Gina McCarthy, the environmental regulator who worked in New England for Govs. Mitt Romney and M. Jodi Rell before leading the charge for President Obama on climate change, returned to Hartford on Friday for a post-Paris curtain call.
McCarthy said the Paris agreement on climate change has placed 195 nations behind the common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions – sending an important signal to the marketplace to invest in green technologies.
“If you went to Paris you would see that it was not filled with all pinheaded bureaucrats like me – yes, we had a number of pinheaded bureaucrats there – but it was filled with the private sector, wanting people to recognize they’re ready to invest. They know what the future needs to be. They are putting money on the table,” said McCarthy, now administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
McCarthy joined Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others outside the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the agency she led before joining the Obama administration, to promote the agreement and an initiative by 22 auto dealerships in Connecticut to install solar arrays.
McCarthy praised states like Connecticut, which developed a green bank to finance clean technology, for showing that the marketplace is ready to address climate change with a little encouragement from government.
She recognized Bryan Garcia, who runs the green bank – formally known as the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority – created in 2011 during Malloy’s first year as governor. She told Malloy she had a small confession.
“The little secret is I tried to steal Bryan,” McCarthy said. “He wouldn’t come.”
McCarthy was a leader in developing New England’s approach to combatting greenhouse gases, blamed by science for climate change.
Malloy was among the leaders who signed a declaration earlier this year that reaffirms Connecticut’s previous commitments to reducing greenhouse gases by 10 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent from 2001 levels by 2050.
McCarthy said state and local actions were the foundation for the Paris agreement.
“We actually have quite a bit of momentum now,” McCarthy said. “It’s not just that people will absorb the science, but people have been dying for leadership to turn that science into action. And we now have the vast major of people in this country that understand that climate is changing and are demanding leadership.”
McCarthy acknowledged that the Obama administration could only go so far in Paris, because a formal treaty never could win ratification in the U.S. Senate, where there is strong Republican opposition.
“Now, I recognize there will always be climate deniers,” McCarthy said. “There are folks that still think the earth is flat.”
Last week, McCarthy drew fire for saying what seems evident: Coal does not have a rosy future as a fuel source in the U.S. or the world. She alluded to her inability to avoid controversy, saying she didn’t mind joining the governor at an outdoor press conference on a cool day.
“I can’t thank you enough for letting me freeze my butt off,” McCarthy told Malloy, prompting laughter from the governor. “But here is a little secret: I never get cold, because I’m in hot water constantly.”