Australia may be burning and glaciers melting, but in New Paltz progress was made during 2019 toward the goal of lessening human impacts on climate change. Janelle Peotter, coordinator of New Paltz Climate Smart, reported at the January 8 joint meeting of town and village leaders about the work done toward receiving certification as a “climate smart” community, which can increase eligibility for state aid in an environment where most aid is competitively awarded, rather than distributed through mechanisms of need or patronage. Applications are being prepared to file for bronze certification on behalf of town and village governments.
For each municipality, 23 actions under the state program have been logged. These include completing greenhouse gas inventories, preparing plans to reduce these emissions from municipal sources and an assessment of vulnerability to climate change and enacting community choice aggregation legislation which will reduce emissions for all residential electricity users unless they go out of their way to purchase electricity produced using non-renewable fuels. The specific tasks for each municipality were not the same in all cases, but Peotter said that each should easily surpass the required 120 points to obtain bronze certification, which has already achieved at the county level.
“I propose that we go for silver,” Peotter told elected officials. With a current score of 156 for the village and 184 for the town, both are more than halfway to the 300 points required. The next tasks will be more costly to implement, however, such as purchasing electric vehicles as they become available, enacting no-idling policies and converting sewage treatment plants to electric power. New buildings for municipal functions — court, police, fire — are being designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize reliance on fossil fuels; those efforts will receive credit for this process. Increasingly at all levels, efforts to reduce carbon emissions and otherwise mitigate for or minimize the impacts of a changing climate become more and more expensive, as experts have warned for decades.
Peotter said that the New Paltz Climate Smart task force members host monthly meetups, each with a particular topic as the focus. Details about these can be found on the group’s Facebook page.