The Town of Gardiner has become the latest community in Ulster County to take the New York Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Pledge, the first in a series of steps that qualify municipalities to obtain grants from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to fund local projects to reduce their carbon footprint. The City of Kingston, the Towns of New Paltz, Lloyd and Rosendale and the county itself have already gotten on board the CSC bandwagon, along with more than 200 other municipalities across the state.
Gardiner’s Town Board voted to adopt the Pledge at its January 9 meeting, a month after viewing a PowerPoint presentation explaining the program given by Gardiner resident Jason Mayer. No changes were made to the standard language of the Pledge, whose preamble acknowledges the role of human use of fossil fuels as a primary cause of climate change, lists the negative effects thereof and the positive outcomes of alternative strategies: “an unprecedented opportunity to save money, and to build livable, energy-independent and secure communities, vibrant innovation economies, health and safe schools and resilient infrastructures.”
The town’s commitment specifically involves undertaking ten tasks over time “in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate”:
1. Pledge to be a Climate Smart Community
2. Set goals, inventory emissions, plan for climate action
3. Decrease community energy use
4. Increase community use of renewable energy
5. Realize benefits of recycling and other climate smart solid waste management practices
6. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through use of climate smart land use tools
7. Enhance community resilience and prepare for the effects of climate change
8. Support development of a green innovation economy
9. Inform and inspire the public
10. Commit to an evolving process of climate action”
The state’s guidelines for the program list a variety of activities that qualify a community to earn points under each of the ten goals. Merely taking the Pledge opens the door to small grants for feasibility studies, and larger ones are guaranteed after a certain number of activities are logged. The City of Kingston was recently awarded $850,000 under the program to fund infrastructure redesign to make its streets more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
“My concern is that, once we adopt it, we do something about it,” said town supervisor Marybeth Majestic upon introducing the resolution. “We have tons of support,” Mayer responded, pointing out the large turnout of Gardiner residents who had come to the meeting specifically to support the Climate Smart Community initiative. He said that he had already discussed the formation of a CSC Task Force with councilman David Dukler, suggesting that it include at least one representative of Gardiner’s Environmental Conservation Commission along with local business owners, farmers, environmentalists and people with skills such as public relations and grantwriting that might prove useful to the project. Mayer suggested an energy audit of all municipally owned buildings as one of Gardiner’s first steps toward enhanced CSC status.
“I think these goals are terrific, but I come down on the hyperpractical side,” commented councilman Warren Wiegand. “You need to be very specific about what you’re going to do. Come back to the Town Board in two or three months with a plan.”