New York’s Climate Smart Communities Program
The New York Climate Smart Communities program is a partnership between local communities and six state agencies designed to address climate change. Communities voluntarily sign the Climate Smart Communities Pledge and receive technical support and guidance from state agencies. As of April 2013, one hundred and fifteen communities are part of the program; most are located along the Atlantic and Great Lakes coasts.
New York will experience increased average temperatures, flooding, extreme weather events, runoff, water supply and quality issues, droughts, shifting habitats and species’ ranges, and sea level rise as a result of climatic changes (Frumhoff et al. 2007). The New York Climate Smart Communities Program is supported by five state agencies – the Departments of Environmental Conservation, State, and Transportation, and the Energy Research and Development Authority and Public Service Commission. It combines mitigation and adaptation responses to limit or eliminate the effects of climate change on local communities (e.g., towns, villages, cities, counties). Benefits of local community involvement include cost savings for local taxpayers through reduced energy costs and increased energy efficiency, increased opportunities for green energy job growth, and improving existing and designing new infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change (Department of Environmental Conservation 2009).
The Climate Smart Communities program provides communities with technical support and guidance; as part of the program, each community must adopt a model pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change. The Climate Smart Communities Pledge may be adopted by any town, village, city, or county in New York State; it includes a series of steps that communities may also take to fully participate in the program. These steps include:
- Creating a climate change coordinator position or task force to organize the community’s efforts
- Conducting a greenhouse gas inventory
- Developing goals and a climate action plan
- Educating local businesses, organizations, and citizens on efforts that can be taken
- Contributing lessons learned and stories to the Climate Smart Communities Program.
The partnership is developing a certification program to motivate communities to take action on the aforementioned steps; currently, all communities that take the pledge are designated as Climate Smart Communities, but only those that have implemented specific actions will be considered Certified Climate Smart Communities.
The partnership is run by six coordinators, four of which are contractors that are providing services to communities in four pilot regions of the state. Of the other two coordinators, one is developing an interactive land use, transportation planning, and building code toolkit for use by New York municipalities, and the other is responsible for coordinating regional and local greenhouse gas inventory activities and providing services to the communities located outside the four pilot regions. More information can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/84508.html.
Outcomes and Conclusions
One hundred and fifteen communities have joined the program as of April 2013. The Department of Environmental Conservation recently released the Climate Smart Communities Guide to Local Action, which provides step-by-step guidance and case studies to assist communities; for example, the guide provides information on how to conduct emissions inventories, develop climate action plans, and reduce energy needs. In addition, the program runs the Climate Smart Communities Webinar Series, which includes topics ranging from green infrastructure to energy efficiency.
Gregg, R. M. (2012). New York’s Climate Smart Communities Program [Case study on a project of New York Department of Environmental Conservation]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/new-yorks-climate-smart-communities-program (Last updated August 2013)