This past year, The Wild Center, in partnership with DEC Office of Climate Change and NOAA’s Climate Program Office, created the above video that features the youth leaders in Saranac Lake and Homer that are leading the charge for climate action and resilience in their rural communities. The video highlights work inspired by The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Summits, which convene young people across the country to learn about climate change science, impacts, and solutions. Over the past two years, youth leaders in Homer and Saranac Lake have provided valuable contributions, unique skills, and leadership to help their respective communities take action on climate change. Their enthusiasm and hard work helped both villages attain bronze level CSC certification during this round of review. The Climate Smart Communities program provides a positive pathway for these young people to collaborate with their community leaders to build climate resilience and design exciting, creative solutions for future generations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program continues to convene young people through virtual youth climate summits and climate change education programming. In place of this year’s Adirondack Youth Climate Summit, The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program is unveiling a new, virtual event series entitled Youth Have Power: Plugging Into Climate Action. The program is a flexible, 3-month menu of evening and weekend sessions for high school students to learn about climate change, decide how to take climate action, and connect with other youth climate leaders. Students who attend five sessions over the three months and complete one action challenge will have officially completed the program and will earn a prize. The virtual event kicks off on September 29 with a Speaker Series featuring Dr. Elizabeth Bagley from Project Drawdown and John Paul Mejia from Sunrise Miami. Registration and additional information can be found on our Youth Have Power page.
The Climate Smart Communities Program
The Climate Smart Communities program is jointly sponsored by seven state agencies: DEC, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New York Power Authority, Department of State, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Department of Public Service. Started in 2009, program provides guidance and technical support to local governments to take locally driven climate action. The first step is to register by passing a pledge to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. To date, there are 312 local governments that have passed the Climate Smart Communities pledge; these communities represent over 8.7 million New Yorkers.
The certification program was launched in 2014 to document and celebrate the accomplishments of leading communities. In total, there are now 62 certified Climate Smart Communities in New York State. In order to be certified, communities must show that they have an active task force that includes residents and municipal representatives. Certified communities often get points for installing electric vehicle charging stations and putting solar on municipal buildings. Most certified communities also complete greenhouse gas inventories that calculate emissions at the local level and help them identify how best to help New York State meet the aggressive greenhouse gas limits laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Plan
Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading climate plan is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State Builds Back Better as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the CLCPA, New York is on a path to reach its mandated goals of economy wide carbon neutrality and achieving a zero-carbon emissions electricity sector by 2040, faster than any other state. It builds on New York’s unprecedented ramp-up of clean energy including a $3.9 billion investment in 67 large-scale renewable projects across the state, the creation of more than 150,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector, a commitment to develop over 1,800 megawatts of offshore wind by 2024, and 1,800 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. New York’s Climate Action Council is working on a scoping plan to build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 while ensuring that at least 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments benefit disadvantaged communities, and advancing progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtus.