Pictured is Dune Road in Southampton Town, where officials are...

Pictured is Dune Road in Southampton Town, where officials are developing a climate action plan that is intended to serve as a blueprint for reducing carbon emissions.  Credit: John Roca

How can a local municipality confront a seemingly overwhelming global problem?

From Mike Lieberman’s perspective, the challenge may not be so daunting. An environmental planner for Southampton Town, Lieberman has spearheaded the town’s effort to develop a climate action plan that is intended to serve as a blueprint for reducing carbon emissions. 

Southampton Town’s role may be minuscule on the grand scale of climate change, but that shouldn’t stop the town from trying to make a positive impact, said Lieberman, who's worked for the town since 2016.

“We’re all on the playing field right now for a reason,” he told Newsday. “I can either sit on the bench in my position and do what planners have been doing for 'x' amount of years. Or I can take a position and do the best I can with the time I have and the resources available to me.”

Earlier this month, the town hosted its first public engagement session on a climate action plan Southampton is developing with international engineering and consulting firm Ramboll. The town hired the firm in 2021.

Ramboll representatives provided an overview of the work completed so far during a Zoom meeting on March 15 with town officials and community members.

Emory Lee, the project manager, said the plan will create a road map to guide the town toward achieving its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2025 and 100% carbon neutrality by 2040. To achieve carbon neutrality, the town aims to balance the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from its activities by removing an equivalent amount.

Lee said her company is aiming to create a “streamlined, digestible, easy to understand” report that the town can use to “take real steps toward reducing emissions.” A draft should be available by summer, according to the project manager.

A few days after the Zoom session, a panel of experts the United Nations convened released a report that outlined the urgent action they said is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the planet. Current mitigation efforts are “insufficient to tackle climate change,” the report said, highlighting the importance at even local levels.

The effects of climate change, particularly rising sea levels and storm surge, pose a direct threat to Southampton Town, Lieberman told Newsday.

 He added during an interview that the planning can be broken down into two components: climate action planning and climate adaptation planning. The environmental planner compared climate action planning to “pumping the brakes” before a car crash.

He compared climate adaptation planning to an air bag deployment, adding: “We’re already there, we’re going to have this accident, what can we do to soften the blow?” 

Ramboll created an emissions inventory to calculate the total greenhouse gas emissions for the town in a single year. Company officials used data from 2019, prior to pandemic disruptions, as a baseline. Then they outlined climate action priorities, greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies and emissions reduction impacts.

Melody Redburn, a Ramboll managing consultant, spoke during the meeting about different ways to reduce emissions, such as improving the energy efficiency of existing municipal buildings, transitioning municipal vehicles to electric models or those using alternative fuels and incentivizing transit-oriented development.

Some of the feedback from community members during the session focused on the plan failing to account for air traffic, notably at Westhampton's Francis S. Gabreski Airport.

Redburn said private jets and helicopters weren't included due to a lack of available data.

Lieberman said he believes it’s important to include that data. Suffolk County operates the civilian airport and the other half is a military base. The town, therefore, has “no say” over what can be done at the airport to reduce emissions, he said.

Town Councilman John Bouvier, a Democrat, noted the process is at “the very start.” He said many of the public comments were “spot on” and will be taken into consideration.

How can a local municipality confront a seemingly overwhelming global problem?

From Mike Lieberman’s perspective, the challenge may not be so daunting. An environmental planner for Southampton Town, Lieberman has spearheaded the town’s effort to develop a climate action plan that is intended to serve as a blueprint for reducing carbon emissions. 

Southampton Town’s role may be minuscule on the grand scale of climate change, but that shouldn’t stop the town from trying to make a positive impact, said Lieberman, who's worked for the town since 2016.

“We’re all on the playing field right now for a reason,” he told Newsday. “I can either sit on the bench in my position and do what planners have been doing for 'x' amount of years. Or I can take a position and do the best I can with the time I have and the resources available to me.”

Earlier this month, the town hosted its first public engagement session on a climate action plan Southampton is developing with international engineering and consulting firm Ramboll. The town hired the firm in 2021.

Ramboll representatives provided an overview of the work completed so far during a Zoom meeting on March 15 with town officials and community members.

Emory Lee, the project manager, said the plan will create a road map to guide the town toward achieving its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2025 and 100% carbon neutrality by 2040. To achieve carbon neutrality, the town aims to balance the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from its activities by removing an equivalent amount.

Lee said her company is aiming to create a “streamlined, digestible, easy to understand” report that the town can use to “take real steps toward reducing emissions.” A draft should be available by summer, according to the project manager.

A few days after the Zoom session, a panel of experts the United Nations convened released a report that outlined the urgent action they said is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the planet. Current mitigation efforts are “insufficient to tackle climate change,” the report said, highlighting the importance at even local levels.

The effects of climate change, particularly rising sea levels and storm surge, pose a direct threat to Southampton Town, Lieberman told Newsday.

 He added during an interview that the planning can be broken down into two components: climate action planning and climate adaptation planning. The environmental planner compared climate action planning to “pumping the brakes” before a car crash.

He compared climate adaptation planning to an air bag deployment, adding: “We’re already there, we’re going to have this accident, what can we do to soften the blow?” 

Ramboll created an emissions inventory to calculate the total greenhouse gas emissions for the town in a single year. Company officials used data from 2019, prior to pandemic disruptions, as a baseline. Then they outlined climate action priorities, greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies and emissions reduction impacts.

Melody Redburn, a Ramboll managing consultant, spoke during the meeting about different ways to reduce emissions, such as improving the energy efficiency of existing municipal buildings, transitioning municipal vehicles to electric models or those using alternative fuels and incentivizing transit-oriented development.

Some of the feedback from community members during the session focused on the plan failing to account for air traffic, notably at Westhampton's Francis S. Gabreski Airport.

Redburn said private jets and helicopters weren't included due to a lack of available data.

Lieberman said he believes it’s important to include that data. Suffolk County operates the civilian airport and the other half is a military base. The town, therefore, has “no say” over what can be done at the airport to reduce emissions, he said.

Town Councilman John Bouvier, a Democrat, noted the process is at “the very start.” He said many of the public comments were “spot on” and will be taken into consideration.

Climate action plan

  • Southampton Town's goal is carbon neutrality.
  • Climate action priority areas can include buildings, transportation and clean energy.
  • Community actions can include choosing energy efficient options for new equipment.

Source: Ramboll/Southampton Town

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