Climate Smart Communities
The Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program supports a local government in building a sustainable balanced climate action program, one step at a time.
Participation provides the following benefits:
- Better scores on grant applications for some state funding programs,
- State-level recognition for each community's leadership,
- A robust framework for organizing local climate action and highlighting priorities,
- Streamlined access to resources, training, tools, and expert guidance,
- Networking and sharing best practices with peers.
Communities that implement Certification actions experience the following benefits:
- Cost savings through greater efficiency,
- Greater energy independence and energy security,
- Improved air quality from switching to clean energy,
- Healthier, more walkable urban centers through smart growth,
- Conservation of green spaces for recreation and biodiversity,
- Reduction of future flood risk through climate change adaptation strategies,
- Investment in an economy that supports sustainability and green businesses,
- Greater engagement with residents who care about the future of their home towns.
Steps toward Certification:
Step 1: Pass a Resolution.
Pass a CSC pledge as a municipal resolution to join the program and become a Registered Climate Smart Community. Use the model CSC resolution as a template for drafting your local resolution. Municipalities may amend the “whereas” statements in the preamble, but all ten points of the CSC Pledge must be adopted verbatim. The final resolution document must include a signature from the municipal clerk verifying the authenticity of the resolution and indicating the date of passage.
Step 2: Register.
After the resolution is adopted, designate a primary contact person to sign up for a portal account, complete the online registration form, and upload the adopted municipal resolution. After your registration is reviewed, your primary contact will receive an email with information on how to access your account on the CSC certification portal. At this point, your community will be designated a Registered CSC by New York State and your community will be added to the map on this website.
Step 3: Review and Select Actions.
Log in to your account to review and select actions. Each action has a description that includes guidance about who should be involved, costs, resources, tools, and documentation requirements. After becoming a Registered CSC, communities can implement certification actions at their own pace. There is no time limit between adoption of the pledge and commencement of the certification process. The mandatory and priority actions are a good place to start because they are fundamental to a successful municipal climate change program. If you have questions, you can email a NYSERDA Clean Energy Communities Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance navigating the program.
Step 4: Collect Documentation.
Once you identify your selected actions, review the requirements for each action and begin organizing and uploading your documentation. In the municipal dashboard, the "Action Totals" calculator on the right-hand side of your community's application will help keep track of progress toward becoming a Certified CSC. As you assess your progress, start to develop a timeline for when you expect to meet the requirements of your chosen certification level and select an application deadline that you plan to meet.
Step 5: Submit Application.
Using the web portal, upload the required documents associated with each CSC certification action. Upon submittal of your application for certification, you will be locked out of editing those actions while staff review your application. After review, staff will contact you with further information. If your local government did not earn full points for an action, staff will provide details on what was missing and coach you on next steps.
The Climate Smart Communities (CSC) certification framework is organized around the ten elements of the CSC pledge. Local governments that have signed the pledge, known as Registered Climate Smart Communities, have made a commitment to addressing the ten areas described below. Your local government can earn points towards earning one of three Certification levels (bronze, silver and gold) for taking action across several areas.
The majority of the points in the rating system can be earned through the actions associated with the ten pledge elements. However, the system has been designed to reward local governments that have implemented innovative actions and can demonstrate achieved GHG emissions reductions and other performance metrics. Thus, applicants can earn additional points by demonstrating innovation or high levels of performance.
Innovation: Earn additional points for using innovative strategies for the implementation of climate action actions. Applicants achieve this by implementing advanced actions not included in the rating system or using an innovative approach to implementing an action in the rating system. Innovation bonus points are determined on a case-by-case basis.
Performance: Earn additional points for demonstrating quantified reductions in GHG emissions and solid waste volume resulting from the implementation of specific actions. This requires applicants to provide relevant data with before and after measurements to confirm achievement.
Pledge elements fall into one of seven categories:
- Forming teams and setting goals (PE 1 and PE 2),
- Energy use (PE 3 and PE 4),
- Solid waste management (PE 5),
- Land-use policies (PE 6),
- Enhancing community resilience (PE 7),
- Supporting a green economy (PE 8),
- Public engagement and commitment to an evolving process (PE 9 and PE 10).
Detailed descriptions of the Actions that comprise the Pledge Elements can be found here.
A summary of the Pledge Elements follows:
Build a climate-smart community. Building a local team to foster positive change by designating a point person and creating a CSC task force with community members. Connect to larger networks by joining a regional or national climate campaign focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or enhancing sustainability.
Inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action. Gather data about local GHG emission sources. Develop baseline emissions inventories for government operations and the community. Develop a local action plan for reducing emissions that includes specific GHG reduction targets and strategies to achieve those targets.
Decrease energy use. Lead by example. Reduce emissions and save taxpayer dollars by reducing energy demand in public facilities, infrastructure, and vehicle fleets, and maximizing energy efficiency across municipal operations.
Shift to clean, renewable energy. Adopt a policy to power government operations with clean energy. Conduct studies to examine the feasibility of renewable energy installations on public property. Implement renewable energy projects such as solar, wind, geothermal, or small hydro.
Use climate-smart materials management. Reduce the volume of solid waste and increase recycling in government operations. Encourage and support waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting of materials. Educate the community and offer recycling and composting programs, and waste-diversion opportunities that focus on reducing and reusing materials.
Implement climate-smart land use. Minimize the GHG impact of new development through smart-growth strategies. Adopt community plans, land-use policies, building codes, and multi-modal transportation actions to limit sprawl, reduce vehicle miles traveled, support local agriculture, and protect open lands, wetlands, and forests.
Enhance community resilience to climate change. Establish a climate resiliency vision and associated goals, identify vulnerabilities to climate change effects for both government operations and the community, and develop and implement strategies to address those vulnerabilities and increase overall community resilience.
Support a green innovation economy. Lead and support the transition to a green economy by incorporating climate action and sustainability into economic development plans. Promote local green industries and offer incentives for supporting them. Adopt policies that support residents and businesses in being energy-efficient. Invest in green jobs training, farmers' markets, and brownfield redevelopment.
Inform and inspire the public. Host events and organize campaigns to educate citizens about climate change and help them discover their role in building a low-emission community that is attractive, healthy, and equitable. Create websites, and use social media outlets to publicize the local government's commitment to reducing GHG emissions and adapting to a changing climate.
Engage in an evolving process of climate action. Monitor and report on progress toward achieving goals. Engage with community members on an ongoing basis as part of considering new ideas and modifying strategies as opportunities emerge and technologies evolve. Update strategies and plans. Share success stories and cooperate with neighboring communities.
Actions associated with each pledge element can be taken by a community to help build a sustainable balanced climate action program. Each completed Action, along with the demonstrated innovation and performance shown by the community in implementing the Action, earns Points for the community towards earning a CSC certification level of bronze, silver or gold. Mandatory or Priority Actions are deemed foundational to a successful climate action program, some of which must be completed for each certification level. Applicants must complete the required number of mandatory and priority actions for each level. All actions that are not labeled Mandatory or Priority are Optional actions that may be completed by a community to earn additional points toward a certification level.
Local governments are designated as Registered CSCs after passing the CSC pledge as a formal resolution.
The initial level of certification - for local governments that have acted their commitment to climate action and taken steps to implement climate-smart policies and projects.
- Point requirement: 120 points.
- Pledge elements: At least one action completed under four different pledge elements.
- Mandatory Actions: PE 1 CSC Task Force action and PE 1 CSC Coordinator action.
- Priority Actions: Three priority actions.
The second level of certification - for local governments that have implemented a range of foundational climate actions and made concrete progress toward goals.
- Point requirement: 300 points
- Pledge elements: At least one action completed under seven different pledge elements.
- Mandatory Actions: PE 1 CSC Task Force action and PE 1 CSC Coordinator action.
- Priority Actions: Six priority actions.
(Criteria in development)
Local governments can submit documentation at any time in the municipal dashboard, but the review of applications will occur on a set schedule each year; this schedule is referred to as the application cycle. Points are not awarded on a rolling basis.
When an applicant has completed a combination of actions that meet minimum requirements for one of the certification levels, a notification in the municipal dashboard will appear, indicating that the applicant can submit the application. Applicants cannot submit an application that does not, at minimum, meet the requirements for the bronze level. Certifications are announced according to the dates indicated in each year's application cycle.
Points may awarded for actions that were completed prior to adoption of the Climate Smart Communities pledge. The descriptions for each of the actions specify the maximum amount of time (prior to the application date) by which the action must have been completed to qualify for points.
Each certification is valid for five years. To maintain status as a Certified Climate Smart Community, recertification is necessary within five years of the most recent certification.
The recertification requirements for each action can be found in in the section on recertification in the description for each action. See the Actions page for details.
When applying for recertification, Certified Climate Smart Communities may earn points for some of the same actions for which they earned points during a prior certification, depending on the time frame and the specific requirements of the particular action.
Any local government that chooses not to apply for recertification will remain a Registered Climate Smart Community and can seek to attain higher level again at any time.