Best Practices Library

Welcome to the searchable Best Practices Library! To submit a Best Practice from your municipality, click here.

To use the Best Practices Library, combine any of the below search methods:

  • Enter a term in the left-hand “Search” box
  • Select a Category (or Categories) under which you would like to find resources. Categories sort by topic of interest.
  • Select a Tag(s) under which you would like to find resources. Tags sort by Program, Region, or Type of document.
  • Documents may be sorted by Name or by Date via the dropdown menu under the “Search” box.

The Cities Initiative also maintains a French version of the Best Practices Library. Click here to access the French library.

The Best Practices Library is a dynamic, searchable database of Best Practices, Tools, and Information Documents that are specific to municipal issues in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Region. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact 

  • Provia Guidance on Assessing Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation to Climate Change

    This document responds to that challenge by updating and improving existing guidance for assessing climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation, covering the range of available approaches, methods and tools. This is an idealized model of adapting to climate change; “real-world” adaptation processes may not be linear, and in fact, may require refinement through iteration. This guidance therefore provides multiple entry points, highlighted in boxes throughout the document, to allow readers to enter (and re-enter) at various stages or sub-stages of the process.


  • The Federal Highway Administration’s Climate Change & Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework

    This report is a guide for transportation agencies interested in assessing their vulnerability to climate change and extreme weather events. It gives an overview of key steps in conducting vulnerability assessments and uses in-practice examples to demonstrate a variety of ways to gather and process information. The framework is comprised of three key steps: defining study objectives and scope; assessing vulnerability; and incorporating results into decision making.

  • A Self-Assessment to Address Climate Change Readiness in Your Community

    The purpose of this self-assessment is to provide community leaders, administrators, planners, engineers, public work directors, and/or natural resource managers with a simple and inexpensive method to review their community's potential vulnerabilities to climate trends and to begin the conversation of how and when to incorporate these trends into planning and projects within our communities. Municipal staff will fill out simple, straightforward checklists to assess the status of the following nine categories of municipal infrastructure: (more…)

  • Making Our Airports Aspirational: A Sustainable Path

    This sustainability plan, designed for the City of Chicago, Illinois', two international airports – O'Hare and Midway – is a supplement to the City of Chicago's 2009 City-wide sustainability plan.

  • Accelerating Adaptation in Canadian Communities

    In 2012, the Clean Air Partnership (CAP) connected with municipal representatives across Ontario and identified a number of key recurring gaps related to climate change adaptation in Ontario municipalities. Accelerating Adaptation in Canadian Communities is a series of nine case studies and three webinars.

    By developing these case studies and addressing gaps in climate change adaptation in Ontario, CAP hopes to: Review and update understanding of the current state of climate change adaptation in Ontario municipalities; describe the experiences of municipalities that have begun adaptation actions; and motivate more municipalities to undertake adaptation measures.

  • Climate Change Planning: Case Studies from Canadian Communities (2012)

    The Climate Change Planning report developed by the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2012 is a compendium of ten case studies on climate change adaptation planning in communities across Canada. Each study presents data on a planning process in four phases:

    The Project phase offers a brief description of the case; the Essentials phase presents key lessons learned and major tools developed or used throughout the process; the Specifics phase details the project's approach, steps, barriers, results, time and costs; and the Contact phase provides users with contact details of knowledgeable proponents of the project. The case studies included in the report are:

    • Tantramar Dykelands Infrastructure at Risk (Sackville, New Brunswick)
    • Toronto Green Standard (Toronto, Ontario)
    • Waterfront Toronto’s Carbon Tool (Toronto, Ontario)
    • Hot Weather Response Plan (Sudbury, Ontario)
    • Ecological Footprint and Land Use Scenarios (Calgary, Alberta)
    • Planning for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation (Red Deer, Alberta)
    • Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Prince George, British Columbia)
    • Gibsons Harbour Area Plan (Gibsons, British Columbia)
    • Interim Flood Construction Levels (Vancouver, British Columbia)
    • Flood Management Planning in Delta (Delta, British Columbia)
  • Mississauga’s Living Green Master Plan

    This plan is the City of Mississauga, Ontario's first environmental master plan. The plan seeks to identify priority environmental actions, measure the City's environmental performance, provide information to citizens about living green in their own homes, and to instill environmental consciousness into the corporate DNA.

