Office of Climate Change
Developing a Portfolio of Solutions
The New York State Office of Climate Change was created to lead the development, in concert with other DEC programs and New York State agencies, of programs and policies that mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help New York communities and individuals adapt when changes in our climate cannot be avoided.
How the Office is Organized
To ensure that New York develops the full suite of responses needed for significant emission reductions and for successful adaptation to changing temperatures, sea levels, precipitation and other climate factors, the office focuses its efforts in two areas:
- Climate Science and Technology: using sound science, engineering and economic principles to design solutions that will help stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at acceptable levels, supporting the development of climate impact analyses to help New York respond to the effects of climate change, and contributing to state energy and climate planning.
- Climate Programs and Partnerships: working to inform, assist and empower state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, institutions, businesses and individuals as they reduce carbon emissions and adapt to unavoidable impacts.
Office of Climate Change Programs
New York's first mitigation program, specifically focused on carbon dioxide (CO2, the principal greenhouse gas), has been in place since 2008: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a nine-state program under which power sector CO2 emissions are reduced through cap and trade with allowances purchased in an auction. The Office of Climate Change is deeply involved in making this unprecedented program a reality, developing criteria and reviewing applications for offsets, developing the program's successful regional auctions for CO2 allowances.
Traditional rulemaking is another important tool for mitigating GHG emissions. The office worked with the Division of Air Resources to develop regulatory performance standards for CO2 emissions for new and existing stationary sources, including electric power plants, very large boilers, and gasification systems.
The outlines of the state's GHG emissions inventory are widely known: the bulk of these gases are generated in roughly equal parts by transportation, space heating/cooling for buildings, and electric power production. To cost-effectively mitigate GHG emissions, however, more detailed emissions assessments are needed. The Office is promoting voluntary emissions reporting by New York facilities, through a national nonprofit group, The Climate Registry. New York serves on the Board of Directors of The Climate Registry, along with representatives from thirty-eight other US states, eight Canadian provinces, six Mexican states, three native tribes and the District of Columbia. The Climate Registry recently released its protocol for emissions reporting, which will provide accurate and consistent emissions inventory data to ensure that emissions reductions are equitably shared. The department has committed to inventory and report its own emissions under The Climate Registry protocol.
The Office is responsible for evaluating the feasibility and benefits of alternatives to fossil-fuel technology and of other mitigation and adaptation approaches. Among technologies being evaluated are costs and benefits of liquid and solid biofuels, reductions in vehicle miles traveled, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
The Office of Climate Change aims to integrate a climate change element into the decision making and practices of governments, public and private institutions, businesses and individuals across the state. Through the Office of Climate Change, New York participated in the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference, and continues to work with the International Carbon Action Partnership, an organization of governments actively operating or developing cap and trade programs.
The Climate Smart Communities program is the Office's key interface with New York's local governments. The program emphasizes local actions that will save taxpayer dollars and support other community goals while protecting the climate, with a supportive network and access to resources that will help localities take successful climate action.
Informing New Yorkers about climate change is a key challenge for the Office. To help communities, organizations and individuals determine what local actions will be needed to protect the climate and adapt to unavoidable changes, our citizens need a broad understanding of the cause, expected impacts and solutions for climate change.
To enable New Yorkers to act effectively to protect themselves and their environment, the Office of Climate Change participates in a network of organizations that is working to provide the best available science. A special outreach effort targets teachers and students at all levels, in partnership with DEC's Environmental Education Centers.