Tracking Climate Action: How Canadian Municipalities Approach Local Climate Action Monitoring, Evaluating, and Progress Communication

Written by Kristen Ma, Megan Meaney, and Curniss McGoldrick

Establishing a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory is a critical step in creating a climate action plan. However, a comprehensive framework for monitoring, evaluating, and communicating results is also necessary in order to measure progress and identify areas of improvement. So, what does this look like in Canada? How are Canadian municipalities monitoring, evaluating, and communicating on GHG emissions and local climate action progress? 

The Working Group 1 (WG1) of the Municipal Net-Zero Action Research Partnership (N-ZAP) recently published The State of Climate Action in Canadian Municipalities Report which presents the findings from a nationwide survey on the progress made and initiatives undertaken by Canadian local municipalities to reduce GHG emissions through local climate action. As part of the WG1 activities, Collin Neveroff studied GHG inventory practices among 205 Canadian municipalities to better understand how GHG emissions and local climate action progress are monitored and communicated in Canadian municipalities. 

Neveroff ’s study was undertaken in 2023 under the supervision of Dr. Amelia Clarke, Professor at the University of Waterloo, and Megan Meaney, Executive Director at ICLEI Canada. The outcome of this research provides an in-depth understanding and description of practices used by Canadian municipalities to measure emissions, set GHG reduction targets, and monitor and report on climate actions. This article pulls from Neveroff’s findings to provide an overview of how Canadian municipalities currently monitor, evaluate, and communicate progress of local climate action plans. 

Practices Canadian Municipalities Currently Use to Monitor and Evaluate Climate Action Plans  

Continual monitoring and updating local climate action plans allow municipalities to evaluate scientific findings, financial and development capacity, and incorporate technological advancements on a regular basis. Neveroff found that 80 of the 205 municipalities in his study reached the stage of monitoring a corporate plan and/or a community plan. Here are some of the components built-into their monitoring and evaluating systems that could be used by other municipalities. 

Systems of Interests 

Systems of interest outline what is to be monitored, including the boundaries in time and space and aspects of the system to be evaluated. Each municipality can choose different aspects, such as specific functions of emission-producing activities and evaluation timeframes. During the monitoring stage, it is important to re-emphasize and assess systems of interests. Of the 80 municipalities at the monitoring phase, most had defined a system of interest for both corporate and community inventories. 

Progress Evaluation  

Updating emissions inventories is a fundamental step to evaluate climate action plans, and it is usually completed every three to five years. In addition, three different types of indicators are commonly used to evaluate the status of implementation: process-based indicators, output indicators, and outcome indicators. Using these indicators to evaluate the status of implementation can help municipalities understand implementation challenges and identify which actions to continue to pursue. Quantifying the results of energy savings and emissions reduction projects can also allow municipalities to evaluate and showcase the success of specific actions outlined in a plan, and thus inform decision-making, priority setting, and generate support (including funding) for future projects. 

In Neveroff’s study, almost all municipalities in the corporate sample included an updated inventory while about half of the municipalities in the community sample did. 78% of the corporate sample include quantifying action results while this number was 54% for community sample. In terms of implementation indicators, most municipalities used all three types of indicators to evaluate actions. Outcome indicators were the least used in the community sample. 

Supportive Governance Structures 

Another important element needed to monitor and evaluate climate action plans is a supportive governance structure. This should include consistent reports from an oversight committee to municipal council, a system for monitoring and reporting progress, and a clear understanding of responsibilities for data gathering and evaluation. The involvement of staff, council members, community-wide entities, stakeholders, and municipal as well as external peer reviewers are several aspects that contribute to an effective and supportive governance structure. 

Among Neveroff’s sample municipalities, staff, council members, and community-wide entities were identified as being involved in monitoring both corporate and community plans. Staff members were most often identified as responsible for monitoring, followed by council members, and community-wide entities. Community-wide entities were more often responsible for monitoring community plans. Stakeholder engagement was also used in more than half of the corporate and community monitoring systems while peer review was only mentioned by a small number of municipalities. 

Monitoring and Evaluation Procedures 

When evaluating climate action plans, it is critical to have detailed monitoring and evaluation procedures to explain how data are collected, managed, analyzed, and reported as well as how stakeholders are engaged and to outline the approach used to refine the monitoring system and the local climate action plan. Although there is currently no universally accepted monitoring system, procedures for monitoring and evaluation should be transparent and technically sound, allowing stakeholders to understand and analyze the results for themselves.  

Monitoring procedures were described in close to 50% of the sample municipalities in Neveroff’s study. Reporting procedures were evident in roughly 80% of municipalities while plan revisions were mentioned in closer to 30% of municipalities, but the review of the monitoring system was hardly mentioned at all. 

How Canadian Municipalities Approach Reporting and Communicating Progress  

Proper reporting of GHG emissions allows external stakeholders to understand a municipality’s GHG footprint as well as its climate mitigation efforts and accomplishments. It also provides transparency and accountability to external stakeholders and helps pinpoint areas of improvement for collaborative programs. Aspects of reporting to be considered include reporting frameworks (such as the timeliness of data, reporting, and data verification), the standardization of reporting (such as CDP-ICLEI Track and Global Covenant of Mayors), and reporting channels (such as municipal government reports, website, and social media platforms).  

Reporting Frameworks

Standardization of Reporting

Reporting Channels 

In Neveroff’s study, 80 of the municipalities reached the stage of reporting and communicating progress. More than half of these municipalities provided information on report timing with most using annual reporting. However, reporting and data verification was rarely found – only one municipality in the corporate sample and two municipalities in the community mentioned reporting verification details. On the other hand, more than 60% of the municipalities included in the study use some form of standardized reporting and close to 60% municipalities use their own and third-party channels to communicate climate action information. A much smaller proportion of municipalities mention the use of social media. 


Many Canadian municipalities are actively implementing local climate action actions and making progress to achieve net-zero emissions. As N-ZAP’s recently released The State of Climate Action in Canadian Municipalities Report shows, a large number of Canadian municipalities are well on their way in establishing targets, measuring emissions, and driving action to achieve goals. In addition, Neveroff’s findings show that many municipalities are considering monitoring, evaluating, and communicating progress as part of their process. However, these considerations are not commonplace even though monitoring, evaluating, and communicating results is necessary to measure progress, identify areas of improvement, and secure support for continued climate action. 

Practices to Consider 

The following practices are being used by several Canadian Municipalities as part of existing processes and can be replicated by others: 

  • Defining systems of interests 
  • Evaluating progress continuously  
  • Establishing supportive governance structures 
  • Establishing detailed monitoring and evaluation procedures 
  • Adopting reporting frameworks
  • Using standardized of reporting 
  • Utilizing various reporting channels

Adopting these practices can help municipalities track the implementation progress of their climate action more effectively and make sound decisions to enhance their strategies.

Dive Deeper

As previously mentioned, N-ZAP recently published results of a survey that was conducted to assess the state of climate action in Canada. Results include valuable information on policies, targets, interventions, and stakeholder engagement methods used by various Canadian municipalities. These are all available in an online database that can be used to guide decision-making when setting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. 

About N-ZAP

N-ZAP was established to support Canadian municipalities in monitoring, measuring, and achieving their greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation goals. N-ZAP is a partnership between the University of Waterloo, ICLEI Canada, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund, as well as 11 other Canadian universities, nine other national organizations, and 13 municipal governments across Canada.

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