How can local governments respond to climate change?

Question: I serve on our town board. How can I help our town prepare for climate change, and contribute to solutions?

Great Question! Climate change is already affecting our communities in the Northeast, and will continue to do so into the future, from decreased snow cover affecting snow and ice removal budgets, to impacts on sources of drinking water, to an increased need for emergency shelters, and planning for extreme weather events and flooding.

Here are some ideas of what your town can do to prepare for climate change, to become more resilient or adapted to extreme weather events, and decrease the municipalities’ contribution to climate change:

  • It’s always a good idea to start with education of your town board members and staff and community residents. Find out about how climate change is affecting New York, by reviewing the Cornell factsheet New York’s Changing Climate. Ask an educator from your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office to provide a short presentation to your town board about climate change, and videotape the presentation to show on your communities’ public access television station.
  • Climate Smart Communities New York’s municipalities are encouraged to become Climate Smart Communities, by adopting a voluntary pledge through the New York State Office of Climate Change, which provides tools and financial opportunities to communities that have adopted the pledge.
  • Municipalities can also embark on comprehensive energy planning, as several towns like Caroline, NY, have done with the help of Cornell Cooperative Extension and CARDI.
  • Has your town experienced flooding, or extended dry conditions, and if so, does the town have flood mitigation or drought plans in place? Towns can also provide recommendations for residents that are on private well and septic systems. Information on how climate change will affect municipal water resources is available from the New York State Water Resource Institute at Cornell University.
  • Finally, municipalities can update their comprehensive plans or zoning to clearly identify the goals, objectives and policies for the immediate and long-range enhancement, growth and development of the community related to energy use and climate change adaptation, with resources from Cornell Cooperative Extension and CARDI.

More Climate Change Q&A.

Category: Climate Change Q&A

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