After edging out Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski last November, newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 enters office with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature and a bold environmental agenda.

One of Lamont’s legislative goals for the upcoming term is to tackle climate change, an issue the governor heavily campaigned on before the election. Last year, Lamont released a document broadly outlining some steps he would like to implement — including reducing carbon emissions in Connecticut by 70 percent by 2040 and completely by 2050.

“The facts are clear and the evidence incontrovertible: Our earth is getting warmer, ice caps and glaciers are melting, the sea level is rising, and an array of other related events are underway from storm surges to droughts,” Lamont said in a campaign press release in July 2018.

Lamont highlighted that these goals are stricter than what is required for the country under the Paris Agreement — a 2015 international agreement that stipulates national goals to keep climate warming at 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — and was applauded for the bold step by Taylor Mayes of Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, an organization that works on climate change issues in the state.

Mayes said that she expects much of the climate change policy in Connecticut to draw support from both sides of the aisle, emphasizing that Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs has many causes supported by both Democratic and Republican legislators. An offshore wind farm, which would harvest wind energy to create renewable electricity, is the Roundtable’s biggest current project that has garnered bipartisan support. Mayes also expressed confidence in Lamont’s environmental goals.

“[Lamont] has pledged to strengthen our emissions targets,” Mayes said. “I know we could always ask for more, like more emission cuts and more investment in transit, but I think we’re very happy with who we’re working with.”

Mayes said she was excited to work with the administration to advance important legislation, emphasizing that progress “starts at the policy level.” Aside from the offshore wind farm, Hayes hopes the new administration will provide funding and resources to help create jobs in the environmental sector and expand renewable energy to meet the carbon reduction goals.

Nevertheless, Ben Martin of 350 Connecticut — the Connecticut chapter of an international, grassroots organization that is focused on quickly phasing out the use of fossil fuels — contends that the new goals are still insufficient to combat the scope of the problem, citing the imminent effects and danger of climate change.

“We need to [reduce emissions] sooner,” Martin said in an interview with the News. “We know we can do that, it’s technically possible and physically possible. It’s just a matter of political will.”

Still, Martin said that 350 Connecticut was “cautiously optimistic” about the Lamont administration, complimenting the governor on many of his campaign promises. He expressed support for new legislative projects, including encouraging electric vehicles, prohibiting oil and gas and creating green jobs.

Martin also mentioned Lamont’s campaign rhetoric about bringing Connecticut into the future, stressing that climate justice and a departure from fossil fuels would be a great way for Lamont to accomplish his stated goals. Yet he also expressed discontent with the governor’s unwillingness to push the status quo.

“[Lamont] doesn’t seem willing to challenge the base model of economics that we have currently in CT using oil companies and natural gas. He hasn’t shown that he’s willing to move away from those industries,” Martin told the News.

A United Nations report from October 2018 said that the world has about 12 years to act in order to keep warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which the effects of climate disasters would drastically increase.

Emmett Shell | emmett.shell@yale.edu