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Climate Smart Community Pledge—emphasis on ‘community’

February 13, 2013

An effort is currently underway to invite the boards of all Sullivan County’s towns to sign a Climate Smart Community Pledge, in keeping with a climate pledge the county itself signed in February of 2010. Enrolling them in the program is an essential step for the completion of any county-wide initiative, given that town governments not only set policies with regard to their own purchases and building standards, but also regulate land uses for the whole town via zoning, set an example for their citizens and serve as a point of contact with the households and businesses within their borders.

So far, Tusten, Delaware and Lumberland have all signed Climate Smart Community Pledges. It’s a good start, but leaves a long way to go—and some towns, like Cochecton, have been reluctant to join in.

Well, why should they?

As noted in the editorial printed in the September 27, 2012 issue of this newspaper, this initiative is not just about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Signing the Climate Smart Community Pledge has the potential to bring financial benefits, both direct and indirect; as the “Roadmap for Sullivan County Climate Action Plan” says, the goal is to “unleash a tremendous economic generator for Sullivan County.” But the degree to which it can do so will depend on the degree to which everyone joins forces. The opportunity here is for Sullivan’s municipal governments, its citizens and its businesses to pull together to leverage leadership in green and sustainable initiatives into increased revenues and jobs.

The first level of benefits is direct: by signing the pledge, municipalities align themselves with the sustainability goals expressed in the New York State Mid-Hudson Planning Consortium’s development and sustainability plans. That’s one of the criteria set by the state in awarding funding through its Consolidated Funding Proposal. These funds can be used to help towns reduce costs on projects that they would need to invest in anyway.

A perfect example is the Town of Delaware’s planned town barn. By signing the pledge, the town now can now apply for grants that could not only significantly lower its capital costs, but also provide it with a facility that has significantly lower ongoing operating costs, because it would be built in a conservation-conscious manner. Retrofitting advice and financial aid is also available to towns that need to upgrade facilities, replacing heating systems or lights and such. What’s not to like?