Mayor Toni Harp and various environmental leaders joined together to introduce a new climate and sustainability plan for New Haven on Thursday afternoon.

Citing federal attacks on climate change and environmental protections, leaders in New Haven announced the new Climate and Sustainability Framework at a City Hall press conference. By 2030, the city aims to reduce emissions by 55 percent from the amount recorded in 2001 — a 10 percent increase on Connecticut’s 45 percent reduction goal, which was outlined in a Governor’s Council on Climate Change meeting on Jan. 19.

In January 2016, the New Haven Climate Movement asked the city to update the 2004 Climate Action Plan. Now, two years later, staff including City Engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05, Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking Doug Hausladen ’04 and Engineering Project Manager Dawn Henning worked with a large group of interns, local climate specialists and grass-roots organization members to create a vision for a climate plan.

“[Climate change] poses a grim risk now,” Harp said at the event. “It is not some ill-defined, future event.”

Harp also noted that because New Haven is a coastal community, it has “more to lose” than other municipalities. She said the report represents a “call to action” for not just the government and businesses, but for all members of the New Haven community. Still, she said, New Haven has been “ahead of the curve” with initiatives related to sustainable transportation, renewable energy adoption and resilient infrastructure.

The framework, which is publically available online, lists 97 different actions in six areas: electric power, buildings, transportation, materials management, land use and green infrastructure, as well as food. But Zinn noted that the climate framework would be useless without a mechanism to track the city’s efforts.

Zinn presented such a mechanism at the Board of Alders’ City Services and Environmental Policy Committee meeting on Thursday evening, pitching a resolution that would urge the city to participate in the Sustainable Connecticut Municipal Certification Program — a program that will help City Hall track its sustainability goals and receive recognition for its efforts. The committee passed the resolution on Thursday, and it will now move to the full Board of Alders for a vote.

“The sustainable Connecticut program is a wonderful way for us to track our progress on sustainability tool and a way for us to compare ourselves to other municipalities,” Zinn said at the Board of Alders meeting.

Zinn told the News that the whole framework was a “really great collaborative process,” but that the work is not done. Although the framework was two years in the making, it serves as just a start.

Amid the positive mood surrounding City Hall during the Thursday press conference, New Haven León Sister City Project Program Director Chris Schweitzer expressed how “scary” climate change really is. He noted that climate disasters cost the U.S. $300 million in 2017 alone and called for strong leadership on the issue.

In an interview with the News last week, Schweitzer said that the country and state are in need of a “really bold plan” that acknowledges that climate change is an emergency.

New Haven’s next Environmental Advisory Council — many of whose members attended the press conference — will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Ashna Gupta |