Waterloo Climate Institute members launch new municipal database to address gaps in combating climate change

Monday, May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024 - originally posted on Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Ottawa, ON - Municipalities are responsible for over half of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, making them crucial players in the fight against climate change. But existing gaps in critical climate planning and reporting data can make it challenging to keep the public informed on progress toward net zero by 2050.

Today, Scott Pearce, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), in partnership with University of Waterloo, FCM’s Green Municipal Fund, Concordia University and ICLEI Canada, are announcing a new online database to assist municipalities in addressing gaps when fighting climate change. This new tool was made possible thanks to the Municipal Net-Zero Action Research Partnership, a research project working with 12 academic institutions, 10 national organizations and 15 municipal partners aiming to support Canadian municipalities in monitoring, measuring and achieving their GHG mitigation goals.

The database, hosted by the Waterloo Climate Institute, contains valuable information that can aid municipalities in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The summary report includes details on municipal climate action plans, targets, interventions, and stakeholder engagement methods.

The new tool was made possible following a four-month long survey that looked at the state of climate action in Canadian municipalities. Of the 256 municipalities across 10 provinces who were surveyed last year, approximately 52.3 percent have adopted GHG emissions reduction targets while about 63 percent have developed climate action or alternative plans to address climate change. 

The survey was led by Dr. Adriane MacDonald, an associate professor at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, one of the academic institution partners. 

The survey also showed that only 27 percent of those surveyed had pledged to achieve net-zero corporate emissions by 2050 or earlier. Municipalities also relied heavily on voluntary actions from residents and local organizations, such as through education and awareness campaigns. While this may show short term results, this approach may not lead to the widespread changes needed to reduce emissions and meet targets, the survey showed. 

The Municipal Net-Zero Action Research Partnership intends to further study the results to better understand the most effective methods to achieve net-zero targets.

Read the full report here.

About the Municipal Net-Zero Action Research Partnership (N-ZAP)
N-ZAP is a research partnership funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Climate Action and Awareness Fund and jointly led by the University of Waterloo, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund and ICLEI Canada, working with 11 other academic institutions, 8 national organizations and 13 municipal partners.

About the FCM’s Green Municipal Fund 
FCM’s Green Municipal Fund (GMF) is a globally unique organization providing funding and education to municipalities to help them both reach net-zero and build resilient communities, while also delivering economic and social benefits such as jobs, housing and infrastructure. Since inception in 2000, it has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.87 million tonnes, funded nearly 13,000 person-years of employment, enabled nearly 30,000 sustainable affordable housing units, and contributed $1.2 billion to the national GDP via the more than 2,100 approved projects. GMF manages approximately $2.4 billion in programs funded by the Government of Canada.

The ongoing research led by the Municipal Net-Zero Action Research Partnership (N-ZAP) continues to support Canadian municipalities as they address gaps and transition to net-zero. The N-ZAP research survey has showcased the climate actions of Canadian municipalities and their progress toward reducing GHG emissions. Drawing from the survey, our team has put together a comprehensive database and report, equipping municipalities with the key data and analysis to achieve their climate goals, which, in turn, can lead to informed climate decisions that benefit Canadians nationwide.

Ying Zhou, PhD candidate, Sustainability Management, University of Waterloo

The Municipal Net-Zero Action Research Partnership (N-ZAP) supports Canadian municipalities to monitor, measure and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas mitigation goals. The database and report benchmark existing efforts, which provide researchers, policy-makers, and municipal leaders the data we need to determine next steps and support initiatives that help address the climate emergency.

Dr. Amelia Clarke, Professor, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo

Municipalities across the country are taking charge in the face of extreme climate events such as flooding and wildfires and are playing a critical role in reducing emissions. Seeing the proactive steps many municipalities are taking by setting GHG emissions reduction targets and tackling climate change head-on is inspiring. Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done. This new database will be a crucial tool for municipalities to pinpoint and address gaps in combating climate change while sharing best practices. By working together, we are making strides towards achieving net zero emissions.

Scott Pearce, FCM President

As the lead academic overseeing the development and roll-out of the survey, I am thrilled to see the culmination of our efforts in the form of this innovative online database. With the launch of this new municipal database, we are equipping municipalities across Canada with the data they need to accelerate their journey towards a sustainable, net-zero future.

Dr. Adriane McDonald, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Governance and Sustainability, Concordia University

Quote Megan

In our work with municipalities across Canada, we are seeing the widespread adoption of mitigation practices like fleet electrification, building retrofit programs, and waste diversion strategies—but we are also seeing gaps and challenges, especially in smaller, rural, and Northern municipalities. The new database from N-ZAP puts these observations into perspective. It will help municipalities understand where they stand on the route to net zero and offers a valuable tool to guide decision-making when setting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

Megan Meaney, Executive Director, ICLEI Canada