Gov. Ned Lamont’s public declaration of Executive Order 3 (EO3) may seem like positive action in the time of a climate emergency when the federal administration has abandoned any pretense to acknowledge or act on largest threat to our society’s survival. However , we must reckon Lamont’s pledge against the true scope of the damage climate breakdown will do to the people, infrastructure and stability of our state, our nation and our internationally connected world. The damage currently being done to our natural systems by greenhouse gas emissions must be stopped as quickly and responsibly as possible, and the EO3 does not live up to that standard.
The first issue with the executive order is that by it’s own nature it is a flawed mechanism for forcing structural change. While it is laudable for the current governor to plant his flag on the side of climate action, an executive order is realistically only in effect as long as that governor is in office. When they leave office, the next one can abandon or weaken the efforts of this document almost immediately. Lasting change needs to be enacted in a way that future administrations cannot easily disrupt or ignore, such as government policies passed through the legislature.
EO3 also puts the monitoring and reporting control in the hands of executive branch departments without input from the communities that will have to implement and live with these policies. And considering the limitations of this sort of document, why are the goals so insufficient to meeting the crisis outlined in the “where as…” clauses? The actions outlined in this document don’t match the recommendations of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) nor do they accomplish the goals laid out in the Paris accords which Connecticut has pledged to uphold.
In order to match the urgency of these goals we need a moratorium , or better yet a ban, on all new fossil fuel infrastructure and a concrete plan to retire all the current polluting facilities in our state. We also need a plan to eliminate all buildings and transportation emissions while transitioning the people employed in those industries to new green jobs that will build and maintain the clean renewable infrastructure needed to live sustainably. When creating policy statements for an administration that claims to be committed to climate action, why not be bold, ambitious and recognize the truth of the crisis we are facing?
Another problem is in the scope and responsibilities that are outlined for the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3), an advisory organization made up of mostly government department heads, that has delayed far past the original target date for producing a plan to lower emission in Connecticut. EO3 tasks them with “oversight” of climate mitigation and adaptation but provides no mechanism of enforcement for the council. Without a way to hold the government responsible for failures to meet the emission reduction goals outlined, there is a high risk of any reports becoming something that is filed away with no corrective action taken. Also, given the councils history of completing required documents far past required deadline, it is hard to imagine they will be able to correct counterproductive policy soon enough. While efforts to include voices from environmental justice communities are positive, unless they are replacing current members of the GC3 they cannot be effective with the bulk of the council from the governors administration. This is especially true with the stipulation that the governor can terminate their membership at any time.
Finally, the EO3 had been stated as setting a goal of “100% zero carbon target for the electric sector by 2040.” This would be an improvement on current law if it were true, as the current goal is “80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” but this would not be sufficient to mitigate the climate chaos we are experiencing from extreme storms, persistent droughts and sea level rise. A overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists say we must eliminate the damage we are doing by 2030 and Gov. Lamont’s goal doesn’t even address the emissions from buildings, industry , transportation or agriculture. Additionally, a close reading of the text finds that this goal is not specified outright but says that the GC3 and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection ( DEEP) should “analyze pathway and recommend strategies” that would achieve this goal. Now is not the time for more analysis, oversight or recommendations. Now is the time for bold and concrete action.
Overall, this executive order can be summarized as too little, too late and too light on detail. If the Gov. Lamont and his administration wanted to take bold action here are a few things they could do right now:
1. Declare a climate emergency and direct every state agency to address the crisis.
2. Publicly state that all fossil fuel infrastructure will be rejected , including the NTE Energy Center in Killingly and all fracked gas pipeline expansion
3. