2023 CEQ Annual Report

Executive Summary

Introduction                Letter                    The Climate Challenge

Executive Summary

Generally, Connecticut’s environment is better than it was ten years ago and significantly better than when the Council was created over 52 years ago. While the state’s air and water quality have improved in the intervening 52 years, the warming of Connecticut’s climate threatens to undermine the environmental progress of past decades. In 2023, Connecticut experienced periods of very bad air quality that was primarily associated with wildfires in Canada and the western United States. Connecticut continues to be the New England state with the worst ozone pollution. There was also a significant amount of precipitation during the summer months that increased surface water runoff and combined sewer overflows impacting water quality. The area of hypoxic conditions in Long Island Sound was approximately 28 percent greater than the previous ten-year average, and the number of closures and advisories for Connecticut’s coastal beaches was approximately 21 percent greater than the previous ten-year average. 

Connecticut’s changing climate is creating compatible loci for invasive species, like the Asian tiger mosquito, and impacting the distribution and abundance of native species, which can have negative economic, ecological, and public health impacts. This is already evident in the near collapse of Connecticut’s lobster harvest. Animals, such as forest birds, turtles, and bats, and native plants will diminish as their habitat is impacted by development or transforms and becomes less habitable. However, there is room for optimism. Populations of eagles, osprey, and piping plover have increased over the last few decades due, in part, to successful reintroduction programs, and habitat protection measures. And while there has been a shift to more warm-adapted finfish species in Long Island Sound, overall finfish diversity in the Sound remains high.

While the Governor and the Legislature have been leaders in addressing the state’s serious climate challenge, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from in-state sources, such as the electric power sector and the transportation sector, continue to be a significant concern. In fact, total GHG emissions for all economic sectors increased by approximately seven percent from 2020 to 2022. Achieving the emission reduction goals set forth in several public acts will be difficult without drastic reductions in per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts to promote renewable energy, such as solar, and electric-drive vehicles (EVs) have been successful; however, it is estimated that the number of EVs registered represents less than two percent of all registered vehicles in the state. Additional efforts to reduce the amount of solid waste, and the consumption of energy through energy conservation and the more efficient use of energy, should be prioritized over developing new sources of electric generation. Further, nature based solutions, such as the preservation of open space land and farmland and forest management/urban forestry can help to combat climate change, reduce flood risk, improve water quality, protect wetlands and habitats, reduce urban heat, and improve the quality of life for Connecticut’s residents.

A detailed list of recommendations with specific action items can be found on the Recommendations page.