The study, which examined 63 cities across Canada, confirms there are significant differences between municipal plans to protect citizens from climate change.
“We tend to think of climate change as something that happens at the federal and provincial levels,” says Daniel Henstra, a policy specialist in Waterloo’s Department of Political Science. “In fact, most climate policy happens because of local governments.”
Each community was evaluated on 46 indicators based on eight plan quality characteristics: fact base, goals, policies, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, inter-organizational coordination, participation, and plan organization and presentation.
The research found three main deficiencies every municipality needs to take a closer look at. The areas included a need to better prioritize adaptation over mitigation, a need to pay closer attention to monitoring, evaluation and implementation, and a need to better engage citizens, businesses and other stakeholders in planning.
Leading the country in their plan to address the challenges of climate change was Kingston, Ontario, followed closely by Ontario’s Waterloo Region and Hamilton. New Westminster, British Columbia was identified as having the most work to do. Toronto was middle of the pack.
“Our urban municipalities are where the average citizen is most vulnerable to climate change,” says Jason Thistlethwaite, a climate researcher in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment. "Cities have the highest concentration of people and property, and fewer resources to deal with mitigation and adaptation than the Feds, or the Province. However, cities also hold the power for the disruption we need to transform the way we need to live in and combat future climates.”
See where your city ranks in the study, Evaluating the quality of municipal climate change plans in Canada, published in Climate Change.