The sector can contribute significantly to creating a healthy planet and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Parks play an important role by removing air pollution, cooling urban environments, and providing respite to vulnerable individuals during heat waves. Research conducted in 86 cities across Canada concluded that urban trees removed approximately 16,500 tonnes of air pollution annually, with an estimated health value of $227.2 million (approximately $295 million today when adjusted for inflation). Trees also provide other important benefits, such as significantly reducing temperatures in urban areas, providing opportunities for people to connect with their natural environment, and making communities more beautiful, vibrant, and livable.

Recreation facilities are also routinely and increasingly used across Canada during times of crisis, serving as cooling centres, emergency shelters, vaccination centres, evacuation centres, and meeting points for individuals fleeing natural disasters such as wildfires. It is increasingly clear that recreation facilities, and the professionals who operate them, are critical aspects of crisis preparedness and response.

Conversely, while recreation facilities serve to mitigate the effects of climate change, they also have a significant climate footprint during both construction and operation. Adopting best practices during construction and renovation and upgrading these facilities to adhere to current climate standards presents an opportunity to reduce their environmental impact. According to the Measuring Impact report, the replacement value of aging SPAR infrastructure is estimated at $42.5 billion. A significant and strategic investment in these facilities would return significant climate benefits while also ensuring these core community facilities remain fit for purpose.

Careful consideration must also be given to how the facilities are used. The impact of hosting events and tournaments—including energy and water consumption, food waste, and emissions related to travel—also presents an opportunity to reduce environmental impact.

Climate events, including extreme temperatures, drought and flooding, violent storms that damage buildings, playing surfaces, and trails, warmer winters with reduced snowfall impacting winter activities, and extreme heat, will significantly impact program delivery. The sector is well-positioned to contribute to solutions for these challenges and must continue to adopt and advocate for policies and practices that reduce climate change.

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