During Climate Week 2020, DEC Announces 13 New Certified Climate Smart Communities
Actions Support Nation-Leading Goals of Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act
Certified Municipalities Are Models for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Building Local Climate Resilience, and Inspiring Community Engagement
The Wild Center Releases New Video Featuring Youth Climate Leaders At Work
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and 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 municipal efforts to meet the economic, social, and environmental challenges posed by climate change. By taking meaningful steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, 13 local governments successfully met criteria to be recognized as leaders during the third-quarter round of review. Three communities achieved the silver level and 10 communities achieved bronze-level certification. In addition, DEC announced the release of a short video featuring inspiring stories of youth leadership and community engagement in the villages of Homer and Saranac Lake, both of which achieved certification this round. The video demonstrates the critical role young people are playing in reversing climate change. The announcements are part of New York State’s recognition of Climate Week 2020.
“In New York, we are leading in our aggressive efforts to help ensure our environment is clean and safe and to combat climate change,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “These 13 new Climate Smart Communities are helping to achieve our goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase resiliency, and enhance overall quality of life. We recognize the commitment of local governments around the state to address the climate crisis and help us achieve our ambitious clean energy goals. Together, we will continue to build back better, cleaner, and greener for future generations and the future of our planet.”
DEC Commissioner Seggos said, “New York State is committed to doing our utmost to support local communities as they adapt to severe weather and transition to cleaner energy sources. Even in the face of COVID-19, these communities remind us how important it is to invest in building a stronger, more resilient New York for generations to come. The 13 certified Climate Smart Communities announced today are a powerful example of what municipalities can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
New York’s newest certified Climate Smart Communities listed by region:
Central New York
Village of Cazenovia (bronze)
Village of Homer (bronze)
City of Beacon (silver)
Village of Croton-on-Hudson (silver)
Village of Dobbs Ferry (bronze)
Town of Dover (bronze)
Village of Hastings-on-Hudson (silver)
Village of Mount Kisco (bronze)
Town of Pound Ridge (bronze)
Village of Sleepy Hollow (bronze)
Town of Woodstock (bronze)
City of Yonkers (bronze)
Village of Saranac Lake (bronze)
Doreen M. Harris, Acting President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “Community action is at the heart of improving the state’s resiliency in the face of climate change and advancing the transition to clean renewable energy, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership. Climate Smart Communities are a proud resource for New York State highlighting the fact that together, we can make a difference for healthier places to live with lower carbon emissions, improved energy efficiency, and investments that help rebuild the economy in light of COVID-19.”
Online certification reports describe the specific actions that each of the new certified Climate Smart Communities took to achieve certification. In particular, the Governor cited the accomplishments of the three municipalities that achieved the silver level, which is a significant step-up from the bronze level.
Croton-on-Hudson recently invested in a 310-kilowatt solar system on the rooftop of a municipal building that was installed at no cost to the village. It is a fully subscribed community solar installation that will provide the village with long-term revenue while saving its residential subscribers 10 percent off their electric bills.
Both Beacon and Hastings-on-Hudson rose from their original bronze-level certifications to the silver level. Beacon is the second municipality in the state, after New York City, to pass the NYStretch Energy Code. Nearly all electricity used by the city government is offset by a solar farm on a closed landfill. About 70 percent of Beacon’s residents opted for 100 percent renewable electricity through membership in a community choice aggregation program.
Hastings-on-Hudson also made a commitment to increasing energy efficiency in local buildings by passing the NYStretch Code. Hastings-on-Hudson is particularly proud of combining its climate mitigation efforts with a strong adaptation program; for example, the village completed a climate vulnerability assessment, a natural resources inventory, and a heat emergency plan.
Five of the communities certified in this round include environmental justice areas: Homer, Beacon, Mount Kisco, Sleepy Hollow, and Yonkers. Their programs work to address environmental challenges in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities and support the goals of ensuring that all of New York’s communities are represented in planning for and implementing the transition to a cleaner energy future. Additionally, all communities included in this round, with the exception of Sleepy Hollow, participate in or have been designated as Clean Energy Communities under NYSERDA’s program that assists local governments to implement clean energy actions, save energy costs, and improve the environment.
Three of the communities certified today received funding through DEC’s Climate Smart Communities Grant program. 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. The program supports the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires New York to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Over the first four years of this grant program, DEC has awarded more than $39 million to municipalities in support of local climate mitigation and adaptation projects. For more information, visit DEC’s website.
Youth Leadership Video: “Youth Catalyze Community Climate Action – Stories from New York State”
This past year, The Wild Center, in partnership with DEC’s Office of Climate Change and NOAA’s Climate Program Office, created a video featuring youth leaders in Saranac Lake and Homer leading the charge for climate action and resilience in their rural communities. The seven-minute video highlights work inspired by The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Summits, which convene young people across the country to learn about climate change science, impacts, and solutions. Over the past two years, youth leaders in Homer and Saranac Lake have provided valuable contributions, unique skills, and leadership to help their respective communities take action on climate change. Their enthusiasm and hard work helped both villages attain bronze level CSC certification during this round of review. The Climate Smart Communities program provides a positive pathway for these young people to collaborate with their community leaders to build climate resilience and design exciting, creative solutions for future generations.
The Wild Center Director of Climate Initiatives, Jen Kretser said: “We all need to work together in order to support climate change solutions and to build community resilience. Young people bring unique perspectives and a suite of skills to the table. Having them as true partners on decision making in communities benefits everyone. The work we are doing right now in collaboration with New York State’s Climate Smart Communities program on empowering youth to catalyze climate action in their communities is essential to ensure sustainable local solutions.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program continues to convene young people through virtual youth climate summits and climate change education programming. For more information and to join the summit network, please visit The Wild Center’s website.
The Climate Smart Communities Program
The Climate Smart Communities program is jointly sponsored by seven state agencies: DEC, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New York Power Authority, Department of State, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Department of Public Service. Started in 2009, the program provides guidance and technical support to local governments to take locally driven climate action. The first step is to register by pledging to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. To date, 313 local governments have adopted the Climate Smart Communities pledge; these communities represent more than 8.7 million New Yorkers.
The certification program was launched in 2014 to document and celebrate the accomplishments of leading communities. There are now 62 certified Climate Smart Communities in New York State. To be certified, communities must show that they have an active task force that includes residents and municipal representatives. Certified communities often earn points for installing electric vehicle charging stations and putting solar panels on municipal buildings. Most certified communities also complete greenhouse gas inventories that calculate emissions at the local level and help them identify how best to help New York State meet the aggressive greenhouse gas limits laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
Village of Saranac Lake Mayor, Clyde Rabideau said: “The Village has been on the vanguard of climate responsibility and achieving bronze certification is a huge accomplishment for our community and the many volunteers that made it happen.”
New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Plan
Governor Cuomo’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 achieving its mandated goal of a zero-carbon emissions 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 ramp-up of clean energy including a $3.9 billion investment in 67 large-scale renewable projects across the state, the creation of more than 150,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector, a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, and 1,800 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, 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 benefit disadvantaged communities, and advancing progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtus (trillion BTUs of energy).