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Climate council makes recommendations; state joins effort to cut emissions

December 24, 2018

Hartford — Ramping up renewable and zero-carbon energy production, making buildings more efficient and developing cleaner transportation are the key objectives to decarbonize the economy, according to a report recently released by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Council on Climate Change.

After reviewing a range of mitigation plans that drive down greenhouse gas emissions in the energy, building and transportation sectors, the council called for an economywide reduction target of 45 percent below 2001 levels by 2030. 

The council also pushed to maintain nuclear power generation and recommended a long-term ramp-up in low- and zero-carbon electricity production in the form of offshore wind, solar, hydropower, fuel cells and energy storage. The council also pushed to reduce overall electricity consumption, greater investment in electricity measures that reduce demand, and at least 66 percent of the state’s power to come from zero-carbon sources by 2030.

The council, established in a 2015 executive order, called the statewide goals some of the most ambitious in the nation.

“Do not be fooled by the climate change deniers in Washington, D.C. Climate change is real and if we do not take significant action now to reduce carbon emissions the harm to our economy, communities and the planet will be irrevocable,” Malloy said in a statement. “Climate change is one of the most pressing issues the world faces today and the recommendations contained within this report will ensure that Connecticut is meeting its statutory and moral obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The council noted in the report that with more than 600 miles of coastline — and more than 2 million people living in shoreline communities — Connecticut residents are “extremely vulnerable to the impacts of weather and climate events” and are “already beginning to experience such effects as climate change ramps up.”

In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused power outages affecting more than 750,000 customers and more than 2 billion in damages, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate and the state to rely on heavy assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“As not only a scientist, but a father, I am gravely concerned about the speed at which climate change is occurring, as evidenced from the recent United Nations IPCC Special Report and the Fourth National Climate Assessment,” Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee said. “While the recommendations (in the report) are ambitious and will require the effort of all parts of civil society, I will remind everyone that we are a nation that has done big things in the past and it is time to step up and make addressing climate change this generation’s moon shot.”

“After several years of emissions increases, Connecticut has finally reversed course and is getting closer to our 2020 emissions-reduction goal,” said Claire Coleman, Connecticut Fund for the Environment attorney and Council on Climate Change member. “But this progress is fragile — one very cold winter or very hot summer or very low gas prices could throw us off track again. To keep Connecticut economically competitive, protect our citizens’ health, and meet our climate 2020 and 2030 obligations, we urgently need to end our addiction to fossil fuels in power generation, heating, and transportation.”

State joins regional effort to cut transportation emissions

The building sector contributes more than 30 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation is the biggest source of statewide emissions at more than 35 percent, the Council on Climate Change said.

In the building sector, the council recommended the state increase deployment of renewable thermal technologies. Increased education and training of the HVAC workforce, continued incentives for energy efficiency for homeowners and businesses, improved building codes and better tracking and reduction of energy consumption at municipal buildings all are required to meet the council’s recommendation of knocking down building sector emissions by 34 percent in the next several years.

The council said improved access to low- and zero-emitting passenger vehicles, increased alternative modes of travel and efficient movement of goods and services are essential to reduce transportation emissions by almost 30 percent by 2030.

The council called on the state to retain tough fuel-economy and low- and zero-carbon standards; implement a state fleet of zero-emission vehicles; continue incentives for electric vehicle purchases; and reduce traffic congestion and vehicle miles traveled through improved and increased public transit, better land-use planning and state and local zoning regulations that “support walkable, mixed-use and sustainable urban and suburban development.”

Malloy this month also announced the state would join the Transportation Climate Initiative, a coalition of nine states and the District of Columbia that implements a cap-and-invest program, limiting transportation-sector emissions and reinvesting program proceeds in measures that cut emissions, such as public transit, bike lanes and zero-emission vehicles.

The coalition, which includes Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Vermont, will move past a public comment phase that drew feedback from communities, businesses and other stakeholders and will begin designing programs and crafting policies addressing transportation challenges.

“This is what climate leadership looks like,” Jordan Stutt, director of carbon programs at the Acadia Center, said in a statement. “These states have gathered input from 500 stakeholders over the last year, and now they’re using that feedback to inform climate action. The plan they have unveiled ... will make our air cleaner while unleashing investments to deliver the modern, accessible transportation options that the region demands.”

b.kail@theday.com

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