Understanding Community Priorities

Erie County Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Erie County developed 2005 and 2014 community-wide GHG emissions Community GHG emissions declined 12% between 2005 and 2014, with most of the emissions reductions resulting from transition to cleaner generation sources for electricity supplied to the County. Partly because Western New York has relatively electricity, GHG emissions from transportation dominate the inventory, accounting for 41% of GHG emissions in 2014 – followed by residential, commercial and industrial energy consumption. By fuel type, liquid transportation fuels, natural gas and electricity are the largest emissions sources, and comprise 38%, 29%, and 22% of the 2014 inventory respectively.

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Equity as Focus

Erie County is committed to creating an equity-centered Climate Action Plan that addresses the uneven negative impacts on historically  disadvantaged and marginalized communities. Creating and implementing initiatives that help our most vulnerable residents will benefit the entire community.

In 2019, New York State passed one of the most aggressive pieces of climate legislation in the country – the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The Act creates a Climate Action Council to develop a plan to achieve net zero GHG emissions.  The bill requires 40% emissions reductions in absolute terms from 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% emissions reductions by 2050. To reach the target of net zero emissions, the CLCPA allows for any remaining emissions beyond 85% to either be directly reduced, or offset through projects that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Moreover, the Act includes several environmental justice components, including a requirement to direct at least 35-40% of the program’s benefits to historically disadvantaged communities.  

The CLCPA is now the context within which the County will set goals for community-wide GHG emission reductions. While the State’s Climate Action Council is in the process of creating its statewide plan, the County’s community climate action planning process will dovetail with the State’s plans and be developed in the context of the CLCPA’s emission reduction and environmental justice goals.

Energy Burden Mapping

High utility burdens can have substantial impacts on the livelihood and health of households in our community. A utility or energy burden represents the percentage of annual income that a household or individual pays toward their utility bills (electricity, natural gas, and/or water). Research has suggested that housing costs should not exceed 30% of household income and in turn, household energy costs should not exceed 20% of these housing costs (6% of total household income).

In addition to households with energy burdens of 6% or greater being considered in “high burden”, those with greater than 10% are considered in “severe burden.”

Energy and water burdens are functions of a number of physical and economic and social factors. Specifically, these burdens are driven by income, the quantity of the utilities consumed and the overall cost of these utility bills. Physical factors such as temperature and other weather patterns play critical roles in influencing the consumption and cost of these utilities.

Through ECLIPSE (Erie County Low Income Program for Sustainable Energy), created to identify specific areas around Erie County that are suffering from energy, electricity, gas, rent and utility burdens. These interactive maps show these burdens in comparison to median income, food deserts and percentage of tree canopy cover per area. Tree canopy cover is important because trees provide shade on high temperature days, create barriers to wind and other weather events and also aids in air quality.

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Climate Vulnerability Assessment 

In 2020, work began on the Erie County Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA).  This project is assessing the threat of climate change to our community, the sensitivity of the community to those hazards, and the adaptive capacity of the County government to respond to those threats. The CVA is being conducted in partnership with a research team at the University at Buffalo, and with input from our community stakeholders on the Community Climate Change Task Force. 

The first milestone of the CVA is the Erie County Climate Hazards Summary Report, which provides a review of the threat of climate change to our local community, and recommends climate hazards that will be the focus of the CVA project. The Draft Climate Hazards Summary Report, as well as a summary video and survey, are available for public review: 

Community Involvement

Erie County Climate Action’ encourages County residents to play an active role in the development of this Plan. Your feedback is necessary to understand how climate change is affecting your community and your family, what you think we should include in the plan to reduce the impact of climate change and create jobs, make your home more comfortable, and make our region more livable.

 Climate change affects everyone differently. Your input is important to ensure the plan specifically addresses how it is affecting your neighborhood, your backyard and your family. Even if you only have one minute, you can help can make a difference. 

Let's work together to make a difference