Photo by Ty Finck of Relays
Progress Update

Our Initial Assessment

The Climate Reality Team
December 5, 2022

The Ithaca Green New Deal is a historic commitment propelled by climate advocates and undertaken by government representatives to decarbonize their community. Fulfilling this commitment will take concerted effort over a sustained period of time. This is our first progress assessment.

Our team includes members of the Climate Reality Project Finger Lakes Region Chapter. We created this scorecard in consultation with the City of Ithaca Sustainability Office. We will be conducting monthly assessments for the first six months and quarterly thereafter.

A Turbulent Time

Our initial assessment is being delivered during a turbulent time for the City and the project. In second half of 2022, the City experienced:

  • The evolution of the Green New Deal project plan to its current state
  • The departure of the mayor responsible for the adoption of the Green New Deal
  • An interim period of leadership followed by the acting mayor being elected to a full term beginning 2023
  • The departure of the City’s Sustainability Director, Luis Aguirre-Torres
  • The Sustainability Planner, Rebecca Evans, moved to acting Sustainability Director
  • Escalating public concern that the City might be backing away from the Green New Deal commitments and timelines, including several articles and letters to the editor in local news publications.

Our Scoring

We established a five-point system for assessing Green New Deal progress:

Not started: No action taken to date
In progress: Sufficient action being taken to achieve goals and schedule
Stalled: Insufficient action within the timeframe required to meet goals and schedule
Complete: Planned goal achieved
Ongoing: The action is complete and implementation activity continues

Because we are relatively early in the program, it is not unexpected to see a range of outcomes, from Not Started to Complete and Ongoing. However, we are concerned that the two IGND elements most instrumental in addressing the inequity caused by climate change, Justice 50 and Climate Action Planning, are stalled.

While some sub-elements of both have been accomplished, the slow overall progress in these areas has put remediation schedules at risk. The City has established a definition for Climate Justice communities, which will enable the applicable proportion of funding to these people. However, the mechanism for delivery and standards for City contractors have yet to be addressed. Similarly, greenhouse gas emissions inventories and climate action plans have been completed but need formal adoption by the City to proceed on course. The prescribed timelines in the plan are important to meet the 2030 goals.

Regional and International Cooperation is the sole major commitment that is currently complete. The partnerships established are foundational to the work of the Green New Deal. Our rating of Ongoing indicates that, while these partnerships have been effectively secured, we will continue to monitor the outcomes of the relationships and assess their impacts on the City’s progress. Note that Ithaca has been put into the international spotlight with the boldness of some of its goals. Other communities worldwide are watching for progress.

Two elements of the plan, Transportation and Waste and Food Management, were not scheduled to have been started at this time.

Overall, we are pleased with the comprehensive nature of the plan, especially in the emphasis of accomplishing the decarbonization in an equitable fashion. Over 100 other communities have contacted the Sustainability Office with an interest to follow Ithaca’s lead. A great deal of groundwork has been completed, but more commitment is needed to get these accomplished and meet the 2030 goals. We are concerned that the City may be falling behind in those areas that address climate justice. The city’s plan provides some creative elements to support disadvantaged communities and the federal Inflation Reduction Act will provide additional financing. Overall, the economic and health improvement achieved should be for all residents, and especially for those in marginalized communities.

We look forward to the City’s continued progress across all elements of the Green New Deal and to providing future assessments.