Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today applauded the first six municipalities to achieve certification as part of the state Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Program, which is designed to support municipal efforts to meet economic, social and environmental challenges posed by climate change. The new certification effort, which awards certification, bronze, silver and gold levels under the CSC Program, will provide a means to recognize those communities that achieve success under their CSC pledge, a means to track and reward local actions, and a better defined framework for local climate action. The governor heralded the state and local partnership effort as part of the weeklong celebration of Earth Day, to support a more resilient and sustainable New York and promote a cleaner and healthier environment.
The six certified Climate Smart Communities that were honored by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens and Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald at an event today at a solar-powered boat pavilion, included the City of Watervliet, Albany County; the City of Albany, Albany County; the Town of Cortlandt, Westchester County; Orange County; the Village of Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County; and the City of Kingston, Ulster County.
"Building and achieving a more sustainable New York can only be successful if we all, on the local, state and federal levels, work together to support goals that mitigate and protect against the impact of climate change," Governor Cuomo said. "On this Earth Day, we are proud to be partnering with municipalities to do just that and I congratulate these six communities for demonstrating bold leadership by aggressively pursuing policies and actions to reduce their carbon footprint and address climate change at a very local level."
"Many communities across New York State have experienced the dramatic effects of climate change over the past few years, including severe weather and devastating floods," Commissioner Martens said. "Governor Cuomo has directed DEC and other state agencies to develop and implement strategies to address the cause and effects of climate change, including strengthening our resiliency against storms and flooding. DEC encourages and supports community climate action plans that help to prepare for and mitigate potential impacts. We congratulate these six communities for their leadership in tackling this environmental challenge and encourage others to take an active role on this important issue."
New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald said, "Congratulations to these six communities for adopting the pledge to combat climate change and join the ranks of Climate Smart Communities. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, NYSDOT is collaborating with its State partners to provide local communities with the assistance they need to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the consequences of climate change. NYSDOT is committed to this effort."
John B. Rhodes, president and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), said, "Congratulations to these six communities for their demonstrated commitment and effective progress in combating climate change. These municipalities can serve as models for others to follow. Governor Cuomo has set out an aggressive energy agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Climate Smart Communities support this goal by reducing fossil fuel use and stimulating clean energy to create a cleaner environment for all New Yorkers."
PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman said, "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is addressing the real threat of climate change through programs designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and develop renewable energy. In addition, we are launching brand-new initiatives to modernize the State's energy infrastructure and energy business model. Partnering with local governments and communities in the Climate Smart Communities program will help ensure our success to address climate change impacts."
State Health Commissioner, Nirav R. Shah M.D., M.P.H., said, "By creating sustainable methods to help meet the challenges posed by climate change, these communities are leading the way in the effort to collect and analyze data to better understand, improve, and protect our health."
Assemblymember John T. McDonald III said, "It is a pleasure to join Commissioner Martens and Mayor Manning as we celebrate Earth Week. Innovative and determined leaders like Mayor Manning have not only embraced the Climate Smart Program but have also taken the program to new areas in his zest to improve our climate and the community of Watervliet with the critical outcome of saving taxpayers' funds. It is through the Climate Smart Program, under the oversight of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, that has made a difference in regard to our environment and also in educating our residents in New York State on how we need to protect, preserve and position our environment for the generations to follow."
Assemblyman Phil Steck said, ""We cannot ignore the impact of climate change. I am pleased local communities I represent have taken a leading role to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become more energy-efficient. I look forward to working with them and my colleagues at the state level to develop strategies that will better protect our environment."
Through New York's Climate Smart Communities Program, municipalities receive analytical tools, information on available training and financial assistance, an informational webinar series and direct technical support from coordinators. The coordinators are funded by proceeds from the sale of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon dioxide emissions allowances.
Counties, cities, towns, and villages can join the voluntary program by adopting the Climate Smart Communities Pledge. The pledge requires local governments to set goals; inventory emissions and develop a climate action plan; decrease energy demands and encourage renewable energy in their operations; support recycling and other climate smart solid waste management practices; promote climate protection though land use tools; develop an adaptation and resiliency plan for climate change; support a green innovation economy; inform and inspire the public; and commit to an evolving process.
To date, 130 local governments have taken the pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for the effects of climate change and encourage development of a green innovation economy.
Building upon the success of the Climate Smart Communities program and with funding from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), Climate Smart Community sponsoring agencies developed criteria for communities to achieve official designation as Certified Climate Smart Communities. The state sought input from an advisory group consisting of local officials and experts from a variety of organizations in developing the certification manual, which identifies more than 130 specific actions Climate Smart Communities can take to receive points toward certification and higher award levels.
The actions described in the certification manual are organized according to the ten points of the Climate Smart Communities Pledge. The certification program requires that communities complete a small number of specific actions fundamental to an effective local climate action program, including:
Formation of a Climate Smart Community task force to coordinate community efforts and of a municipal "green team" to help the municipality identify opportunities to reduce greenhouse emissions and save energy costs in municipal operations;
Set greenhouse gas emissions targets and develop plans to achieve them over time;
Undertake an energy audit of at least one municipal building and to conduct a review of existing local plans to identify opportunities to improve resiliency to climate hazards.
Although the certification program requires a small number of specific actions, communities may select from the large number of voluntary actions to develop a local program that fits local circumstances, objectives and capacities. Many of the communities recognized today focused on reducing municipal energy demand by installing more efficient lighting or converting streetlights to LEDs. Other communities have made commitments to increase the number of alternatively-fueled vehicles in their fleets, or to reduce the generation of solid waste and amount of organic material sent to landfills. Some of the communities, especially those with vulnerable waterfronts, have conducted community-based processes to assess their vulnerabilities and develop adaptation plans.