Our climate and public health are at a critical crossroads in Connecticut. We’ve made some significant progress, but as the most recent report from the United Nations shows, we are not acting quickly enough. Temperatures will shoot past a key danger point unless greenhouse gas emissions fall faster than countries have committed.
The good news is that we have a chance to do something about it. We have the opportunity to support legislation that would reduce carbon emissions by increasing access to electric vehicles and expanding commercial rooftop solar, and offer a climate change curriculum in our public schools. And by supporting House Bill 5039 and Senate Bill 10, we can commit our state to 100% zero-carbon, renewable energy and substantially reduce diesel air pollution from trucks and buses in Connecticut.
These bills will help Connecticut become energy independent, improve our air and water quality, create thousands of new jobs and address the alarming impacts of climate change.
Our General Assembly and its leaders have an opportunity to show Connecticut residents that they take these issues seriously and are committed to taking action before it’s too late.
Our current energy mix relies too heavily on natural gas to power our electric grid.
In 2019, Governor Lamont, with bipartisan support from the Connecticut General Assembly, signed Public Act 19-71, An Act Concerning the Procurement of Energy Derived from Offshore Wind, which was a major step toward the goal of a 100% zero-carbon electricity supply by 2040.
It is widely recognized that electrifying our economy is necessary to reach our climate goals, not just for power, but for transitioning all major sectors of the economy. Senate Bill 10 will put into law the 100% target and will be the basis for programs, policies, and investments needed to reach our state’s emission reduction goals. While Connecticut has made significant progress in decarbonizing our grid, we must accelerate that process to do our part to mitigate climate change and make up for slower progress in other sectors of our economy, like transportation.
Vehicle emissions are a serious problem for public health, environmental justice, and our climate. The transportation sector accounts for 37.4% of greenhouse gas emissions in our state. Diesel trucks and buses emit harmful exhaust, a known carcinogen. It has been found to cause adverse health impacts, including lung cancer and worsening of chronic heart and lung diseases.
While diesel trucks make up only 6% of the vehicles on our roads, they are responsible for over 50% of all smog-forming pollution and 45% of all the deadly diesel soot. Every day, smog and soot harm our most vulnerable populations, especially communities next to highways, which are all too often low-income communities of color. A recent national report, Asthma Capitals 2021, ranked New Haven (#5) and Hartford (#17) among the 100 largest U.S. cities where it is most challenging to live with asthma.
House Bill 5039 will reduce truck and bus pollution by advancing regulations to adopt California medium and heavy-duty vehicle emission standards. Zero-emission trucks do not release tailpipe pollution. Adopting these new standards will result in cleaner, healthier air and lower the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing our climate crisis
Our state legislators must pass these two critical bills for our environment. The time to act is now. The future of our health and climate depend on it.
Lori Brown serves as Executive Director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. To learn more about these issues and take action, visit www.ctlcv.org.