One month after 33 Elm City environmental organizations wrote a letter to Mayor Toni Harp complaining of New Haven’s lack of up-to-date climate change policy, Gov. Dannel Malloy is gearing up to release a report on the state’s progress in fighting climate change.
The letter — signed on Jan. 13 by New Haven and statewide organizations such as the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the Yale Climate Action Network and the New Haven/León Sister City Project — called for the expeditious update of New Haven’s Climate Action Plan, which has not been amended since 2004. The Climate Action Plan is the municipal response to the 2001 Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires an 80 percent reduction in Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The letter articulates particular concern about New Haven’s lack of interim goals and greenhouse gas reduction targets to keep the city in line with the state’s climate change prevention goals. While city officials say New Haven is progressing toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, climate change activists are calling for a finalized climate action plan with enumerated milestones by July 1.
“With the push coming from the state to revamp its climate change efforts, we thought it would be a good opportunity to circle back to the city and make sure their goals are in line with the state goals,” Shannon Laun, climate and energy attorney at the CT Fund for the Environment, said.
Malloy reinvigorated state efforts against climate change in April 2015 by establishing the Governor’s Council on Climate Change. He charged the council with determining what strategies the state should use to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction target. Laun, who frequents council meetings, said working to develop a concrete state plan was the impetus for approaching New Haven about its need for new environmental policy.
It is important for the city’s climate action plan to reflect the significant technological, scientific and policy developments of the past 11 years, Laun said. She added that the failure to update the policy hinders the state’s ability to reach its 2050 emissions reduction target, which largely depends on cities like New Haven implementing mitigation and adaptation strategies. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions also yields benefits for Elm City residents, including creating “green” jobs, reducing air pollution, improving active transportation and reducing energy costs for New Haven families, she said.
According to City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer, the city is working to shrink New Haven’s carbon footprint through a reduction in energy consumption in city buildings and along city streets, by installing bioswales — filters that remove silt and pollution from storm-drain runoff — and expanding access to compressed natural-gas–refueling sites and electric-car–recharging stations.
“Mayor Harp and members of her administration have been working all along to address concerns shared with other environmental stewards,” Grotheer said.
Despite the letter’s plea for an updated Climate Action Plan by July 1, city officials did not specify an intent to update its plan. However, Laun said she felt the response from the city was positive in nature.
Laun noted that she hopes New Haven will eventually adopt a stakeholder process in amending its climate change policy, ensuring that all people affected by the new policy could have a say in it. The stakeholder process could include procedures such as public meetings to hear residents’ feedback. Yale students have already taken an interest in pushing for an updated plan for the Elm City, she said.
“I think that sustainability is really important to Yale students because they understand the immediate impacts as well as the long-term effects which will result from inaction,” said Kamya Jagadish ’16, team leader of the residential college coordinators for the Sustainability Service Corps. “Yale students listen and learn when someone wants to tell them more about the effects of their energy use and how they can improve their daily habits.”
The initial report of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change is expected to be released by the end of February.