    The plan will also help the city implement further municipal strategic plans, allocate resources, collaborate among departments on environmental matters, and develop baseline targets and indicators to measure success.

  • Syndromic Surveillance System for Heat-related Illnesses (2012)

    Due to the increasing frequency of extreme heat events in Ontario (and the continued increase expected due to climate changes), the province of Ontario is working closely with health units to reduce the health issues that are caused by such events. Current research efforts include a pilot project which uses existing syndromic surveillance systems that have been adjusted to monitor the progression of heat events and the occurrences of heat-related illnesses in real time.

    The case study reviews the process and results of this study and discusses the challenges involved with delivering such a program.

  • Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative

    The Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative provides information and resources about the terrestrial invasive species Phragmites australis. This grass is an invasive plant that has spread rapidly around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region and overtakes other plants. It has particularly affected wetlands in Ontario.


  • How are American Cities Planning for Climate Change – An Evaluation of Climate Action Planning in Chicago, IL, and Portland, OR

    Contending with a changing climate presents a necessary push for planning. Policymakers are recognizing the need for action at the local level. This thesis evaluates the implementation of Climate Action Plans for Chicago, IL and Portland, OR. The studies help elicit an understanding of the measures cites are employing to mitigate climate change and determine ways the planning profession can better assist communities in climate policy development and its prompt implementation.

  • A Street Tree Survival Strategy in Toronto (2011)

    The City of Toronto has an extensive network of street trees across its breadth to address issues of pollution, stormwater management and to reduce the urban heat island effect. These trees are vulnerable due to difficult growing conditions. Climate change will exacerbate the challenges faced by street trees and reduce the likelihood that they will reach maturity, when they will produce the greatest environmental benefit.

    To protect the trees from the imminent climate change impacts, the City of Toronto has implemented several new planting techniques designed to give the trees adequate room to grow, and improve the likelihood that they will thrive. The case study discusses the features and techniques used in this program as well as the challenges that accompany such an undertaking, and the lessons learned by the City. This information may assist other municipalities in implementing similar programs to protect their urban forest, a key component of many urban climate change adaptation strategies.

  • Land Use Planning Tools for Local Adaptation to Climate Change

    This document describes tools in the land use planning sector that communities can use in preparing to adapt to climate change. In addition, it provides information on decision-support tools, tools that provide information and resources to help planners and local decision makers take effective adaptation action. A brief example of each tool and its use by a Canadian community is given.

  • Guelph Water Conservation Programming (2012)

    The City of Guelph, Ontario, is vulnerable to water shortages as they are not located nearby to a major source of water, a challenge that may be exacerbated by proposed climate changes in the region. To prevent such shortages, the City has established incentives, regulations and water conservation programs to relieve the strain on the groundwater source. These efforts are guided by a Water Supply Master Plan that commits the City to achieving a 20% reduction from the 2006 average daily water consumption by 2025.

    The case study describes the elements of the City's strategy and discusses the challenges of maintaining public engagement in such a prolonged program. It concludes by identifying several lessons learned that may be of value for municipalities that face similar challenges.

  • Sustainable Municipal Water Management: Measuring Progress and Reporting Publicly

    In the face of accumulating impacts including urbanization and climate change, municipalities are increasingly embracing an integrated approach to water management that captures the full spectrum of a community’s impact on water. This approach cuts across traditional municipal delivery areas, to include infrastructure design and operations, land use planning and approvals, public education and participation, emergency planning and response, pollution prevention, and habitat and shoreline restoration.

