Communities can do more through 'Climate Smart' initiative

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In 2009, the New York State Department of Conservation launched the Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare New Yorkers for the effects of climate change.

The CSC program provides communities with a guide of actionable steps they can take to reduce their fossil fuel dependence – lowering taxpayers' fuel bills while slowing climate change impacts. Additional benefits include new "green" job opportunities and more walkable, bikeable communities.

Since 2009, 14 Dutchess County communities – including Dutchess County itself – have taken steps to become "Climate Smart.'' In the last three weeks, interest has picked up with four new Dutchess communities adopting the Climate Smart pledge.

To become Climate Smart, a community must first pass a resolution declaring its dedication to reducing fossil fuel consumption via CSC guidelines. After the resolution is adopted, it must be submitted to the DEC for approval. Once approved, the community becomes a registered Climate Smart Community.

The CSC guide includes 10 sections focusing on specific goals like reducing municipal energy use for transportation, greening waste management, and instating renewable energy sources. Communities must complete at least one action from each of these areas. Each step requires DEC certification; associated paperwork can be submitted through a convenient online portal.

Each action is assigned a points value. After accumulating 120 points, communities are awarded "bronze" certification; silver and gold levels are possible. There are three silver communities in New York, including Ulster County and the City of Kingston.

If CSC certification sounds like a lot of work, know the effort is worth it. Taking the pledge will reduce your community's dependence on fossil fuel and shrink residents' energy costs. Lowering greenhouse gas emissions will help your community prepare for the warmer and wetter conditions that are happening and expected to worsen in this region. Municipal funding is available to help CSCs implement program actions.

What can you do as a citizen? Replace traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs. Take advantage of free and reduced-cost energy audits provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to identify ways you can save energy. Purchase an electric vehicle with state rebates and federal tax incentives. (Another perk: they require very little maintenance – and no oil changes.)

For maximum impact, contact your public officials. Find out what your town, village, or county has done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Is your community already Climate Smart? If not, encourage officials to adopt the pledge. Does your local government have an advisory body such as a Conservation Advisory Council? These groups can accomplish great things with dedicated volunteers like you. Most importantly, talk to your neighbors and friends. One community at a time, we will achieve a greener, cleaner, and healthier New York.

 

Web resources


Climate Smart Communities

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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