Putting the Future in the Hands of Locals

Putting the Future in the Hands of Locals

Cities lead on local sustainability action

As climate action has stalled at the national level here in the United States, a growing number of local and regional governments are making commitments to lead the world into a sustainable future. 

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is one of the leading international organizations whose mission it is to support cities in responding to the climate crisis and developing for a sustainable future. Over the past 30 years, ICLEI has developed a network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments in more than 100 countries to influence sustainable development and policy changes at all levels of government.

Over the last few months, as part of the Bard CEP program, I have had the privilege to intern and support ICLEI’s mission through two projects on the forefront of local government climate action: 

  1. Support communities in Westchester and Dutchess Counties of New York in the technical preparation to begin the Climate Action Planning process
  2. Enable the City of Orlando, FL to address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as part of city planning and social services


New York – Climate Action

Bridge over the Hudson River Valley in Fall (Source: VacationIdea.com courtesy of deberarr – Fotolia.com)

With the creation of the Climate Smart Communities program in New York State, towns, cities, and counties throughout the state have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and adapt to climate change. ICLEI is playing a vital role in facilitating the GHG emissions inventory and Climate Action Plan (CAP) development to meet these goals.

During my internship with ICLEI, I have facilitated this role through the adaptation of training programs, CAP reports, and emissions inventories. I have been able to apply the knowledge of climate science and public policy gained with Bard CEP to support communities that will be familiar to any Bard student including the counties of Dutchess and Westchester.

Orlando – Localizing the SDGs

Orlando Skyline (Source: World Property Journal)

Thanks in part to the efforts of ICLEI, the UN has developed a platform called LOCAL2030 for local communities to engage in the global conversation on sustainability and to adopt the SDGs.

With the help of ICLEI, Orlando is one of the first cities to perform a Voluntary Local Review with the intention of mapping the global SDGs to current available local data and programs to fit into the new LOCAL2030 framework. 

UN Sustainable Development Goals (Source: WikimediaCommons)

As a part of this project I have been able to dive deeply into the wealth of data Orlando has collected through the Green Works Orlando plan and participate in the mapping of this data to the SDGs they have chosen to focus on (SDGs 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 15, and 17). In addition, I have developed valuable skills in presenting this progress on the SDGs to both public and government entities in a visual medium.

Moving Forward Together

Over the last three decades, ICLEI has created a powerful platform for local communities to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change and share valuable information with each other. Through my internship, I have seen that by supporting one community at a time ICLEI has become a force multiplier for sustainable development across the United States and around the world. As a greater number of local communities utilize ICLEI’s tools and resources to step up and lead the world in climate and sustainability action, there is a greater opportunity for a better, more equitable, and sustainable future for us all. 


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