ITHACA, N.Y.—In 2019, Ithaca adopted a Green New Deal to combat the climate crisis. Now, the city’s Department of Planning and Development is looking for a Sustainability Specialist that will be working with Luis Aguirre-Torres, the newly hired Director of Sustainability, and Nick Goldsmith, the Sustainability Coordinator, to implement the city’s Green New Deal.
Adopted June 5, 2019, Ithaca’s GND seeks to make the city carbon-neutral by 2030, with government operations using completely renewable energy resources by 2025.
The specialist position is a temporary job that will develop a Climate Action Plan in addition to other environmental education and outreach efforts and interdepartmental planning and support. The position is an important addition to Torres’ job with the city, developing a Climate Action Plan and working on community engagement.
“The idea is to fight climate change, the effects of climate change…how do we get there given that the world absolutely changed?” Aguirre-Torres said. “It turns out that we have less time than what we thought before…so I rewrote the [GND] and have a new version of what the New Deal is. I have a strategy that I believe is much more technical and comprehensive.”
Aguirre-Torres will be presenting his updated GND and plans for Ithaca at the September Common Council meeting.
The city also adopted the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement at the May 5 Common Council meeting this year. IECS will go into effect on Aug. 4, 2021, and requires all new buildings to be constructed to produce 40 percent fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than those built to NYS code. This will change in 2023 to require 80 percent fewer GHG emissions.
Aguirre-Torres also mentioned that on June 24 Ithaca registered its goals with the United Nations Energy Program, creating the Finger Lakes Energy Compact. This aligns with the city’s intention to contribute to the Paris Agreements Targets and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
As of right now, Ithaca is on track with the Paris Climate Accord and is continuing its support and efforts to fight the climate crisis. The U. S. withdrew from the Paris Accord in November 2020 and has since rejoined as of February 2021.
As the city moves forward in its effort to be more sustainable, Aguirre-Torres is also working with the community to hear their input in an attempt to make Ithaca more sustainable. He shared 1,000 Conversations as a platform for community members to get involved and said he would like to host live conversations in addition to the online chat.
“It is a way of fully understanding what the community is interested in, how they imagine being part of this effort, how they can help in it’s implementation,” said Aguirre-Torres. “If we are to have true shared governance, we first need to start a conversation.”