New York ranks eight out of the 50 states in terms of carbon emissions. While the State government is just beginning to enact meaningful programs and incentives to encourage municipal policies and actions that will reduce the impact of local decisions on our carbon footprint, a number of local governments across the State have already been at work developing and adopting "greening" strategies, policies and regulations. While the New York State Bar Association has released for comment a report of its Task Force on Global Warming which documents an impressive two-dozen current state-level laws and programs on climate change, the fact remains that there has been little public sector benchmarking to determine whether the quantity of programs is yielding quantifiable results to ensure that investments are being made wisely. Further, there is a lack of overall state-level coordination among the dozens of programs and resulting initiatives leading to confusion, potential diffusion of state resources, less than perfect communication within and between the executive and legislative branches of government, and missed opportunities.
While meaningful State-level programs are vital to achieving emissions reductions goals, a state cannot be successful without collaboration and partnerships with its local governments. Fortunately, many New York cities, towns and villages have also been at work trying to develop and implement strategies to curb emissions. Municipalities are choosing to adopt clear statements and action items in their comprehensive land use plans; they are creating climate change or sustainability task forces and developing strategies; and they are enacting regulations to promote green building and alternative energy development. Unfortunately, while somewhat anecdotally it appears that roughly one hundred local governments have adopted serious climate change and energy efficiency initiatives, this number is dwarfed by the realization that New York is home to approximately 1,600 units of local government. New York must do more to recognize the importance of local action through a combination of incentives and technical assistance that includes access to reliable data and other related information.
This article is not intended to critique all of the state-level programs and initiatives in New York. Rather it seeks to demonstrate that while there is a substantial level of activity in New York with respect to climate change and energy efficiency issues, the true potential of these programs will not be fully realized because New York lacks a coordinated, comprehensive and fully integrated inter-jurisdictional approach to addressing these challenges. Although New York is selected as the focus of study, similar observations may be made in jurisdictions throughout the country, and the recommendations are equally portable. Part II focuses on local governments as the laboratories of innovation, highlighting a number of creative and ambitious programs adopted and tools and techniques employed to address climate change issues at the municipal level. This part contains a brief mention of federal and state preemption issues, as a reminder that all levels of government must be working together with the same goals in mind. Part III offers recommendations as to what the State can do to encourage more activity at the municipal level where change in behavior and regulatory reform has great potential to quickly reduce the carbon footprint in communities across the State.
80 U. Colo. L. Rev. 921 (2009)
80 U. Colo. L. Rev. 921