Climatic Change

, Volume 152, Issue 1, pp 121–143 | Cite as

Evaluating the quality of municipal climate change plans in Canada

  • Dave GuyadeenEmail author
  • Jason Thistlethwaite
  • Daniel Henstra


Plan quality has become an established framework for analyzing the contents of plans and assessing their strengths and deficiencies. The research presented in this paper contributes to academic scholarship on plan quality by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of climate change plans in 63 of the most populous communities across Canada. Plans were evaluated using a coding protocol consisting of 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 analysis revealed three key findings that are important for policy and practice. First, Canadian municipal climate change plans prioritize climate change mitigation over adaptation. Second, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation are relatively weak aspects of municipal climate change plans in Canada. Finally, despite the importance that scholars and practitioners ascribe to stakeholder engagement, Canadian municipalities appear to have given insufficient consideration to this element of the climate change plan-making process.



  1. Aguiar FC, Bentz J, Silva JMN, Fonseca AL, Swart R, Santos FD, Penha-Lopes G (2018) Adaptation to climate change at local level in Europe: an overview. Environ Sci Pol 86:38–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Araos M, Berrang-Ford L, Ford JD, Austin SE (2016) Climate change adaptation planning in large cities: a systematic global assessment. Environ Sci Pol 66(1–8)Google Scholar
  3. Aylett A (2015) Institutionalizing the urban governance of climate change adaptation: results of an international survey. Urban Clim 14:4–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baer WC (1997) General plan evaluation criteria: an approach to making better plans. J Am Plan Assoc 63:329–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baker I, Peterson A, Brown G, McAlpine C (2012) Local government response to the impacts of climate change: an evaluation of local climate adaptation plans. Landsc Urban Plan 107:127–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bassett E, Shandas V (2010) Innovation and climate action planning: perspectives from municipal plans. J Am Plan Assoc 76:435–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baynham M, Stevens M (2014) Are we planning effectively for climate change? An evaluation of official community plans in British Columbia. J Environ Plan Manag 57:557–587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beaulieu N, Santos Silva J, Plante S (2016) Using a vision of a desired future in climate change adaptation planning: lessons learned in the municipality of Rivière-Au-Tonnerre (Québec, Canada). Clim Dev 8:447–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berke P, Godschalk D (2009) Searching for the good plan: a meta-analysis of plan quality studies. J Plan Lit 23:227–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berke P, Smith G, Lyles W (2012) Planning for resiliency: evaluation of state hazard mitigation plans under the disaster mitigation act. Nat Hazards Rev 13:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berke P, Spurlock D, Hess G, Band L (2013) Local comprehensive plan quality and regional ecosystem protection: the case of the Jordan Lake watershed, North Carolina, U.S.A. Land Use Policy 31:450–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Berke PR, Godschalk DR, Kaiser EJ, Rodriguez DA (2006) Urban land use planning. University of Illinois Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  13. Betsill MM, Bulkeley H (2006) Cities and the multilevel governance of global climate change. Cities Multilevel Gov Glob Clim Change 12:141–159Google Scholar
  14. Boyer MA, Meinzer M, Bilich A (2016) The climate adaptation imperative: local choices targeting global problems? Local Environ 22:1–19Google Scholar
  15. Brody SD (2003a) Are we learning to make better plans? A Longitudinal Analysis of Plan Quality Associated with Natural Hazards. J Plan Educ Res 23:191–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brody SD (2003b) Implementing the principles of ecosystem management through local land use planning. Popul Environ 24:511–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bunnell G, Jepson EJ (2011) The effect of mandated planning on plan quality: a fresh look at what makes “a good plan”. J Am Plann Assoc 77:338–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burby RJ (2003) Making plans that matter: citizen involvement and government action. J Am Plan Assoc 69:33–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fowler, E.P., and Siegel, D. (2002). Urban public policy at the turn of the century (Toronto: Oxford University Press)Google Scholar
  20. Fu X, Gomaa M, Deng Y, Peng Z-R (2017) Adaptation planning for sea level rise: a study of US coastal cities. J Environ Plan Manag 60:249–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Geneletti D, Zardo L (2016) Ecosystem-based adaptation in cities: an analysis of European urban climate adaptation plans. Land Use Policy 50:38–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Godschalk, D., Beatley, T., Berke, P., Brower, D., and Kaiser, E.J. (1999). Natural hazard mitigation: recasting disaster policy and planning (Washington, D.C.: Island Press)Google Scholar
  23. Guyadeen D (2018) Do practicing planners value plan quality? Insights from a survey of planning professionals in Ontario, Canada. J Am Plan Assoc 84:21–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heidrich O, Dawson RJ, Reckien D, Walsh CL (2013) Assessment of the climate preparedness of 30 urban areas in the UK. Clim Chang 120:771–784CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Horney J, Nguyen M, Salvesen D, Dwyer C, Cooper J, Berke P (2017) Assessing the quality of rural hazard mitigation plans in the southeastern United States. J Plan Educ Res 37:56–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. ICLEI Canada (2017). Partners for Climate ProtectionGoogle Scholar