  • City of Windsor Climate Change Adaptation Plan

    Municipalities have a significant role to play in climate change adaptation as many climate change impacts will directly affect the services provided by the City of Windsor and our agencies. This plan was developed through consultation with all City departments and select City agencies and followed the five climate impacts that pose the greatest risk to the City. The actions taken today by the City of Windsor to proactively adapt to the changing climate will enhance community resilience to climate change while reducing the human and economic costs of climate related impacts.

  • Thunder Bay Cogeneration (2012)

    The City of Thunder Bay, Ontario, retrofitted and expanded its wastewater treatment plant in 2005 to accommodate greater volumes of wastewater. New equipment and infrastructure was constructed as part of the City's Pollution Prevention and Control Plan (PPCP). The new design has led to greater efficiency and has boosted resiliency and adaptive capacity within the plant.

    The case study reviews the features of the PPCP and discusses the benefits of the newly designed plant. The lessons that were identified provide insight for practitioners that are planning to update major infrastructural assets.

  • Adapting to Climate Change: Challenges for Niagara

    This report has been written to describe how climate is changing in the Niagara region, Ontario, the impacts that can be expected in the near future, protective activities that are underway in the region, and gaps that need to be addressed in order to develop and implement adaptation strategies.

  • Municipal Climate Change Adaptation Training

    In 2011 as part of the Ontario Regional Adaptation Collaborative, the Clean Air Partnership (CAP) delivered an Intensive Municipal Adaptation Training in climate change adaptation planning for municipal officials in Ontario. The Training Program addressed the key considerations for municipal climate change adaptation; the impacts of climate change on Ontario municipalities; how to assess community risks and vulnerabilities; key steps in planning for adaptation; and how municipalities can build on their strengths to integrate climate change adaptation measures into existing goals, plans and programs. Visit this tool to access all of the resources used for this adaptation training.

  • Adapting to Changing Flood Patterns in the City of Hamilton (2012)

    Like many Ontario municipalities, the City of Hamilton has recently experienced extensive flooding as a result of several severe storms. More frequent and intense storm activity is expected in this region as a result of climate change.

    The case study outlines Hamilton's iterative and progressive approach to addressing flooding issues that arise from climate change. The strategy includes development of comprehensive Master Plans, creation of a Storm Event Response Group (SERG) and development of an independent Community Panel (ICP) composed of experts in the community. This case study concludes with the lessons learns from this process, which may assist other Ontario communities facing similar flooding challenges from increased storm activity.

  • City of Rochester Local Waterfront Revitalization Program

    The New York State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) is a planning framework that offers to coastal communities the possibility to study their shoreline areas, establish policies to guide development, and implement appropriate waterfront land uses and projects. The City of Rochester has adopted its LWRP in 1990 and is still implementing and improving it. The file attached is the Executive Summary of the plan. To access all the documents related to it, please visit the City's website.

  • From Vision to Action: Region of Durham Community Climate Change Local Action Plan

    To address climate changes, municipalities must act to reduce Greenhouse Gases and act to prevent climate impacts from affecting their residents. In addition to taking action on climate change, the implementation of the potential programs in this report would also increase economic activity, create new businesses and enhance our quality of life in the region. It is important to have collaboration with, and collective and co-ordinated effort by the community and government.

  • Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy

    The Ontario Great Lake's Strategy focuses on empowering action by all partners on Great Lakes – from provincial ministries to local service clubs – and on restoring Great Lakes water, beaches and coastal areas. It aims to conserve biodiversity and deal with invasive species. The Strategy supports science to guide our Great Lakes work and addresses the need for climate change adaptation.

  • Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit User Guide

    The Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit has been developed to facilitate robust decision-making processes and to integrate climate change adaptation across the organisation. Specifically: Integrate adaptation and support effective risk management, be more responsive to climate change shocks and trends, maintain standards of service delivery in the face of extreme weather, make effective and consistent decision regarding climate change, form linkages across different work areas, and incorporate uncertainty into decision making.

