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Additional information can be found at DEC's Language Assistance Page.

Community Sustainability

Strategies to Limit Climate Risk and Promote Green Jobs

Building/Library beside road with cars out front and a small image of LEED certified plague superimposed in bottom right
The library serving the Town and Village of Ossining
meets the highest standard for efficiency

Long familiar with de-industrialization in a changing economy, New York's communities now face added challenges from storms, heat and other impacts of a changing climate. New York State offers a framework to help communities respond to their economic and environmental challenges.

Green sign about green designed affordable housing in front of house
Housing that is "green," designed for all users and
affordable is the gold Standard for community

Ordinary New Yorkers already are experiencing climate change in the form of extreme precipitation events and higher coastal storm surges. More frequent and longer heat waves and extended dry spells are projected for coming decades. If these changes continue, new climate conditions might no longer support some treasured marine, forest and animal species and could reduce agricultural productivity. The damage, disruption and costs of climate change burden farmers, businesses and householders, as well as the local governments that protect our health and safety.

To limit risks to valued systems and resources and nurture a new "green" economy that can replace jobs lost in recent decades, communities across the state are choosing energy efficiency, clean energy and climate resilience.

New York State Supports Community Action

garden with two trees and red flowers next to a wall of a building
Rain gardens help make properties
sustainable and beautiful

Heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions must fall significantly if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Nearly half of the emission reductions needed to achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals articulated by Governor Cuomo in NYPerforms and the State Energy Plan depend, at least in part, on local government action. As a home-rule state, New York's municipalities are responsible for land use decisions that are central to achieving the energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions needed from the transportation and building sectors. They also are uniquely situated to improve climate resilience through creative plans that both reduce local risks and increase the community's attractiveness and livability.

Knowing their power to make a crucial difference, hundreds of municipalities already have committed to action on energy and climate. Some communities call their local programs "sustainable;" others choose "green," "climate smart" or "clean energy." Whatever the name, these communities take pride in serving local goals and meeting local needs while helping to solve problems that go beyond community borders.

Cleaner, Greener Communities

Cleaner, Greener Communities (see offsite link on right) is a competitive state grants program that provides funding to implement locally designed sustainability planning and projects. Its focus is integrated solutions-from statewide investments to regional and local decision making on land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure, energy and environmental practices.

Tables with red checkered tablecloths with produce on top and man standing one side and woman the other buying food
Farmers Markets make local food
available, bringing together growers
and consumers in a sustainable

Cleaner, Greener Communities incentives support local programs that lead to more sustainable growth, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improved resilience and better quality of life, and encourage local governments to coordinate with neighboring municipalities. Phase One of the program, now complete, funded development of regional sustainability plans (see offsite link on right) by a consortium of municipalities in each of the ten economic development regions of the state.

The plans outline strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and deploy renewable energy in key sectors -- energy supply, transportation, water and waste management, land use, open space, agriculture, housing and economic development. They emphasize urban revitalization and "green" infrastructure, but tailor proposed actions to regional and local goals and needs.

White single decker bus with blue writing and the words hybrid electric on the side
Public transportation - especially using low-carbon
fuels and hybrid technology - improves community
mobility and efficiency

Phase 2 (see offsite link on right) of Cleaner, Greener Communities is currently funding the first group of sustainability projects proposed by the ten regions. Additional incentives will become available in the future.

Climate Smart Communities

More than 140 New York municipalities have made the decision to engage their citizens in energy efficiency, renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction and advancing the green economy through the ten broad elements in New York State's Climate Smart Communities pledge.

climate smart community logo
Communities that have adopted the
Climate Smart Communities pledge
use the Climate Smart Communities
logo to show their commitment to
local climate action.

Climate Smart Communities is a network of communities engaged in community greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate resilience. The program, sponsored by six state agencies, supports municipalities as they identify, plan and carry out climate-friendly actions that further community goals, save taxpayer dollars and result in vibrant, attractive places to live and work.

Road with sidewalk and blue lines indicating disabled access and sloping path with flowers and plants either side
Walkable communities put the emphasis
on accessibility for wheelchairs

By enabling localities to act on climate without mandating which programs or policies they should adopt, Climate Smart Communities helps communities discover which measures will work best for them and successfully put those measures into practice.

Climate Smart Communities Program Services

Climate Smart Community Coordinators

With the Climate Smart Communities pledge as a roadmap, the coordinators advise and empower local governments by connecting them with appropriate financial and technical programs, helping them to coordinate with and learn from other communities, offering practical assistance and helping communities to track and report successes and barriers.

Climate Smart Communities Listserv

Use the dialog box on DEC's home page to sign up for alerts about funding, educational and networking opportunities for local governments. Click on the hyperlink and enter your e-mail address. Complete the "New Subscriber" page and on the "Quick Subscription" page scroll to the "Climate Change" category and check the box "Climate Smart Communities Program."

One man writing on poster board on the stage and three men listening
Climate Smart Communities
Coordinators train local officials
and citizens to assess their
communities' vulnerability to
climate change impacts
Climate Smart Communities Webinar Series

Experts and Climate Smart Communities share ideas and experiences in brief, informative sessions on phone and Internet.

Thank you to the speakers and attendees at our January 8, 2015 webinar: Getting to Net-Zero Energy Homes. The PowerPoint presentation is available on our Climate Smart Communities Webinar Presentations page.

Upcoming Webinar Presentation - NYSDOT's Flooding Vulnerability Assessment and NYSDEC's Fine-Scale Culvert Assessment, Thursday, February 12, 2015, 10:30 a.m. - Noon

This webinar will describe the process behind NYSDOT's flooding vulnerability assessment and how the methods used could serve as a model for local communities. DEC's fine-scale culvert assessment project will also be presented as a valuable tool for infrastructure managers to prioritize their culvert repair needs. For registration information, please go to DEC's Event Calendar.

Climate Smart Communities Guide to Local Action
Stone wall with the Town of Clarkstown in black and a flower bed in front. some houses and trees behind.
Designing communities for walkability and energy
efficiency leads to attractive, livable streets and

The Climate Smart Communities Guide to Local Action provides how-to information and community action case studies.

The Climate Smart Communities program is jointly sponsored by the following six New York State agencies: Department of Environmental Conservation; Energy Research and Development Authority; Public Service Commission; Department of State; Department of Transportation; and the Department of Health.

A Foundation for Sustainability and Climate Success

Together, Climate Smart Communities and Cleaner, Greener Communities are creating regional networks of community support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state, lower costs to municipal taxpayers and increase economic activity. Climate Smart Communities are positioned for leadership in climate planning and success in gaining incentives. These communities served as leaders in several regional sustainability plans, helping their regions to benefit from significant Cleaner, Greener Communities opportunities, which includes $30 million for current projects and an additional $55 million planned for the next two years.

Adoption of the measures developed in sustainability plans and enabled by Climate Smart Communities and Cleaner, Greener Communities will lead to more livable neighborhoods and communities that can retain residents and businesses while attracting new citizens and economic opportunities.

More about Community Sustainability: