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01/15/2021

Governor’s Council on Climate Change Finalizes Near-Term Climate Strategies

Expanded Advisory Body Outlines Phase 1 Report with Near-Term Strategies to Act on Climate Crisis

 

(HARTFORD) – The Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) today issued its Phase 1 Report, Taking Action on Climate Change and Building a More Resilient Connecticut for All, which assesses the state’s progress toward mitigating carbon emissions and addressing climate change adaptation and resilience, and outlines 61 near-term strategies to meet these challenges.

Today’s report is the first published in accordance with Governor Ned Lamont’s Executive Order No. 3, issued in September 2019, which expanded the scope and responsibilities of the GC3 to include both oversight of mitigation of carbon emissions and climate change adaptation and resilience, and directed the council to provide a report on implementation of these efforts annually.

This report represents more than a year of work across two main subcommittees and seven thematic working groups with a total of 231 members. Each Working Group met individually and produced a report with their findings and recommendations for the GC3. They collectively conducted 186 public meetings, including six public forums during their reports’ 30-day public review period. 

For the first time, the GC3 asked that all GC3 and Working Group members look at their recommendations through an equity lens and formed the Equity and Environmental Justice Working Group. Working and Natural Lands was also a new focus, to bring nature-based solutions to the forefront as a strategy to store and sequester carbon, resulting in “negative” emissions and to better adapt and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The Progress on Mitigation Strategies Working Group monitored the state’s efforts towards our goal of a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and provided additional strategies to meet that goal. The Science & Technology Working Group ensured all recommendations were informed by the best available science on the impacts of climate change. Infrastructure and Land Use and Public Health and Safety Working Groups provided recommendations to make Connecticut more resilient to those impacts in these areas and Funding and Financing provided options for resources to implement these recommendations.

“I want to thank the many dedicated stakeholders, representing communities, business, government, finance, academia and other sectors, who devoted countless hours to this process and the production of this report, with the added challenge of doing so during a global pandemic,” Gov. Lamont said. “This was a critical task, as time is of the essence to both mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to them. We’ve made great progress toward our climate goals, and there is still much to do, and the strategies identified by the GC3 will help us continue that progress.”

Like the rest of the world, Connecticut faces an urgent threat from the climate crisis. The impacts that Connecticut is projected to experience by 2050, let alone further into the future, are stark: up to 20 inches of sea-level rise and more frequent flooding along the Connecticut coast; an average increase in temperature of five degrees Fahrenheit leading to more frequent and higher temperature days; increased drought risk; and extratropical storms that bring more precipitation.

“This is Connecticut’s Climate Plan, built literally from the ground up,” GC3 Chair and DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “The comprehensive nature of this report can’t be overstated, incorporating strategies for working and natural lands into its recommendations for the first time, to considering every suggestion through a lens of equity and environmental justice.  The climate crisis touches all aspects of our economy, society, and environment.  The GC3 process shows us that all of us have a role to play in this fight, and that by working together we can meet this crisis head-on.”

The GC3 – a 23-member body appointed by the Governor, composed of members representing state and local government, community foundations, environmental NGOs, business, academia, and the Connecticut Green Bank – reviewed the work of the subcommittees and working groups and subsequently identified near-term recommendations to be implemented or continued in 2021 or early 2022.  Longer-term recommendations for 2022 and beyond will be included in Phase 2 of the GC3 planning process that will result in a final report by December 31, 2021.

The Phase 1 Report has 61 recommendations that include near term actions to:

  • Prioritize mitigation and adaptation strategies in communities that will feel the impacts of climate change first and worst through launching a statewide environmental justice mapping tool and focusing planning resources in those communities, including developing and implementing a no less than 40% equity funding and/or benefit commitment.
  • Protect and harness energy efficiency funds to improve building heating and cooling and move to decarbonize our buildings sector.
  • Achieve a zero-carbon electric grid by 2040 through increased use of solar, wind, battery storage and a smarter and more responsive grid, while creating green jobs.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from methane and hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) and promote mitigation strategies in planning and materials management.
  • Move toward a decarbonized transportation sector through implementing the Transportation and Climate Initiative program (TCI-P), putting at least 125,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2025, including medium and heavy-duty vehicles, with EV charging infrastructure, and advance initiatives to reduce vehicles miles traveled.
  • Harness the power of nature-based solutions to 1) adapt and make Connecticut’s vulnerable communities more resilient to the impacts of sea level rise, coastal and riverine flooding, and drought, while creating and enhancing ecosystem services and 2) move the state to net zero emissions through carbon sequestration and storage in forests, wetlands, and agricultural landscapes.
  • Build back better with resilient and sustainable infrastructure and land use, informed by the best available science and engineering standards.
  • Recognize that climate change is also a public health crisis and prepare Connecticut for heat stress, air quality impacts, and vector-borne diseases, while ensuring safe drinking water and a climate-informed emergency management system.
  • Leverage federal, state, and municipal funding sources to implement adaptation and resilience projects while building new financing mechanisms, including the creation of resilience authorities, stormwater utilities, and an environmental infrastructure bank.
  • Ensure Connecticut’s decisions continue to be informed by the best available climate science and support climate science education.

While some of these recommendations may be taken for action by the Governor and the State Legislature, many of our GC3 partners, both state agencies and non-government partners, have already begun to implement some of these recommendations. For example, the Department of Transportation has already put two Battery Electric Buses on the road in 2020, with plans to put 15 more out in 2021. Under its Light Duty Electric Vehicle Charging Program, Level 2 EV chargers were installed at DOT headquarters in 2020, with more to be installed in 2021 to start integration of EVs into the state vehicle fleet. DOT has also installed “Alternate Fuel Corridor” signs along state highways to raise awareness of charging options available and to decrease range anxiety. The Department of Public Health is working collaboratively with the GC3 team to identify heat islands in the inner-city vulnerable populations with a focus on health equity to address extreme heat, air quality and mental health impact.  The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has issued a draft Integrated Resources Plan, with modeling that confirms that reaching a 100% zero-emission electric supply by 2040 is feasible and achievable, with the state’s energy supply projected to be 91% emission-free by 2025.  These are just a few examples of actions and policies that align to the recommendations in the GC3 Phase 1 Report.  More updates on implementation steps for these Phase 1 recommendations will follow as the GC3 process continues into 2021.

The GC3 Phase 1 Report and records of the associated public engagement and drafting process are available here.

 

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