  • York Region De-Icing Strategies (2012)

    Like many municipalities in Ontario, the Region of York is increasingly challenged by the growing variability of the winter season. Freeze-thaw damage, weather variability and extreme weather events such as blizzards pose a safety hazard for travelers and make it increasingly difficult to maintain the roads, resulting in costly investment in infrastructure.

    To adapt to these new weather patterns, the Region has invested in new strategies for de-icing and anti-icing, and has adopted several new tools to optimize their ability to respond to these winter issues.

    The case study highlights specific challenges faced by the Region concerning ice and concludes with lessons learned that may be of value to other municipalities that experience similar issues.

  • Implementing Climate Change Adaptation: Lessons Learned from ten Examples

    Some of the main questions communities face in planning for and implementing climate adaptation are: how to begin, how best to use climate science, how to determine the right policies, how to institutionalize them, and how to budget for them. This paper presents ten examples of cities and counties around the country. Each highlights the key lessons learned in the process of moving from planning to implementation on climate adaptation.

  • Adapting to Urban Heat: a Toolkit for Local Governments

    This Urban Heat Tool Kit is designed to help local governments reduce the effects of increased heat on their communities and citizens. It provides an analytic tool for policy makers to consider a combination of four built-environment changes (cool roofs, green roofs, cool pavements, and urban forestry), providing clear criteria for selecting among these approaches. It also examines the roles government can play in pursuing these changes: shaping government’s own operations, mandating or providing incentives for private choices, and engaging in public education.

  • Climate Considerations for Management of Natural Areas and Green Spaces in the City of Chicago

    Managing natural resources in an effective and cost-efficient way requires responding to changes that are occurring in the climate system. This guide focuses on adaptation, with the aim of helping resource managers in the Chicago Wilderness region jump-start the process of updating approaches to management to better incorporate, and reduce the rate of, climate change. Specifically, the goal is to help resource managers identify options that can reduce the exposure of key species or systems to change, reduce their sensitivity to change, or increase their ability to adapt to change.

  • Leadership & Legacy: Handbook for Local Elected Officials on Climate Change

    This handbook has been tailored for elected officials given their position on the front lines. The goal of the handbook is to provide justifications for why cities should proactively undertake an adaptation process and information on climate change that can be used to rationalize adaptive actions. The handbook also offers clear-cut strategies for communicating climate change and the necessity of adaptation in cities.

  • Hamilton Conservation Authority Climate Change Strategy

    The City of Hamilton has experienced several cases of extreme weather over the past decade including flooding, drought and wind events. Recognizing that these events are expected to increase in both frequency and intensity as the climate changes, the Hamilton Conservation Authority decided to develop a climate change adaptation strategy based on a watershed approach. The case study explores the major tenets of the strategy and discusses the challenges, process, next steps and lessons learned. These elements may assist other municipalities and conservation authorities in developing their own ad

  • Hamilton Conservation Authority Climate Change Strategy (2012)

    The City of Hamilton, Ontario, has experienced several cases of extreme weather over the past decade including flooding, drought and wind events. Recognizing that these events are expected to increase in both frequency and intensity as the climate changes, the Hamilton Conservation Authority decided to develop a climate change adaptation strategy based on a watershed approach.

    The case study explores the major tenets of the strategy and discusses the challenges, process, next steps and lessons learned. These elements may assist other municipalities and conservation authorities in developing their own adaptation strategy with a watershed approach.

  • Forest Floor Mat Transplanting in Sudbury (2012)

    Since 1978, the City of Greater Sudbury, Ontario, has undertaken re-greening efforts to replace tree and vegetation cover on 82,000 ha that had been historically denuded by smelter emissions. To further these efforts, and protect the fragile new growth from anticipated climate change impacts, the City initiated a program to transplant forest floor mats from old growth forest areas scheduled for depletion to accommodate the widening of Highway 69, to the newly planted areas. The forest floor mats add plant and micro-organism diversity promoting healthy trees and help to protect the new vegetation from climate impacts such as extreme heat, wind or precipitation events.

