Donning olive green “carbon caps” and pumping posters into the air, members of the Connecticut Climate Coalition assembled on Cross Campus on Friday morning to urge Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell to sign into law House Bill 5600, designed to limit state carbon emissions.
Rally organizers scheduled the event to coincide with the Governors Conference on Climate Change in order to put pressure on Rell, who, they said, has not made progress on global warming that keeps pace with that of her counterparts in states like California, New Jersey and Washington. Among those directing the rally were the leaders of Clean Water Action, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition and the Yale College Democrats — just three of the 90 citizen groups that make up the Connecticut Climate Coalition.
“We saw the conference as a really good opportunity for the governor to pledge her support for the bill because a lot of the other governors that were in attendance had already passed similar legislation,” Abby McCartney ’10, lobbying coordinator for the Yale Dems, said. “We really wanted to push her to embrace the bill.”
The legislation would reduce carbon emission levels by 10 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2020 and increase monitoring of corporate environmental practices.
Over 30 people — environmental activists and students from Yale, the University of Connecticut, Southern Connecticut State University and Connecticut College — showed up Friday morning sporting “Cap Carbon” baseball hats and taking pictures with a Yale student dressed as a snowman, who was there to bring attention to the warming effects of carbon emissions.
The presence of student voters at the rally underscored the fact that climate change will disproportionately affect young people, McCartney said.
“I think the student perspective is really powerful because we are the ones who are going to have to inherit this planet,” she said. “The longer the people in office wait, the harder it is going to be for us to do anything about [the environment]. We are going to have to deal with it long after they have retired.”
The protesters lined up on the sidewalk between William L. Harkness Hall and Berkeley College’s South Court, putting themselves in clear view of the droves of reporters leaving Woolsey Hall for a climate panel at the Yale Law School at 10:30 a.m.
“Woo, it’s hot in here,” they chanted. “There must be some carbon in the atmosphere!”
Alongside governors from California, New Jersey and Kansas, Rell, on Friday afternoon, signed a pact committed to a federal-state partnership to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and promote a healthy environment. But the signed declaration was not enough for the group, which called for Rell to come out in support of state-mandated carbon-emissions caps and a more hard-line approach to saving the environment.
Since July 2007, Rell has pushed her “One Thing” initiative, urging state residents to do one environment-friendly thing each day.
But unlike California Gov. Arnold Schawrzenegger, Rell has not issued an executive order on global warming or carbon emissions. In 2006, he signed a bill that will reduce California carbon emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020. And in January 2007 he established, by executive order, a low-carbon fuel standard for transportation fuel sold in California.
Ben Shaffer ’09, president of the Yale Dems, said after the rally that the event did not go unnoticed. Because of their participation in the protest, Shaffer said, he and other members of the coalition were invited after the rally to speak with a representative from Rell’s Department of Environmental Protection and voice their concerns about climate change in the state.
Connecticut legislators want to be able to do more to respond to climate change than the federal government currently supports, Shaffer said. Judging from the DEP meeting Friday, Rell’s administration would be happy to work under a mandatory carbon cap, he said.
“This is something we have to start fighting now,” Shaffer said at the rally. “It’s an important issue for Democrats and Republicans. It’s not a progressive issue; it should be a national issue.”
Roger Smith, campaign director for the Clean Water Action group, said after the event that the federal government has been ineffective in passing legislation related to global warming.
“There is a huge vacuum for climate-change legislation that we are trying to fill as a state,” Smith said. “But sooner or later, Congress is going to have to act on global warming, and we should be rewarded for our early action.”
HB 5600 was considered by the joint standing Appropriations Committee, which handles the state’s budget, on Friday. The bill passed through the committee later that afternoon and was sent to the Legislative Commissioner’s Office to be reviewed before it is heard on the General Assembly floor.
If the bill is passed by the General Assembly, it will be brought before Rell for final approval.