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A New Year’s Resolution for Connecticut lawmakers

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Effect change on climate

By State Reps. Joseph Gresko and Jonathan Steinberg
January 26, 2024
Source: Connecticut Mirror

A New Year’s Resolution for Connecticut lawmakers: Effect change on climate

New Year’s Resolutions have been made for centuries with the resolve to continue good practices, change behaviors, or accomplish goals that will make a difference in the year ahead. As we think about 2024 and look forward to the upcoming legislative session, we urge our colleagues in the Connecticut General Assembly to resolve to make a positive difference in our futures by keeping a promise we made to address climate change. We believe this is the perfect New Year’s Resolution for 2024.

As legislators, we know our state had long been a leader on securing a healthy future for Connecticut, establishing economy wide targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implementing the policies to help us achieve those targets. Now, however, Connecticut is falling behind on achieving our own climate goals.

State Reps. Joseph Gresko and Jonathan Steinberg

Moreover, we have failed to meet federal air quality standards for ground-level ozone and smog for nearly a half-century. While Connecticut alone does not contribute to this problem, it is clear that local emissions, particularly from the transportation sector, play a significant role. We know that our failure to curb these emissions, and the resulting poor air quality, exacerbates acute and chronic respiratory problems like asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and other diseases; sometimes, it even leads to premature death.

A report last year underscores the need for action. Connecticut should seek zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, says a study from Yale and Save the Sound.

As a guidepost of this New Year’s resolution, Connecticut should update our landmark climate law to conform with the best practices demonstrated by our neighboring states by setting a net-zero by 2050 emissions target and individual sector-specific targets to ensure that we maintain steady progress towards our reduction goals. Holding our agencies accountable by requiring an analysis of climate impacts and evaluating mitigation measures as part of agency decision-making is also critical. State government must lead by example.

In order to meet our goal of 100% clean electricity by 2040, Connecticut must accelerate the pace and scale of deploying renewable energy, including distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar. As part of this effort, Connecticut should expand its solar programs and establish specific solar deployment targets while addressing battery storage needs.

At the same time, burning fossil fuels in buildings is responsible for roughly 30% of Connecticut’s total climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions and close to a quarter of the state’s smog-forming pollution. The state should develop heat pump targets and financing programs, including no- or low-interest loans for zero-emission heating equipment and necessary electrical upgrades to help facilitate the transition to electric heat pumps and water heaters, beginning with clean heat standards for new construction.

In 2023, our efficiency programs faced a $27 million shortfall, necessitating the borrowing of funds from the 2024 program budget and leaving a funding deficit next year. The lack of consistent and sufficient funding means that far fewer residents and businesses are able to reduce their energy bills through energy efficiency improvements. We must prioritize funding for efficiency programs to ensure optimal deployment of energy efficiency upgrades in the state.

Funding should also be devoted to workforce recruitment and training to ensure a robust energy efficiency workforce pipeline exists in our state. A good starting place would be for the legislature to restore the $145 million of ratepayer monies that it previously diverted from the energy efficiency fund.

Finally, we have a once in a generation opportunity to leverage unprecedented federal funding to support our efforts in Connecticut. The state is slated to receive approximately $52 million over the first five years of the federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program to expand our charging infrastructure in order to meet the projected market demand for electric vehicles. The recent withdrawal of the clean car and truck regulations must be reversed to ensure that Connecticut’s consumers continue to have access to cleaner, less polluting vehicle of all types. The legislature should act quickly to get Connecticut moving in the right direction again.

We are committed to improving the climate in 2024 and keeping the promise we made, and we urge our colleagues to join us. As we begin the new year, we believe these reforms are the answer and will set the stage for an achievable New Year’s Resolution for Connecticut.

State Rep. Joseph Gresko is Chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Environment Committee. State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg is Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee.

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