The White House has recognized Sonoma County as a leader for its efforts to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — one of 16 communities nationwide that was singled out by the Obama administration as a leader in environmental protections.

Wednesday’s announcement highlighted the county’s Regional Climate Protection Authority as the nation’s first local government agency created specifically to address climate change.

“This is a banner day for us,” said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the county agency. “Climate change policy can be very daunting, so to have the federal government recognize us as local leaders is really exciting.”

The White House also lauded the county’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015. The county’s goals go further than state greenhouse gas emission targets set in 2008 under the Global Warming Solutions Act, which calls for the state to reach 1990 emissions levels by 2020.

“It is very exciting to be recognized for our efforts to truly address climate change and improve our quality of life,” said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt, who also is vice chair of the Regional Climate Protection Authority.

Jurisdictions throughout the country also were recognized for their actions to protect the environment, from Boston, to Minneapolis, to San Francisco.

Sonoma County applied for the White House’s so-called Climate Action Champions competition in October. The award opens up federal dollars and other resources for county departments and agencies to bolster local programs and policies.

“This could give us priority for federal funding, which is huge,” Rabbitt said.

You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or angela.hart@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ahartreports.