  27. Johansson ACH, Svedung I, Andersson R (2006) Management of risks in societal planning – an analysis of scope and variety of health, safety and security issues in municipality plan documents. Saf Sci 44:675–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kaiser, E.J., Godschalk, D.R., and Chapin, S.F. (1995). Urban land use (Urbana: University of Illinois Press)Google Scholar
  29. Koski C, Siulagi A (2016) Environmental harm or natural hazard? Problem identification and adaptation in U.S. municipal climate action plans. Rev Policy Res 33:270–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laukkonen J, Blanco PK, Lenhart J, Keiner M, Cavric B, Kinuthia-Njenga C (2009) Combining climate change adaptation and mitigation measures at the local level. Habitat Int 33:287–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Li, C., and Song, Y. (2016). Government response to climate change in China: A study of provincial and municipal plans. 59, 1679–1710Google Scholar
  32. Lyles W, Stevens M (2014) Plan quality evaluation 1994-2012: growth and contributions, limitations, and new directions. J Plan Educ Res 34:433–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lyles W, Berke P, Smith G (2016) Local plan implementation: assessing conformance and influence of local plans in the United States. Environ Plan B Plan Des 43:381–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lysák M, Bugge-Henriksen C (2016) Current status of climate adaptation plans across the United States. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 21:323–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mazmanian DA, Jurewitz J, Nelson HT (2013) The paradox of “acting globally while thinking locally”: discordance in climate change adaption policy. J Environ Dev 22:186–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Measham TG, Preston BL, Smith TF, Brooke C, Gorddard R, Withycombe G, Morrison C (2011) Adapting to climate change through local municipal planning: barriers and challenges. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 16:889–909CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Norton RK (2008) Using content analysis to evaluate local master plans and zoning codes. Land Use Policy 25:432–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nova Scotia (2011). Municipal climate change action plan guidebook (Halifax, NS: Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations)Google Scholar
  39. Pietrapertosa F, Khokhlov V, Salvia M, Cosmi C (2018) Climate change adaptation policies and plans: a survey in 11 south east European countries. Renew Sust Energ Rev 81:3041–3050CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reckien D, Flacke J, Dawson RJ, Heidrich O, Olazabal M, Foley A, Hamann JJ-P, Orru H, Salvia M, De Gregorio Hurtado S et al (2014) Climate change response in Europe: what’s the reality? Analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200 urban areas in 11 countries. Clim Chang 122:331–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Reckien D, Flacke J, Olazabal M, Heidrich O (2015) The influence of drivers and barriers on urban adaptation and mitigation plans—an empirical analysis of European cities. PLoS One 10:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Reckien D, Salvia M, Heidrich O, Church JM, Pietrapertosa F, Gregorio-Hurtado SD, D’Alonzo V, Foley A, Simoes SG, Lorencova EK et al (2018) How are cities planning to respond to climate change? Assessment of local climate plans from 885 cities in the EU-28. J Clean Prod 191:207–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rosenzweig C, Solecki W, Hammer SA, Mehrotra S (2010) Cities lead the way in climate-change action. Cities 467:909–911Google Scholar
  44. Sancton A (2000) The municipal role in the governance of Canadian cities. In: Don Mills ON (ed) Canadian cities in transition, T. Bunting, and P. Filion. Oxford University Press, pp 425–442Google Scholar
  45. Stevens MR (2013) Evaluating the quality of official community plans in southern British Columbia. J Plan Educ Res 33:471–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stevens MR, Senbel M (2012) Examining municipal response to a provincial climate action planning mandate in British Columbia, Canada. Local Environ 17:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stevens MR, Shoubridge J (2015) Municipal hazard mitigation planning: a comparison of plans in British Columbia and the United States. J Environ Plan Manag 58:1988–2014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stevens MR, Lyles W, Berke PR (2014) Measuring and reporting intercoder reliability in plan quality evaluation research. J Plan Educ Res 34:77–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tang Z (2008) Evaluating local coastal zone land use planning capacities in California. Ocean Coast Manag 51:544–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tang Z, Brody SD (2009) Linking planning theories with factors influencing local environmental plan quality. Environ Plan B Plan Des 36:522–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tang Z, Brody SD, Quinn C, Chang L, Wei T (2010) Moving from agenda to action: evaluating local climate change action plans. J Environ Plan Manag 53:41–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tang Z, Lindell MK, Prater C, Wei T, Hussey CM (2011) Examining local coastal zone management capacity in U.S. pacific coastal counties. Coast Manag 39:105–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wheeler SM (2008) State and municipal climate change plans: the first generation. J Am Plan Assoc 74:481–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Woodruff SC, Stults M (2016) Numerous strategies but limited implementation guidance in US local adaptation plans. Nat Clim Chang 6:796–802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zimmerman R, Faris C (2011) Climate change mitigation and adaptation in north american cities. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 3:181–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Guyadeen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jason Thistlethwaite
    • 2
  • Daniel Henstra
    • 2
  1. 1.University of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations