Town of Philipstown and ICLEI Release Innovative Forest Carbon and Consumption-based GHG Inventory

Town of Philipstown releases one of New York State’s most comprehensive and innovative greenhouse-gas (GHG) inventories completed by a local jurisdiction. In its Sink, Store, Reduce, Offset report, the Town moves beyond traditional approaches to inventory climate-warming emissions to include considerations for forests and land use along with household consumption patterns.

Read the full report at Climate Smart Philipstown. Join a Top Results Q&A with Town of Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea, Ecological Citizen’s Project, and ICLEI USA on Tuesday, May 26, from 10:30am-11am. Dial in at the call time: 413-728-2286‬; PIN: ‪933 887 008#‬.

Altogether, the inventory establishes an innovative baseline from which the community can explore implications for achieving local carbon neutrality.

“Collectively as a community, we are committing to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Richard Shea, Town of Philipstown Supervisor. “In order to do that, we need to know where we are now. This greenhouse gas inventory report will be the map for our journey to a brighter, more sustainable future for all of us and for future generations.”

The innovative GHG inventory is one of the first in New York State to use local data to measure the lifecycle carbon-emission associated with the goods and services residents consume and to estimate the work of natural resources to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere, in addition to traditional approaches that quantify emissions associated with transportation, energy production and other sectors. Taken together, consumption-based and production-based emissions inventories provide a powerful starting point to evaluate climate action: Whereas traditional methods highlight jurisdictional control of emissions sources, consumption is about the control that exists at the household level. The inventory is particularly innovative in using data on consumption patterns from a survey of over 200 residents to estimate consumption emissions, while other consumption-based inventories have relied on downscaling national data sources. Estimates for Philipstown’s consumption-related emissions — 198,703 metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent (MTC02e) for the Town of Philipstown, which translates to 55.5 MTC02e per household or 20.4 MTCO2e per person — are 83% higher than production-based estimates. Most communities in the United State will have a larger consumption-based inventory than production-based, while communities with large industrial facilities likely will have a larger production-based inventory.

Philipstown’s forests (77.8% of Philipstown’s acreage), lawns/fields, and wetlands were found to remove a great amount of carbon from the atmosphere. The partners worked with local scientists to quantify carbon-sequestration rates and concluded that Philipstown’s natural resources annually remove about 80,000 MTC02e each year — equivalent to roughly 40% of annual community-wide emissions. Moreover, although wetlands comprise only 5% of Philipstown’s land use, they store an amount of carbon that is equivalent to nearly 20 years of the Town’s annual community-wide emissions.

Philipstown’s Sink, Store, Reduce, Offset GHG inventory was developed in partnership between resident-action group The Climate Smart Communities Task Force of Philipstown, local community empowerment nonprofit the Ecological Citizen’s Project, and national sustainability network ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA. This project has been funded in part by the Climate Smart Community Grant Program, Title l5 of the Environmental Protection Fund through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and was conducted over 18 months with additional charitable donations provided by The Endeavor Foundation, Inc, other community foundations and individual donors.

“By estimating the emissions impacts of our consumption choices and work of natural resources to remove carbon from the air, it demonstrates that supporting local economies and employing people to take care of nature is the future of fighting climate change at the local level,” said Jason Angell, Executive Director of the Ecological Citizen’s Project.

“The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how socially and economically vulnerable many of us are in the current economic and social system. This report offers ideas of how we can build living examples of communities that have secure access to local food, a durable and prosperous local economy, and a more socially connected community,” said Jocelyn Apicello, DrPH and Program Director of the Ecological Citizen’s Project.

Philipstown is a Hudson Valley community of about 10,000 residents located on the eastern bank of the Hudson River in Putnam County. Well known in the region for its open space, the Town hosts popular outdoor destinations Breakneck Ridge hiking trails and Constitution Marsh as well as numerous small farms. Community interest in how these natural assets can support and inform climate action planning in the Town served as a driving force for the GHG Inventory. Today, roughly half of Philipstown’s forests and 36% of Philipstown’s freshwater inland wetlands are currently protected or conserved. The GHG inventory suggests that loss of conserved or protected land will impede on climate goals and increase emissions.

The GHG inventory was guided by the U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, developed by ICLEI, and serves as a science-based tool to guide Philipstown’s efforts to pursue climate mitigation activities called for by the international community. The United Nations IPCC report states that “limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” In order to reach carbon neutrality by 2040, each resident of Philipstown, on average, would have to reduce or offset their emissions by 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent each year. Sink, Store, Reduce, Offset offers recommendations for future action, including establishing a local fund to support a carbon-neutrality campaign.

“Our congratulations and appreciation to the people of Philipstown, the experts, and the funders who contributed to this analysis,” said Angie Fyfe, ICLEI USA Executive Director. “This is a unique project in that it touches on all five of ICLEI’s development pathways: low emissions, nature based, people-centered, resilient, and circular. This holistic approach taken by Philipstown will be one that many other communities will seek to replicate.”

The project received additional support from Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund,

Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation, Community Grants Fund of Putnam County of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley and the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.

Find the full Sink, Store, Reduce, Offset report at: https://www.ClimateSmartPhilipstown.org/.

About Philipstown Climate Smart Communities Task Force

The Philipstown Climate Smart Communities Task Force is a volunteer steering committee to the Town of Philipstown whose mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change by increasing use of renewables while decreasing overall energy use; supporting development of a more sustainable local economy; educating and inspiring community members and businesses to contribute to climate solutions; and conserving our natural resources and wildlife for future generations.

About Ecological Citizen’s Project

The Ecological Citizen’s roject, Inc. (ECP) is a non-profit organization based on Longhaul Farm in Garrison, NY, that seeks to “develop citizen-led campaigns to build a more just, healthy, democratic, and sustainable way of life.” We believe that people working together at the local level can show that it is possible to make progress against our biggest social problems.  The ECP’s past work has helped move 40,000 Hudson Valley homes to 100% renewable energy by helping to establish New York’s second Community Choice Aggregation, developed a participatory democracy Community Congress model that gives regular people the power to define their own community’s priorities, and created a road-map for local communities to build the movement towards carbon neutrality.

About ICLEI USA

ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability is the leading global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development. ICLEI USA is the United States country office of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and a leading technical expert on greenhouse-gas emissions accounting, climate action, and resilience and sustainability planning. Along with our ClearPath tool for local greenhouse gas emissions accounting, we remain firmly positioned as the experts in the industry through our development of the U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the Local Government Operations Protocol, and the Recycling and Composting Protocol.

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