Background on the CSC Certification Program

The Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program began in 2009 as an interagency initiative of New York State. The CSC program is jointly sponsored by the following six New York State agencies: Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); Department of Public Service; Department of State; Department of Transportation; Department of Health and the Power Authority (NYPA). DEC acts as the main administrator of the program.

The original focus in 2009 was on encouraging local governments to commit to act on climate change by passing a resolution containing the 10-point CSC Pledge. Announced in 2014, the certification program represents the next step in the evolution of the program; it provides specific guidance on how to implement the CSC pledge. In order to be designated a Certified Climate Smart Community, a municipality must go beyond the CSC Pledge by completing and documenting a suite of actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change at the local level.

The CSC Certification program was developed in partnership with six pilot communities and with funding from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund through the DEC Hudson River Estuary Program and in cooperation with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission. On Earth Day in 2014, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the certification program.

This website, released in 2018, provides information on over 100 climate mitigation and adaptation actions. Communities earn points toward certification for each action they complete. In addition to accumulating points, each community must complete a number of mandatory and priority actions at each level of certification (bronze, silver and gold). This website describes the requirements for each level of certification and the documentation required to earn points. It also serves as an interactive portal for local governments to upload documents and apply for certification. In addition, this website provides detailed information on the actions completed by each Certified Climate Smart Community in the certification reports that are available on the Participating Communities page.

Program Goals and Principles

The goals of the CSC Certification program are to engage and educate local governments in New York State, provide a robust framework to guide their climate action efforts, and recognize their achievements as they make progress. 

The structure of the certification program is based on the CSC pledge elements that were developed in 2009. Participation in the program is voluntary. The program is designed to encourage ongoing implementation of actions that reduce of greenhouse gas emission and help communities adapt to the effects of climate change.

The following design guidelines were used to develop the rating system:

  • Broadly Applicable: The program is designed to be applicable and useful to all local governments in New York State.
  • User Friendly: The program has an organized, menu-based system, which allows local governments to select actions that are most appropriate to their local goals.

  • Acknowledges Early Adopters: Local governments can earn points for some actions that were implemented in the past and represent early engagement with the program. 

  • Promotes Ongoing Action: The framework and overall program are designed to drive ongoing action toward achieving goals. 

  • Rewards Leaders: Bonus points can be awarded for local governments that demonstrate performance improvements or innovative strategies.