Over 50 people crowded into a plush conference room at the Omni Hotel Thursday evening to discuss the ways that Connecticut can work to meet its goal of significantly reducing carbon emissions.

Tom Peterson of the Center for Clean Air Policy presented the findings of the stakeholder committee that has been researching carbon emissions in Connecticut, and facilitated discussion among the community members, students and members of non-profits in the audience.

In 2001, Rowland participated in a conference of New England governors and northeastern Canadian premiers which set goals for reducing carbon emissions. The governors and premiers agreed to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 at the same level as emissions in 1990 and eventually decrease emissions by an additional 75 to 85 percent.

A committee of stakeholders has been meeting since April to determine which policies to recommend. The committee is made up of 25 members who represent industry, government, non-profit organizations and academia. Peterson said the stakeholder committee has convened half a dozen times since its inception and met on an almost weekly basis with technical workgroups.

Peterson and the Center for Clean Air Policy have been facilitating these discussions as well as holding Connecticut Climate Change Stakeholder dialogues, which update the public on the committee’s findings and give them the opportunity to comment on them. A member of the stakeholder committee, Joel Rinebold — who heads the Institute for Sustainable Energy and teaches at Eastern Connecticut State University — said public input was essential to their process.

“There has to be bottom-up interaction in order to formulate the types of actions that are going to be supported,” Rinebold said. “They require grassroots actions and we’re pleased by the reception we got tonight.”

Many audience members stressed that action needed to follow the committee’s suggestions.

Grace Burson DIV ’04 expressed her support for the committee’s role in guiding environmental policy. She described its actions and findings as some of the most progressive in the nation and said reducing carbon emissions needs to be a high priority for Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland.

“This is not only the most important thing he’s going to do in his administration, it’s the most important thing he’s going to do in his life,” Burson said.

The stakeholder group has come up with 53 potential actions to recommend in the report they will give to the steering committee which advises Rowland on Dec. 31. Peterson said they will give this advice in the form of a report which gives detailed descriptions of the proposed actions as well as summaries of the public reaction to them. He said the public comment section will be updated by the response from Thursday’s meeting, which was the last in a series of public dialogues.

The potential actions dealt with four different areas of concern: agriculture, forestry and waste; transportation; power; and residential, commercial and industrial sector progress. After presenting the policy options, Peterson opened the meeting up for comments and questions from the community members in attendance. People had both criticism and praise for the recommendations, which were described as both “visionary” and “ground-breaking.”

“There are a number of really tremendous options that have come up,” Brooke Suter, the Connecticut director of Clean Water Action, said. “It can’t go to the governor and have half the options not enacted. It needs to move forward with tremendous public support.”

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