    The case study reviews the details of the program and highlights the challenges and lessons learned that have emerged from this endeavour.

  • Center for Climate Strategies Adaptation Guidebook: Comprehensive Climate Action

    This report provides a complete stepwise, fact based, sector-specific methodology on climate adaptation action planning and policy development. Through comprehensive climate action planning that includes adaptation, federal, state, regional, and local governments can anticipate, manage, and reduce the risks and impacts of climate change, as well as pursue opportunities for optimizing strong climate investments and policy making.

  • Bioretention Swale and Rain Gardens – Thunder Bay

    The City of Thunder Bay, Ontario developed a bioretention swale for its water treatment plant. This Low-Impact Development (LID) project uses vegetation to filter, slow, capture, and infiltrate stormwater before it reaches Lake Superior.

    Bioretention Swale and Rain Gardens

  • Involving Homeowners in Urban Flood Risk Reduction: City of London, Ontario (2011)

    The City of London, Ontario has experienced many flooding events over the past few decades, often related to extreme precipitation events and seasonal thaw. Involving homeowners in adaptation strategies is a key factor in their success.

    This case study developed by the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction explores homeowner perceptions on basement flooding and the mitigative behaviours of residents in the Sherwood Forest neighbourhood of London, Ontario. The results of this study are provided and several recommendations, next steps, challenges and lessons learned were identified as well.

    This case study can provide insight for municipalities into the challenges involved in engaging homeowners and residents in climate change  adaptation, and the best ways to achieve successful participation in municipal programs.

  • Climate Change Adaptation Planning: a Handbook for Small Canadian Communities

    The purpose of the Handbook is to help small Canadian communities to prepare and implement a Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP). The Handbook helps community planners take the key steps required to plan for climate change adaptation and decision makers determine what strategic actions need to be taken.

  • Stormwater Strategies: Cities Prepare Aging Infrastructure for Climate Change

    Although managers typically think first of the effects on drinking water supplies, many are realizing that their wastewater systems (the focus of this article) also will be keenly affected, with profound potential consequences for public health. In many places, these systems are already under strain from population growth, development, underfunding, and maintenance backlogs. At a time when North American cities are just beginning to assess what altered weather patterns may bring, a handful, such as Toronto, have committed to upgrading their wastewater systems with climate change in mind.

  • AdaptME Toolkit: Adaptation Monitoring & Evaluation

    This toolkit will help you to: 1) refine your evaluation purpose and objectives, 2) reflect on what you are trying to evaluate and the logic behind it, 3) understand how specific traits of climate adaptation can make evaluation challenging and how you can overcome these challenges, 4) draw out, understand and re-evaluate your assumptions, 5) consider how progress and performance might be best measured and evaluated, 6) identify examples, good practice and techniques which may help ensure your evaluation is robust, 7) prioritize your evaluation activities.

  • Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation

    Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation is a compendium of resources that provide a milestone based framework to assist local governments in the creation of adaptation plans to address the relevant climate change impacts associated with their communities. Changing Climate, Changing Communities is aimed at municipal staff interested in working on climate change adaptation strategies.

  • Protecting your Community from Climate Change: a Training Program for Ontario Municipalities

    This course is intended to help municipalities and municipal departments take action to adapt to climate change. It builds on the experience of some local government leaders in the field, and includes links to reports of their efforts. It also draws on the important work of Canadian and international climate change scientists and adaptation researchers.

  • A Practitioners Guide to Climate Change Adaptation in Ontario’s Ecosystems

    This guide was developed to help practitioners respond to and prepare for climate change. It introduces the concepts of climate change adaptation, vulnerability, and risk. It also describes vulnerability and risk assessment tools and techniques, and a framework that can be used to support adaptive management in a rapidly changing climate. Ultimately, the guide seeks to assist natural resource managers to identify ways that climate change vulnerabilities and risks can be integrated into decision-making processes that include adaptation action plans, strategies, and policies.