On Sept. 20, 2021, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan was selected as the new chair of the New York State Association of Counties’ (NYSAC) Climate Resiliency Committee replacing Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson, who is retiring.
NYSAC’s Climate Resiliency Committee consists of officials in county positions most directly affected by climate change from various counties in New York. Membership is located in all regions of the state and works in diverse areas of county and state government, including environmental health, emergency services, public health, elected office and solid waste.
The NYSAC Climate Resiliency Committee was created in June of 2018 to help counties across the state work cohesively on all legislative issues related to climate change. This includes identifying the needs of state policies, influencing state policies and creating new policies.
In April of 2021, Ryan, joined by environmental leaders throughout the Hudson Valley, released a plan for a Green New Deal for Ulster County. The plan consists of over 30 goals and targets for Ulster County to reach. The release of the Green New Deal made Ulster County the first county in New York State to release a comprehensive Green New Deal plan and among the first in the country to do so.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time and counties have incredible potential to lead meaningful change in our communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and harden our resiliency against the effects of a changing climate,” Ryan said. “I’m incredibly proud to be chosen by my colleagues to lead this committee, and I look forward to working with county leaders from across the state and our state partners to develop local solutions to this global challenge.”
A website has been created dedicated to educating the public on what the Green New Deal is, what it’s goals are and how it will benefit Ulster County all around. The home page of the website, written by County Executive Ryan, reads as follows.
“As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, laying the foundations for a green, equitable economy is one of the most critical steps we can take to rebuild, realign, and reinvigorate our communities. We have urgent and immediate work to do to stabilize our climate, transition to clean energy and protect and regenerate our natural resources. And we have equally urgent work to undo generations of economic and environmental injustice and create opportunity for everyone. A Green New Deal connects these twin urgencies, generating prosperity by committing to do the work at scale. Laid out over a nearly twenty-year time horizon, with a suite of immediate actions, intermediate targets, and aggressive but achievable long-term goals, this package of policies and investments represents the right level of ambition and determination to tackle the challenges before us.”
The outline of the Green New Deal is located on the website as well as a link to download the full plan. The outline includes immediate actions and the target goals for 2025 and 2040. The Green New Deal is broken down into three areas of focus: accelerate the transition to clean energy, build the equitable green economy and conserve our natural resources and build resilience. Each of these sections include a list for each time-based goal or action planned.
In addition to the outline of the Green New Deal, the website answers popular questions such as “Why a Green New Deal?” and provides more information on how the deal will help Ulster County to prosper. The website also gives information regarding emerging and existing green career opportunities as well as information on the Green economy.
On Oct. 13, Ryan announced that Ulster County will be implementing an “Environmental Considerations Checklist” for capital projects and will be updating the county’s purchasing policies to ensure all items purchased meet the standards of the Green New Deal. These new standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring Ulster County towards its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030.
“Ulster County is continuing to lead in demonstrating what a Green County Government can look like,” Ryan said. “The Environmental Considerations Checklist is yet another way in which the County Government is taking a hands-on approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring a Green New Deal to Ulster County.”
The “Environmental Considerations Checklist” is meant to ensure that county infrastructure projects incorporate sustainable elements. Some of these elements involve looking at greenhouse gas reduction, natural resource protection, renewable energy expansion and more. Ulster County has also updated its procurement policies in order to ensure that the county is supporting vendors who produce recycled and environmentally-friendly alternatives and minimizing negative environmental impacts.
“Climate change is the biggest threat facing our world, and Ulster County can be a leader in fighting back. We know that our environment – from the Hudson to the Catskills – is central to our way of life here, and that we have an obligation to protect it for future generations,” Ryan concluded.