Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Program

Background 

The Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Program began in 2009 as an interagency initiative of New York State. The CSC Program is jointly sponsored by the following six New York State agencies: Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); Department of Public Service; Department of State; Department of Transportation; Department of Health and the Power Authority (NYPA). DEC acts as the main administrator of the program.

The goals of the CSC Program are to engage and educate local governments in New York State, provide a robust framework to guide their climate action efforts, and recognize their achievements as they make progress. Participation in the program is voluntary, and is designed to encourage ongoing planning and implementation of actions that reduce of greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt to the effects of climate change.

CSC certification

CSC certification represents the next step in the evolution of the program; it provides specific guidance on how to implement the CSC Pledge, adoption of which is the first step to participation in the CSC Program. In order achieve CSC certification, a municipality must go beyond adoption of the CSC Pledge by completing and documenting a suite of actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change at the local level. The CSC certification program recognizes communities for their accomplishments through a rating system leading to three levels of award: bronze, silver, and gold.

There are over 120 CSC actions available for municipalities under the program, with detailed information, resources, and examples available for each. The actions are organized under the 10 Pledge Elements outlined in the CSC Pledge, and applicants can earn additional points by demonstrating innovation or high levels of performance under the “Innovation” and “Performance” categories:

CSC Pledge Elements:

  1. Build a climate-smart community.
  2. Inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action. 
  3. Decrease energy use. 
  4. Shift to clean, renewable energy. 
  5. Use climate-smart materials management
  6. Implement climate-smart land use. 
  7. Enhance Community Resilience to Climate Change.
  8. Support a green innovation economy. 
  9. Inform and inspire the public.
  10. Engage in an evolving process of climate action. 

As participation in the CSC Program has grown since its inception, the web-based CSC Portal (https://climatesmart.ny.gov/) increasingly serves as a resource for municipalities seeking information and guidance on the hundreds of CSC actions available to them, as well as a repository of the documentation submitted by each community achieving CSC certification. The full Certification Reports for all certified CSCs can be filtered by individual municipality, or by specific CSC actions in the “Participating Communities” section of the Portal: https://climatesmart.ny.gov/actions-certification/participating-communities/.

Ulster County CSC certification

Ulster County was the first County to achieve Silver-level CSC certification in 2016, a notable achievement, and the CSC Program serves as a framework for the County’s climate action initiatives. The County continues to work towards implementing more of the identified actions in the CSC Program and has used the Program in part to guide actions identified and prioritized in the roadmap section of the Ulster County Government Operations Climate Action Plan (2019). The County will be applying for its first five year Silver-level CSC recertification in 2021.

Over 300 communities state-wide have taken the CSC Pledge. Of those communities, only nine have reached Silver, the highest certification level within the program. In addition to Ulster County, the City of Kingston has also achieved Silver certification status. The County has been awarded two grants through the NYSDEC CSC grant program. The first grant contract was for $261,000 for improvements to the UC Resource Recovery Agency organics recycling program, including implementing a food waste diversion program at the UC Law Enforcement Center. The second grant agreement is funding the Ulster County Climate Change Resilience Planning effort, which is currently underway.

Ulster County CSC resolutions, memorandums, and executive orders

Ulster County Climate Smart Committee & Municipal Task Force

  • The Climate Smart Committee promotes and supports climate action, mitigation and adaptation in the community. The Committee is designed to act as an advisory board or steering committee that advises and collaborates with the local government to accomplish plans, programs, and activities that are part of the Climate Smart Communities certification program. The Committee consists of community members and municipal representatives, and public meetings are held on third Mondays monthly at 7:00 PM. Contact Fawn Tantillo at ftan[at]co.ulster.ny[dot]us to obtain meeting location and/or login information.
  • The Municipal Task Force was created as an ad hoc subcommitee by the Climate Smart Committee on November 23, 2020 via Motion No. 2, to be "chaired by the Coordinator of the Department of Environment or designee for the purpose of discussion and implementation of the Climate Smart Communities program within Ulster County". The Task Force will focus on supporting both the County and local municipalities in completing CSC Program actions specifically, and in accessing available resources through facilitated trainings; presentations; and other local and regional collaborations. Contact Ulster County Department of the Environment at environment[at]co.ulster.ny[dot]us for more information. Additionally, the Task Force Facebook page posts information on relevant local municipal events and funding opportunties.

Local CSC Program participation

Many local municipalities are also capturing the benefits of participating in the CSC Program, and the  Climate Smart Committee and Municipal Task Force serve as a resource for Ulster County communities. The map below highlights local engagement with the CSC Program. Local CSC Task Force webpages and/or CSC Certification Reports of participating communities are linked below, where relevant. Additionally, the County Environmental Management Council Municipal Environmental Committees webpage provides links to other local environmental committees.