New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the latest round of communities to achieve certification as part of New York State’s Climate Smart Communities program, which supports local efforts to meet the economic, social, and environmental challenges posed by climate change. By taking meaningful steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, six local governments successfully met the criteria to be recognized as leaders during the second quarter round of review.
“DEC applauds the work of these six communities helping address the climate crisis by acting locally and bolstering New York State’s climate leadership,” Commissioner Seggos said. “We look forward to working with our Climate Smart Communities and other local leaders who are ramping up clean energy, improving climate resiliency, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, among other actions, to benefit quality of life and advance the State’s climate goals.”
The town of New Castle achieved silver certification, which is the highest level currently available. New York’s new bronze-certified Climate Smart Communities are the towns of Ancram, North East, Wawarsing, and Yorktown. The town of Huntington was recertified at the bronze level and increased its total points by completing additional climate actions.
Established in 2009, the interagency Climate Smart Communities program provides guidance and technical support to local governments to take locally driven climate action. The first step to becoming a Climate Smart Community is to register by pledging to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. To date, 356 local governments representing more than 9.4 million New Yorkers adopted the Climate Smart Communities pledge.
The certification program launched in 2014 to document and celebrate the accomplishments of communities taking climate action. There are now 94 total certified Climate Smart Communities in New York State, nine silver and 85 bronze. To be certified, communities must demonstrate an active climate change task force that includes residents and municipal representatives. Most certified communities complete greenhouse gas inventories that calculate emissions at the local level and help local leaders identify how best to help New York State meet its ambitious greenhouse gas reductions mandates.
New York’s newest certified Climate Smart Communities:
Town of Ancram
The town of Ancram achieved bronze level certification in part by installing solar panels and an electric vehicle charging station at Town Hall, and increasing access to renewable energy for residents and local businesses by streamlining the permitting process for rooftop solar and running a community solar campaign.
Town of New Castle
The town of New Castle has newly achieved silver level certification, having received bronze in 2021. New Castle was also the state’s first municipality to take the pledge and register as a Climate Smart Community. New Castle’s continued commitment to local climate action enabled the town to achieve its silver-level certification, including actions such as converting all of the town’s 531 streetlights to energy-efficient LEDs, installing electric vehicle charging stations for public use, and developing a climate vulnerability assessment to identify and reduce risks to the community from climate change.
Towns of North East, Wawarsing, and Yorktown
These municipalities demonstrated climate leadership through actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve community resilience to climate change, earning them all bronze-level certification. The town of North East’s actions included launching waste reduction and climate change education programs to inform and inspire the public. Wawarsing updated its zoning codes to preserve natural areas like wetlands and stream buffer zones, which offer protection from flooding. Yorktown streamlined the permitting process for battery energy storage systems to help drive the decarbonization of energy supply and reduce energy demand and power outages.
Town of Huntington
The town of Huntington carries on its commitment to climate action by recertifying its bronze-level designation, achieved in March 2022. Huntington’s accomplishments include installing solar panels at Town Hall and electric vehicle charging stations at the town’s train station, as well as implementing a bike share program at parks and beaches.
For more information, see the online certification reports that describe all the actions each certified community took to achieve certification.
All six of the newly awarded communities also participate in the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Clean Energy Communities program, which assists local governments to implement clean energy actions and save on energy costs. Ancram, Huntington, New Castle, North East, and Yorktown completed a least four high-impact actions and are designated as Clean Energy Communities. The town of Wawarsing completed three high-impact actions under the program.
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “It is up to all of us to ensure a healthier, more sustainable New York, and continued local action to combat climate change is an essential piece of these efforts. Congratulations to these six communities for furthering their commitments to energy efficiency and renewable energy, improving air quality for residents and stewarding our environment for generations to come.”
Climate Smart Communities Coordinators
On Earth Day this year, DEC announced a new initiative, called Climate Smart Communities Coordinators, which brings three regional partners serving as technical support providers and strategic planners to guide local governments in the development of successful local climate action initiatives in three territories covering New York State.
Climate Smart Communities Coordinators will use the New York State Climate Smart Communities Certification program as a roadmap for providing technical support to communities to help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience to climate change, and thrive in the new green economy.
Municipalities can learn more and connect with the Climate Smart Communities Coordinator for their territory by visiting this webpage.
Climate Smart Communities Funding Programs
In May, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that $14 million is available through the Climate Smart Communities Grant program. Three of the communities certified today received funding through the DEC Climate Smart Communities Grant program – the towns of New Castle, North East, and Huntington. Established in 2016, this 50/50 matching grant program supports municipalities in completing certification actions and implementing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to extreme weather.
DEC is currently accepting applications for the Climate Smart Communities Grant program through 4 p.m. on July 29, 2022. Visit here for more information and to view the Request for Applications (RFA) for the Climate Smart Communities Grant Program.
New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Plan
New York State’s nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieve its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York’s unprecedented investments to ramp-up clean energy including over $35 billion in 120 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.6 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting nearly 158,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2020, a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011 and a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. Under the Climate Act, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities, and advance progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.
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