East Hampton is in the middle of working to become a New York State-certified Climate Smart Community, a process that is aimed at both helping the town reduce its carbon footprint and to help make its coastline more resilient against storms.
The town’s volunteer Energy Sustainability Committee, along with town Environmental Technician John Botos, just released a 43-page draft of their Climate Action Plan today, in the hopes of receiving public feedback as they draft a sustainable future for East Hampton.
The plan, which is necessary to participate in the Climate Smart Community Program, is available on the town’s website here. If the town becomes a Climate Smart Community, residents will be eligible for lower flood insurance rates.
Mr. Botos and committee member and renewable energy advocate Gordian Raacke gave an overview of the plan to the town board at their work session this morning.
“The way I look at it is that this town doesn’t stick its head into the sand. It faces the challenges of climate change and, not only that, it develops solutions to address those challenges,” said Mr. Raacke.
Mr. Raacke said East Hampton is not working in a vacuum in planning to decrease its emissions of greenhouse gasses. New York State has also set a goal to reduce “economy-wide emissions” 80 percent below their current levels by mid-century.
Economy-wide emissions account for not just those produced by government, but also those produced by the private sector.
Mr. Raacke said East Hampton is lucky to already have a good data set on its current emissions levels, which are not pretty. He said the town produced 350,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, the most recent year for which records are available.
“By knowing where we’re starting out, we now can measure our progress,” he said.
The town has already received two grants to produce two other climate-related plans — a Decentralized Resilient Energy Assessment and Management (DREAM) plan and a Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Plan (CARP), and has received $10 million in grant funding to buy low-lying property in Lazy Point, a Napeague neighborhood prone to regular flooding.
Mr. Botos said the town will do energy audits on municipal buildings and fleets, encouraging departments to switch to electric vehicles powered by renewable power.
He said the document also suggests that new homes be constructed according to new building code standards, known as the Home Energy Rating System.
These steps, he said, will help the community keep down the cost of flood insurance.
“Over the next two years, the national flood insurance program will adjust to the actual actuarial costs and people’s’ rates are going to go from $2 to 3,000 to $10 to $15,000,” he said. “It will depend on this community’s actions and this community’s voice to come up with solutions that benefit everybody.”
Mr. Raacke said there are already 167 Climate Smart Communities in the state, and Suffolk County and Southampton Town are preparing to join the program.
Mr. Botos added that, as a young man living on the East End who will likely face some of the more serious effects of climate change, he’s proud of the work the town board has done so far to address climate change.
“You guys are creating history and you guys are a model, not just nationally but internationally,” he said.
“Thank you for the tremendous effort that was put into this,” said Councilwoman Sylvia Overby. “You guys have all been holding our feet to the fire as well…. We’re going to take good care of this place so that our children and their children’s children can still recognize East Hampton as the place we love.”