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Others should copy Suffolk climate action plan

A file photo of the Suffolk County legislature

A file photo of the Suffolk County legislature holding a meeting at the Evans K. Griffing building in Riverhead. (Aug. 16, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County has been working on meeting the challenges of climate change for several years, and the results are impressive. Energy costs and energy use have declined significantly, as have carbon emissions.

The findings, plus a commitment for further action, are part of a climate action plan to be voted on Tuesday by the county legislature. The plan should be passed. Approval is a necessary step in a process that would allow Suffolk to receive state funding and commercial building owners in the county to get low-cost financing for energy-saving measures. The money would be repaid on tax bills through a year-old state program.

Suffolk's savings are an example of the payoff that can come from steady effort. Since 2007, the county has had a capital budget line dedicated to energy-efficiency projects. Old heating and chilling systems have been replaced, lighting has been modernized and new buildings must be constructed to the highest green certification standards. Suffolk has cut energy use in the 30 buildings it targeted for improvement by 30 to 60 percent, and its energy bill has dropped from $31 million to $26 million. Greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 10 percent from 2005 to 2010. And six buildings where rooftop solar panels were installed are producing 240 kilowatts for the buildings' use.

It's a promising start. And by bringing commercial buildings under its energy-saving umbrella, Suffolk has a chance to achieve greater energy savings and even lower emissions. Other Long Island municipalities involved in the same state program should push forward with their plans. Those not participating should get involved. Everyone has a stake in adapting to a changing climate.