More than 30 New Haven residents and environmental activists gathered on the New Haven Green for a vigil Sunday evening to urge the Elm City to take action against climate change.
The event was hosted by a coalition of Elm City environmental justice organizations including Connecticut Fund for the Environment, New Haven/Léon Sister City Project — a nonprofit that promotes sustainable development in Nicaragua and Connecticut — and Fossil Free Yale. The vigil marks the start of “12 Days of Xmas: No More Fossil Fuels,” a series of daily events hosted by the coalition that will run until Dec. 10. The vigil coincided with the beginning of the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, a two-week-long summit during which UN members draft an international plan for climate change action.
“Due to terrorist threats, people are no longer able to stand in the streets of Paris to call for stronger climate action,” said Emily Wier FES ’17, one of the event’s organizers. “That is why our voice here in New Haven is so important.”
Wier said the Paris Conference aims to lay out a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2020 and to determine the dollar amount developed countries should pay developing countries for the loss of land and income due to climate change they caused through carbon emissions. She said while the international community has already pledged $100 billion to compensate for climate-change induced disasters in the developing world, she does not think this amount will cover the extent of damages inflicted.
Shannon Laun, an attorney at the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, a New Haven-based environmental nonprofit, highlighted the importance of local efforts in combating climate change worldwide. She noted that in 1990, Connecticut was the first state to pass a climate-change law that mandated energy efficiency in housing and transportation.
Gov. Dannel Malloy formed the Governor’s Council on Climate Change — a coalition of agency heads, representatives from nonprofits and business leaders who hope to curb climate change — this spring. GC3 will release a preliminary report outlining suggestions for combating climate change in January and a comprehensive climate-change plan next summer, Laun said.
Laun said while statewide efforts are underway, New Haven’s 2014 climate plan is outdated and in need of revision. She said CT Fund for the Environment has asked Mayor Toni Harp to update the city’s climate action plan by the end of the year and implement strategies that will reduce the Elm City’s environmental impact.
Fossil Free Yale representative Chelsea Watson ’17 said she and other FFY members have called on Yale administrators to divest from the fossil fuel industry, which the organization considers a chief driver of climate change.
“The impacts of climate change and environmental pollution are happening now,” Watson said. “Our politicians need to know that when they delay action on climate they are making decisions that jeopardize the lives of millions today.”
A 2015 UN report found that extreme weather has killed more than 600,000 people since 1995.