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FCWC & Pace Climate Conference

Conference Summary

Thank you to all who attended the FCWC & Pace 2024 Climate Conference: Community Climate – Change Accelerating Awareness, Engagement, and Action. This conference stressed the importance of local action and its importance in helping to affect meaningful community-based change. Each presentation, panel, and workshop helped to equip participants with the necessary tools and strategies to bring sustainability and climate-focused policy back to their communities and beyond.

 

The day began with a Keynote Presentation from Professor Michael B. Gerrard – Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia University – informing participants about the current landscape of climate change from a global and local perspective. Through the lens of transportation, the built environment, and the natural environment, Professor Michael B. Gerrard informed on the most important aspects of community climate change and action.

 

The Keynote presentation was followed by three expert panels on Transportation, the Built Environment, and the Natural Environment. The first of these panels, the transportation panel, hosted distinguished speakers including Joy Gardner, Executive Director at Empire Clean Cities; Jim Hineson, Port Authority; William Scherle, Director of Decarbonization at Soulful Synergy; Peter McCartt, Director of Energy Conservation and Sustainability at Westchester County; and Patty Buchanan, Croton Community Activist. Each of these experts spoke about the important strategies and ongoing projects for decarbonization of transportation from the private, public, and local activist spheres. From public transportation – like buses (both commuter and school) and train service – to EV infrastructure, participants received an abundance of important information on major needs, solutions, and barriers throughout the transportation sector.

 

The Built Environment Panel focused on climate impact issues and solutions through energy, climate resilient development, and waste. This panel’s experts – Jason Doling Vice President of Communities and Partnerships at NYSERDA; Craig Hart Executive Director, Pace Energy & Climate Center, at Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law; Maureen Hartwell, Pace Law School - Climate Resilient Development; and Courtney Williams, Westchester Alliance for Sustainable Solutions – provided important information regarding the shortcomings of eco-friendly legislation and action throughout built environment sector as well actionable steps in light of these shortcomings.

 

The last panel of the day discussed the Natural Environment from the perspective of agroecology, water ways, and land-use. The panelists – Nick Robinson, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law Emeritus; Jack Algiere, Director of Agroecology at Stone Barns Center; Tracy Brown, President of Hudson Riverkeeper; and Ruby Olisemeka, Director of Urban Engagement at Westchester Land Trust – advocated for sustainable food practices, more focused remediation and prevention of pollution to our waterways, and the protection of invaluable land in Westchester County.

 

After a morning filled of instructive and enlightening expert panels, lunch discussions ensued. Tables were organized by topics, encouraging exciting conversation between conference participants, experts, and Pace University Law Student facilitators.

The afternoon hosted three informative workshops through which participants were informed and inspired to act in their person lives and communities. The first of these workshops was the Climate Literacy workshop, led by Dr. Chandu Visweswariah, CURE100. During this workshop participants were encouraged to ponder how their lifestyles effect their carbon footprint, and tangible ways to reduce it.

 

The next workshop, entitled Community Engagement and Advocacy, was led by Paul Presendieu, Chair - New Rochelle’s Ecology and Natural Resources Advisory Committee, and John Rhodes, Chair -Mount Kisco Conservation Advisory Council. Mr. Presendieu began this workshop by providing an informed and equitable strategy for facilitating community engagement. Mr. Rhodes then continued this conversation, focusing on governmental agencies, like CACs, and how they can facilitate policy change.

 

Finally, the Model Local Laws Workshop rounded out the day. Led by Rhea Mallett Esq., Mallett Law, Environment, Land Use and Zoning, this workshop centered around specific caselaw regarding climate resilient development. Pace Land Use Law Student Scholars spoke to cases around the US that encapsulated climate resilient development, demonstrating the importance of zoning in our Westchester Communities.

 

FCWC wants to thank you again for your interest and attendance at this conference. your valuable feedback will help to shape our follow-up workshops and events. Please fill out the below survey at your earliest convenience.

 

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