Erie County has made a commitment to address climate change and help create a more sustainable region. Those efforts can be seen in the Climate Action & Sustainability Plan (CASP) for internal operations, which was created by the Erie County Green Team and adopted by the Erie County Legislature in January 2019. The County has also been working with community stakeholders to create a Community Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Erie County issues annual updates on this work and has been recognized at both the state and national level for our achievements.
Sustainability is a broad topic that encompasses a host of issues that the County has been working on for many years. This page will focus on program areas that directly relate to climate change mitigation and resilience. Erie County’s longstanding work on watershed management, household hazardous waste, solid waste and recycling, habitat restoration, and stormwater are all sustainability issues that can be found the Erie County Department of Environment & Planning Environmental Services page.
The Climate Action & Sustainability Plan (CASP) outlines and prioritizes ways the County can further reduce GHG emissions from its internal operations through action items specific to each chapter. Overall GHG emission reduction goals were set for a short-, mid-, and long-term timeframes. The following reduction goals are set against a 2005 baseline and were based on initiatives already begun within County operations, and from the measures listed in the CASP:
- 32% by 2020; ACHIEVED
- 50% by 2025; and
- 80% by 2040.
Erie County established a Green Team in 2016 to pursue sustainability initiatives in its internal operations. As called for in “Initiatives for a Smart Economy”, the Green Team is focusing on energy reduction and resource conservation projects that will decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, prevent pollution, reduce waste, and save money throughout the County’s daily operations.
The Erie County Green Team is made up of representatives of every County department, including those led by other elected officials such as the Sheriff and the Comptroller. The Green Team now meets quarterly to report on progress associated with implementing the initiatives listed in the CASP. Additionally, there are three standing committees that meet regularly: the Core Green Team, which serves as the Green Team’s steering committee, the Energy Committee, and the Transportation Committee.
This Fund, first established in the 2020 budget, reinvests half of cost savings achieved through energy conservation and waste reduction projects into additional sustainability initiatives. The County’s large energy performance contracts are not included in the savings basis. The fund is overseen by the Core Green Team.
The Fund is utilized to implement action items identified in the Climate Action and Sustainability Plan, as well as other projects identified by the Green Team. Whenever possible the fund is used to leverage additional funding through grants and rebates. In 2022, the Climate Action Fund supported the purchase of electric vehicles and battery powered landscaping equipment, energy conservation projects, electric bicycles for Sheriff’s personnel, EV chargers for County buildings, the Sprague Brook Park Casino ground source heat pump project, a solid waste study, and editing and graphics support for of the CCAP.
Many initiatives within the Climate Action and Sustainability Plan (CASP) conserve energy from Erie County government buildings. Erie County reports building energy use, building greenhouse gas emissions, and other building energy metrics annually to allow the community to better understand our progress.
- Building Energy Use Report - 2018
- Building Energy Use Report - 2019
- Building Energy Use Report - 2020
In recent years, Erie County has been recognized for its climate work on a regional, state and national level.
- American Planning Association New York Upstate Chapter - Best Practice Award – Climate Action & Sustainability Plan for internal operations – 2019
- NYSDEC Climate Smart Community - Bronze - 2019
- WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable – Silver – 2019
- WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable – Board of Director's Choice Award - 2019
- WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable – Silver – 2020
- NYSDEC Climate Smart Community - Silver - 2021
- WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable – Gold – 2021
- NYSERDA Clean Energy Community highest tier achievement grant – 2022
- National Association of Counties – Achievement Award - Climate Action & Sustainability Plan for internal operations – 2022
Climate Smart Communities
Climate Smart Communities is a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) program that helps local governments take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Certified communities are the foremost leaders in the state, having gone beyond pledging to take climate action to completing and documenting a suite of actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change at the local level.
In 2021 Erie County was designated a Silver Certified Climate Smart Community by NYSDEC, which is currently the highest level of the program. Visit our Climate Smart Communities report, which provides details of all of County’s completed initiatives.
Clean Energy Communities
As of June 2023, Erie County along with New York City, City of New Rochelle, and City of White Plains are the only communities statewide to achieve 5,000 points in the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Clean Energy Communities Program among the largest 80 communities in the state. This achievement resulted in a $250K grant award for Erie County that is being used to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
In 2019, the County’s Environmental Management Council convened a Community Climate Change Task Force that, as a committee of the EMC, provides expert guidance and community input to the County as it makes decisions about climate change mitigation and resilience. The Task Force has been very active, including forming ten work groups to guide the County on key topic areas and draft chapters for the Climate Action and Sustainability Plan.
The Task Force is chaired by Dr. Susan Clark from the University at Buffalo.
Erie County is developing an equity-centered Community Climate Action Plan to identify actions the County can take to mitigate climate impacts and to help the community adapt to our changing climate. This initiative has been led by the Community Climate Change Task Force. The draft plan was released to the community for public comment on March 18, 2023, and the comment period will close on June 18, 2023. To download the draft plan, and to learn more about this planning process and how you can be involved, visit www.erie.gov/climateaction.
Climate change is increasingly impacting our community. Projected local impacts include more severe flood and wind events, higher temperatures and heat waves, and biological impacts from invasive species, vector borne disease, and harmful algal blooms. Many of these impacts will disproportionately impact vulnerable and historically disadvantaged communities. Erie County has an important role in planning and taking actions to make the community more resilient to climate change.
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 was the Draft 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 second milestone was the Final Draft Erie County Sensitivity Analysis Report. Both documents are linked below.
- The Draft Erie County Climate Hazards Summary Report;
- Final Draft Erie County Sensitivity Analysis Report
This project is funded by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Climate Smart Communities program.
Low and moderate income households spend a disproportionately large percentage of their income on energy bills, and are often unable to take advantage of the cost savings from renewable energy alternatives. The Erie County Low-Income Program for Sustainable Energy (ECLIPSE) will address these impacts for Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) eligible families.
Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and an in-kind County match, this three-year program will first analyze community needs and intervention strategies, and then implement the most effective solutions.
ECLIPSE will focus on:
- bulk energy and green-energy purchasing;
- access to community solar; and
- related energy efficiency and resiliency improvements.
The program works through several County departments including: Environment and Planning, Social Services and Public Works.
The ECLIPSE grant provides for careful analysis and documentation of achievements, and includes the development of a public-facing dashboard that will provide transparency and allow for replication of Erie County’s successes by counties across the state.
Transportation is the largest part of the County’s carbon footprint and supporting EVs is an important way to green our transportation system. Based on the fuels used in New York State’s energy grid, electric vehicles emit 85% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline powered vehicles. EVs can also reduce harmful pollution that impacts human health.
Erie County has installed fourteen (14) public charging stations at parks across the County, with several more in the works. These projects, which help support the transition to sustainable transportation, have been supported by federal and state grants. Click here for a map of the County’s EV charging stations.
A Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) identifies and describes important naturally-occurring resources within a community, watershed or region. It provides the basis for land conservation planning, allows natural resource information to be included in local planning and zoning, and provides communities with a strong foundation for informed decision-making. Launch Erie County's Natural Resource Inventory Online Story Map
WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable (SBR) connects and supports leaders and professionals from business and industry, academia, non-profit and government who are investing in sustainability and the triple bottom line. USEPA grants obtained by Erie County were critical to getting the WNYSBR off the ground. The County continues to provide significant support to the WNYSBR, including as a standing member of its board of directors.
Erie County is hiring paid Sustainability and Clean Energy Interns! Please email CleanEnergyIntern@erie.gov for more information.