with rising sea-levels, and how cities can best prepare themselves. With its city partner, Tallinn, Halifax is currently exploring demonstration projects using low impact development (LID) or green infrastructure on urban sites. Halifax has acknowledged the challenges in moving forward with a “shovel-ready” project. Both cities are willing to explore how these challenges could be overcome and what partnerships would need to do to accomplish these goals.


Facts and figures

Municipal budget

Mayor: Mike Savage

Partner City: Tallinn


City profile


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