Westchester Communities Need to Continue Programs and Take New Action to Reduce Greenhouse Gases 20%

Westchester County and its municipalities are making progress toward meeting the climate change and sustainability goals set forth in the county’s Action Plan for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, according to a new report.

Pace Contact: Crista Scaturro, (914) 422-4389, cscaturro@law.pace.edu

NYLCVEF Contact: Dan Hendrick (212) 361-6350 ext. 206, dhendrick@nylcv.org


Report Tracks Progress Of Westchester County and its Municipalities in Meeting Climate Change and Sustainability Goals

Yearlong Study is Culmination of Partnership between Pace Law School CELS and New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

WHITE PLAINS, NY – Westchester County and its municipalities are making progress toward meeting the climate change and sustainability goals set forth in the county’s Action Plan for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, according to a new report.

The report – titled “Climate Adaptation and Mitigation: Westchester Responds to the Changing Future” – is the culmination of a yearlong partnership between the Pace Law School Center for Environmental Legal Studies and the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

The report tracks the progress that Westchester County and its municipalities reported in seven broad sustainability areas of the Westchester Action Plan: greenhouse gas emissions; energy; transportation; land use; funding resources; water resources/stormwater runoff; and solid waste reduction and recycling.

Two-thirds (33 out of 45) of the municipalities responded to the voluntary survey, which was conducted by Pace Law CELS students and NYLCVEF staff. Because adoption of the Action Plan’s recommendations was voluntary, the report aims to show residents and policymakers what their communities are doing and present an opportunity to learn from their neighbors.

“The publication of this report comes at a critical time. From the banks of the Hudson River to the shores of Long Island Sound, it is clear that the risks of not responding to climate change are great for communities in Westchester County,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Dean of Environmental Law Programs at Pace University School of Law and its Center for Environmental Legal Studies. “As this report shows, many of Westchester’s local governments are aware of climate change challenges and leading the way toward a more sustainable future.”

Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, said: “The Westchester Action Plan set the bar for sustainability progress in the county. As more residents, municipalities and businesses become aware of what they can do to combat climate change, and realize the economic benefits of greater sustainability, the success of the Action Plan will continue.”

In spring 2008, the Westchester Action Plan for Climate Change and Sustainable Development set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the county 20 percent by 2015 (from 2005 levels) and 80 percent by 2050. The Action Plan lays out direct and capacity-building actions to achieve this goal by implementing short-, mid- and long-term strategies that engage county and municipal governments, the business sector, educational institutions and individual households.

The Pace Law/NYLCVEF survey shows that progress varies greatly among the goal areas. For example:

• 30 percent of participating municipalities have completed an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions;

• 52 percent have audited their energy use to identify ways to conserve;

• Three out of four survey participants have programs designed to replace municipal vehicles with more energy-efficient models;

• 83 percent have integrated sustainability into their comprehensive plans;

• Slightly less than half (42 percent) have policies that encourage the use of environmentally sensitive products;

• 100 percent reported they follow best practices to manage stormwater and runoff in order to protect water resources; and

• Slightly more than half (52 percent) have developed plans for waste reduction, recycling and reuse.

The full report can be viewed online at www.nylcvef.org and www.law.pace.edu.

The report concludes that Westchester’s communities will need to continue current programs and take new actions to meet the Action Plan’s short-term goal of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2015.

“Despite the sluggish economy, opportunities do exist to make progress,” said Dean Dunn. “Many of the examples in our report demonstrate that changes to zoning, enforcement or purchasing both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save taxpayer dollars.”

NYLCVEF President Bystryn added: “This year ushered in new leadership for Westchester County and a number of municipalities. It is up to our new leaders to reaffirm climate reduction goals, preserve past actions and implement new steps that achieve even greater results. The longer government waits to meet the challenges of climate change, the more difficult and expensive it will be to do so down the road.”

Founded in 1976, Pace University School of Law has over 7,000 alumni throughout the country and the world and is consistently ranked among the nation’s top three programs in environmental law. It offers full- and part-time day and evening JD programs on its White Plains, NY, campus and offers the Master of Laws degree in Environmental Law, Real Estate Law and Comparative Legal Studies, and a Doctor of Laws in environmental law. The School of Law is part of Pace University, a comprehensive, independent, and diversified university with campuses in New York City and Westchester County. www.law.pace.edu

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) engages and educates New Yorkers on environmental issues and the environmental decision-making processes at the local, regional, state and federal government levels. NYLCVEF fosters open, non-partisan discussion on environmental policy and empowers New Yorkers to be effective advocates for the environment. www.nylcvef.org

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