CATSKILL — Village trustees unanimously approved a resolution creating a Climate Smart Communities task force.
The board appointed Nancy Richards the task force coordinator and Cliff Staples, Margaret Tomlinson and Michele Pulver as task force members Nov. 28. Richards will act as liaison to the board and give monthly reports.
The Climate Smart Communities program helps municipalities reduce greenhouse emissions such as carbon dioxide, which can trap heat in the atmosphere and increase the Earth’s temperature.
Top sources of emissions in the U.S. in 2016 were transportation, electricity, industry, commercial/residential and agricultural, according to epa.gov. The village of Catskill has been working on integrating the program into the community since last year.
“Climate Smart Communities gives municipalities a menu of options to reduce emissions,” Elizabeth LoGiudice, founder of Resilient Communications and Consulting, said. “It’s their purview what they’re able to tackle at the place in time.”
A recommended first step for the task force, LoGiudice said, is to take a greenhouse inventory of village buildings and vehicles to establish a baseline.
“They can opt to perform actions to reduce emissions,” she said, citing examples such as acquiring energy-efficient fleet vehicles or upgrading the heating system.
The CSC program focuses on carbon emissions into the atmosphere, LoGiudice said.
“It is one of the major drivers of climate change,” she said.
The program has two major components — mitigation and adaptation.
“No matter what we do, a certain amount of change is already happening,” she said, referring to the adaptation component.
“There’s a push for communities to make us less vulnerable,” she said, adding that Catskill is at risk for flooding.
Proposed solutions include proper zoning and management of private and municipal properties in the best methods possible to prevent flood damage, LoGiudice said.
Another local adaptation to climate change is planting street trees to help combat rising temperatures, she said.
By becoming a Climate Smart Community, the village becomes eligible for state and federal aid, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation website.
The state Office of Climate Change awards grants to Climate Smart communities, LoGiudice said, and other state grants take into consideration communities that are looking to increase their resilience.
The village doesn’t have the funding eyed for any specific projects, Village Trustee Gregory Smith said.
“As the village changes, we will implement whatever we can to make it better,” he said.
The task force has to identify sources of emissions in the community, audit municipal buildings for energy efficiency, assess vulnerabilities and risks related to climate change, set goals for emission reductions, encourage participation from businesses and implement the plans, according to the DEC.
The village has already put itself in good shape for the program by working on several environmental projects in the last three years, Smith said.
“We submit projects annually and then the state determines how many points we earn,” he said.
Municipalities require 120 points to earn their certification at a bronze level, LoGiudice said. A higher number of points can earn them silver or gold designations.
Of the 244 communities that are registered as Climate Smart, 17 have earned bronze and four have earned silver, according to climatesmart.ny.gov.
The village has a flood preparedness guide, a Waterfront Resilience Task Force and is participating in the Waterfront Revitalization Program, according to the village’s website.
Over the last few years, the village has also made upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant and has been converting its sewer system from a combined sewer overflow to a flow that separates rain water and sewer water and prevents flooding.
LoGiudice has been impressed by Catskill’s efforts.
“They’re doing what’s right for their constituents and facing the problems head-on so they can continue to thrive,” she said. “Especially for the size of Catskill, it’s really quite remarkable what they’re able to achieve.”