Photo by TW Farlow
Deep Dive

Ithaca’s Green New Deal: Another Step for a City Used to Being Out Ahead

The Climate Reality Team
April 5, 2023

It was no surprise that Ithaca was one of the first communities to come out with a Green New Deal resolution! The city has been taking giant steps toward decarbonization for many years.


In the spring of 2010, the Finger Lakes Climate Fund was established:

  • The Finger Lakes Climate Fund works to promote clean energy projects in the Finger Lakes area while strengthening our regional economy and assisting local families in need. The Climate Fund provides a way for people to support our community while offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings or travel.
  • Carbon offset donations are used for grants to fund energy efficiency projects and renewables that would not otherwise be possible in low-to-moderate income households in the Finger Lakes region. These grants help pay for insulation, air sealing, energy efficient heating equipment like heat pumps.


In the Fall of 2011 the Get Your Green Back Tompkins program kicked off:

  • Get Your Green Back Tompkins supports individuals and organizations taking key steps to save money, reduce our community’s carbon emissions, and create a socially just local economy in the areas of food, transportation, waste and building energy.
  • Over the years, the campaign has counted on the support of over 1000 volunteers, and close to 100 businesses and organizations. It is supported financially by the Park Foundation, NYSERDA, CCE-Tompkins, as well as the contributions of generous individuals.


Solar Tompkins launched in 2014. Funded by the Park Foundation, it was a community solar initiative focused on facilitating a large-scale sustained increase in the rate of renewable energy deployment in Tompkins County,

  • Solar Tompkins transitioned to Heat Smart Tompkins in 2015 and this program concept expanded to 20 state-funded efforts that covered most of New York State.
  • Hundreds of Tompkins County residents have used these services and used the vetted installers. Hundreds more have used knowledge gained from their informational services and then gone with their own choices for an installation company.
  • After two very successful years, NYSERDA chose to create a statewide network of 12 Clean Energy Hubs over 12 regions of the state (NYC has 3 hubs). Our region falls in the Southern Tier Hub.


Started inJune 2016, Ithaca 2030 District was the first 2030 District in New York State. From their website:

  • The District is an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca.


In a big step toward Decarbonization, the City of Ithaca took on the New York State Climate Smart Communities challenge and became a Bronze Certified in January 2018. Not to be outdone, Tompkins County became Certified Silver in September 2018 :

  • Climate Smart Communities (CSC) is a New York State program that helps local governments take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate. The program offers free technical assistance, grants, and rebates for electric vehicles.
  • Registered communities have made a commitment to act by passing the CSC pledge. Certified communities are the foremost leaders in the state; they have gone beyond the CSC pledge by completing and documenting a suite of actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change at the local level.


Sunrise Ithaca started pushing for the Ithaca Green New Deal (IGND) in the Spring of 2019.  It was adopted unanimously by the City of Ithaca Common Council on June 5, 2019, over a month before the New York State Climate Law (CLCPA) was signed on July 18!

We hope other communities will follow Ithaca’s example. Since the IGND effort started, the City of Ithaca broke more new ground by teaming up with the Town of Ithaca and Cornell University in forming the Finger Lakes Energy Compact, which is overseen by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Program. The City is also a signatory of the 24/7 Carbon-free Energy Compact, which is dedicated to accelerating the decarbonization of electricity grids by adopting, enabling, and advancing 24/7 Carbon-free Energy (CFE).