With the conclusion of the United Nations climate talks in Durban, the focus is back on states and municipalities to ensure that measures are being taken to address the problem of climate change.
The Durban talks have generally been regarded as positive — negotiators agreed to continue working to identify a greenhouse gas reduction goal for 2050; to work towards a new international treaty to be enacted in 2020; and to establish a fund to support adaptation efforts and the deployment of clean energy technology by developing countries.
The positive reaction to the modest outcomes of the talks, however, highlights the limited expectations going into the process, especially when small states like Connecticut have already accomplished some of these goals that large nations haven’t even begun to address.
Connecticut’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), enacted in 2008, established both medium term (2020) and long-term (2050) reduction targets – 10 percent below the 1990 levels and at least 80 percent below 2001 levels respectively. These are lofty goals and the Connecticut legislature deserves a round of applause for setting these levels, especially when there is no national emission limit, and working tirelessly to ensure that we reach them.
The GWSA also established interim reporting requirements for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to ensure that the state maintains progress towards achieving the necessary long-term, sustainable and economically sound greenhouse gas reductions. A key report to lay out the necessary concrete actions to meet the GWSA requirement was due in July. While delayed, we look forward to the report’s release in the New Year. We believe that it will provide the foundation for the state’s activity for the next several years and keep Connecticut as a national example of success.
The best science tells us that dramatic greenhouse gas reductions will be necessary to stave off catastrophic and potentially irreversible damage to our ecosystem. This is a challenge that we will only meet by making the necessary investments in energy efficiency and new, clean energy technologies today.
In Connecticut, that will mean increasing the energy efficiency of our building stock; updating and improving our transportation infrastructure; and investing in innovative energy technologies. Improved building energy performance means lowering energy costs for businesses and homeowners; new technology investments will produce products that will flourish in growing international markets for clean technology; and updating our transportation infrastructure means improving the ability of workers to connect to jobs and recreational opportunities while fostering attractive livable communities. These measures will improve our economy while also improving public health and helping us to reduce harmful emissions.
The tentative outcome in Durban should serve as a spur to Connecticut rededicating itself to meeting its own commitments under the Global Warming Solutions Act and providing an example to the nation and the world.
Donald Strait is the executive director of Connecticut Fund for the Environment in New Haven, CT