What We Do
What is the Climate Smart Communities Program?
The New York State Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Program provides guidance to local governments in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. The overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and to adopt climate friendly policies while maintaining a vibrant and sustainable economy. The benefits of participating in the CSC program include free technical assistance, access to grants, and recognition of progress through various levels of certification. Local governments participate by adopting a voluntary pledge and using the CSC framework to guide and measure progress toward creating healthy and safe places in which to live and work.
The Columbia County Board of Supervisors (BOS) joined the CSC program on November 10, 2020 and established our Task Force four months later on March 10, 2021. This Task Force is currently comprised of county residents, town supervisors, county staff, and expert advisors. To achieve certification the CSC program requires the county to complete a minimum number of actions.
Current actions for certification fall under 12 categories known as 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.
The first level of certification at the bronze level requires the county to complete actions totaling at least 120 points. These actions must fall under at least four different pledge elements. Two of these actions are mandatory and three must be identified as priority actions.
Grant funding is available from state and private sources to support these projects. In 2019, more than $11 million dollars was allocated through the Department of Environmental Conservation CSC grant program, with individual grants ranging from $10,000 to $2 million. These grants can support a wide range of activities such as conducting a greenhouse gas inventory or developing a climate action plan. Funds can also be used for climate-resilient infrastructure projects like enlarged culverts, green energy and transportation initiatives, and solid waste management projects. Funding is available for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, including reducing flood risk, increasing natural resiliency, and relocating or retrofitting critical infrastructure.
What is the Clean Energy Communities Program?
The NYSERDA CEC program provides tools and resources to participating communities to help them implement High Impact Action items leading to increased access to grant funding. Communities earn points for every high-impact action they complete. Once a community earns a certain number of points, it becomes eligible for larger grant amounts. Communities that complete at least four high-impact actions are eligible to apply for grants to fund additional clean energy projects and earn the Clean Energy Communities designation.
The Columbia County Board of Supervisors (BOS) joined the CEC program on July 14, 2021. Columbia County completed its first four high-impact actions in November of 2022 and is now a Designated Clean Energy Community.