Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Two years since the passing of Ithaca's Green New Deal, activists have created a scorecard to mark Ithaca's progression in reaching the goals of the Green New Deal.

December 6, 2022

Ithaca Decarbonization Efforts Progress While Climate Equity Plans Stall

Print More

Nearly two and half years since the Ithaca Green New Deal was passed by the Ithaca Common Council, activists from the Finger Lakes chapter of The Climate Reality Project released a scorecard to track the city’s progress towards the Ithaca Green New Deal’s goals.

“With the IGND Scorecard, we will track the City’s progress against their project plan and hold them accountable to demonstrate to the public that their plan delivers decarbonization, emissions reduction and climate justice,” Diane Stefani, co-chair of the Finger Lakes chapter of The Climate Reality Project, wrote in an email to The Sun. 

The Ithaca Green New Deal scorecard was inspired by the scorecard made by the capitol region chapter of The Climate Reality Project made for Biden’s first 100 days in office, which Stefani also helped create. Through the Ithaca Green New Deal scorecard, local Climate Reality Project members hope to both credit the Ithaca City Government for progress made so far while holding it accountable, including raising awareness of slow progress in two goals marked as “stalled”: The Justice50 and Climate Action Planning initiatives. 

Differences of opinion about how the Ithaca Green New Deal should be implemented made headlines this month when the Ithaca sustainability director Luis Aguirre-Torres resigned. Advocates hope that the scorecard will keep the public informed. 

“We really wanted the website and the scorecard to be a resource for primarily the people of Ithaca, so they can stay abreast of what is happening with the Ithaca Green New Deal,” said Paula Welling, graphic designer and member of the leadership committee for the Finger Lakes chapter of The Climate Reality Project. “If things aren’t progressing as quickly as we hope them to be, a goal is off target, then people can know and they can advocate.”

One Ithaca Green New Deal goal that Aguirre-Torres advocated for in past speeches is Justice50, a framework that states that at least 50 percent of Ithaca Green New Deal climate and clean energy investments will go to Climate Justice communities. 

While the city has developed a definition for climate justice communities, it has missed some deadlines, including the August deadline to define climate justice standards for contractors. Rebecca Evans, City of Ithaca Sustainability Coordinator, similarly values the Justice50 and said that work is continuing on the framework and Climate Action Planning despite these delays. 

“There are a few projects that are ‘stalled’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the work isn’t continuing. City staff and the Mayor made the decision to put projects on hold [including Justice50 and CAP] while a Sustainability and Climate Justice commission is formed,” Evans wrote in an email to The Sun. “The commission would be populated with city residents from a wide variety of backgrounds in the interest of providing feedback on IGND programs.” 

According to Evans, the commission will hopefully be approved in early 2023 and will then review upcoming projects. Despite the city’s efforts, the fact that Justice50 is marked as stalled worries climate activists including Siobhan Hull ’24, a general body organizer for Climate Justice Cornell and hub organizer for the Sunrise Movement Ithaca chapter.

Hull believes that ongoing community organizing is needed to keep the Ithaca Green New Deal moving forward.

“I think community organizing is really necessary to continue to advance the goal of the Ithaca Green New Deal, and that it’s really necessary that we show there is continued community support behind the Ithaca Green New Deal, that we hold the city accountable for fulfilling the promises they made in 2019.”

While raising awareness of the lagging progress towards some goals, the scorecard also grades many of the Ithaca Green New Deal’s goals as “in progress” or “ongoing.” These include grid decarbonization, reducing emissions from building operations, workforce development and democratic engagement. One of the projects in progress is the electrification of thousands of buildings across Ithaca, including municipal, commercial, and residential buildings, in partnership with the company BlocPower. 

“Essentially we’ll be removing fossil fuel infrastructure and replacing it with hyper-efficient, electric counterparts, including heat pumps. In parallel, we’ll be tightening up the envelopes of buildings by adding insulation, replacing windows and duct work, etc,” Evans wrote to The Sun.

While the scorecard is primarily meant to help keep Ithaca residents informed, Thomas Hirasuna, co-chair of the Finger Lakes chapter of The Climate Reality Project, also hopes that it can help inform and inspire people in communities that want to follow Ithaca’s example.

“Ithaca is on the radar now — people are interested,” Hirasuna said. “If they were to ask how the Ithaca Green New Deal is going… you can refer them to the scorecard and they can see how it’s doing.”