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Dense neighbourhoods on average have lower GHG emissions than suburbs but as cities densify, community opposition must be addressed.



As cities worldwide begin to plan for the impacts of climate change, higher density, compact living is often cited as an effective climate change mitigation strategy. A household located in a central area produces approximately 2500 kg of GHG emissions compared to 7000 kg for a suburban one.1 The implications of these emissions are substantial since it is estimated that, 2/3 of Canadians live in suburban-like neighbourhoods.2 The environmental benefits of densification are evident but Canadian cities have experienced organized, large scale public opposition densification. In Ottawa for example, the development process for condominiums in the Centertown area has been embattled by controversial City Council decisions and vocal public opposition. With an increase in residential development applications, it is evident that City Council and residents will continue to interact with each other on these projects. In order to convince residents of urban densification as a climate change mitigation tool, the framing and communication of the issue by politicians and government staff will need to change. This analysis will explore the current discourse surrounding urban intensification through a media analysis of the local coverage on condominium developments in the Ottawa Centertown area from 2011 to 2013. The analysis aims to understand how development projects are framed and communicated by the government and citizens. A discussion section will outline recommendations for improving communication frameworks between stakeholders in order to promote sustainable densification.

1 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2012). “Comparing Neighbourhoods.”

2 University of Waterloo. (2012). Atlas of Suburbanisms Blog.

Category of the action

Mitigation/Adaptation, Changing public attitudes about climate change

What actions do you propose?

Politicians and policymakers need to learn how to meaningfully discuss urban densification. This research will propose best practices based on previous literature and the findings from the content analysis. 

Who will take these actions?

These actions need to be collectively led, involve all sectors of civil society. 

Where will these actions be taken?

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

A household located in a central area produces approximately 2500 kg of GHG emissions compared to 7000 kg for a suburban one

What are other key benefits?

What are the proposal’s costs?

Time line

Related proposals