HUDSON — The city will appoint a Climate Smart Task Force in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties officials said Wednesday.
Other Columbia County communities working toward the Climate Smart certification are Ancram, Austerlitz, Chatham, Copake, Ghent, Hillsdale, town and village of Kinderhook, and Philmont. In Greene County, Cairo, Hunter, Jewett and Catskill and Athens are working toward certification.
By taking the Climate Smart Community Pledge, these communities have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while saving taxpayer dollars, increasing energy security and reliability, building resiliency to the impacts of climate changed, advancing community goals for public health and safety, and supporting a green innovation economy.
The task force will begin by conducting an assessment of the city’s past and current actions concerning climate change before deciding the next steps to prioritize at its first virtual meeting later this month to prepare to submit the documentation and seek certification through the state Climate Smart Communities Program.
CCE will provide technical expertise and administrative support for the task force, according to the city’s announcement.
“It’s geared to help encourage communties to become leaders in dealing with the impacts of climate change, and encouraging them to take actions to either mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change,” Audrey Kropp with the Natural Resources and Agroforestry Resource Center at Cornell said.
The program is in partnership with the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, the state Water Resources Institute and Cornell University, with support from the state Environmental Protection Fund.
The Hudson River Estuary Program, created in 1987 through the Hudson River Estuary Management Act, seeks to protect and revitalize the Hudson River and its valley, specifically focused on the tidal Hudson and adjacent watersheds between the federal dam at Troy and the Verrazano Narrows in New York City.
“Climate change will have devastating impacts and the city of Hudson must reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Mayor Kamal Johnson said. “We must prepare for a changing climate by identifying and deploying adaptation strategies. It’s an added benefit that many of these climate strategies will save money over the long-term.”
The city will work with Cornell to create a flood guide and road stream-crossing management plan, which count as actions in the Climate Smart program.These actions are “important to sustainability planning in the City of Hudson, especially with increasingly intense weather events and rising waters of climate change,” according to the statement.
City officials anticipate the program will provide long-term cost savings through increased efficiency, greater energy independence, security and streamlined access to resources.
“Getting certified as a Climate Smart Community will also help Hudson with grant applications,” Mayoral Aide Michael Chameides said. “More specific benefits to the city will be identified by the task force.”
Chameides will chair the task force and serve as the Climate Smart coordinator, in addition to his role as ADA coordinator and representing Hudson’s 3rd Ward on the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.
“Sustainability is a top priority for myself and the mayor,” Chameides said. “This task force is an important opportunity to create an institutional commitment to a sustainable future. The COVID-19 crisis shows us the importance of following science and the need for planning and preventive action.”
Members of the task force were appointed by the mayor. They will not be paid for serving on the task force, Chameides said.
The task force consists of Kam Bellamy, president of the board of Camphill Hudson and executive director of the Foundation for Agricultural Integrity; Michael O’Hara, member of the Conservation Advisory Council; 4th Ward Alderman John Rosenthal, who serves on the Department of Public Works Committee; Briggin Scharf, a founding member of Rolling Grocer 19 and manager of Kite’s Nest’s ReGen Program; and Tony Stone, co-founder of Basilica Hudson and River House Project.
“I’m definitely interested in planning and zoning, and reimagining what the city thinks about development,” Rosenthal said. “I definitely think that the city needs a lot more strategic thinking in terms of the climate so we could actually have a very organized understanding of our overall electrical usage, all types of things in terms of waste and carbon footprint. We’ve been doing some of that over the last few years, and I’m very excited about the direction we’re moving in.”
O’Hara said the Conservation Advisory Council created a natural resource inventory to guide the city’s land use and has named 2020 the Year of the Tree, which entails working to increase and maintain trees, especially street trees, in the city.
“It’s important both in mitigation in that trees absorb carbon dioxide, and in terms of increased resiliency in that the increased temperatures in the summer will create stress for the city, and the more shade that we can generate from trees, the more it will reduce the peak temperatures around those trees and be certainly good for the health of the people and other living things in the area,” said O’Hara, who is also a member of the County Environmental Management Council.
There are 298 New York communities that have partnered with the state government to work toward lowering emissions and of those, 46 have received their certification.
Kropp and her colleague, Kelsey West, are guiding local communities through the process. The framework is structured on a point system, and communities can take a variety of the 100 approved actions to earn the initial 120 points needed to reach the bronze certification before moving up to silver, then gold certification.
“In Hudson what we’re doing is essentially performing an assessment to take a look at the things they’ve already done and have been doing that might count as points,” Kropp said. “We’re compiling that information and looking at where they stand.”
Cornell worked closely to prepare the village of Catskill for certification, and the application deadline is in July. Kropp said Hudson should be ready to submit its applications later this year, depending on how the first few meetings go.
“They’ve been doing a lot that count as actions already, so they may be pretty far along,” Kropp said.
The Office of Climate Change administers two funding programs for municipalities under Title 15 of the Environmental Protection Fund: the Climate Smart Communities Grant Program and the Municipal Zero-emission Vehicle and Zev Infrastructure Rebate Program.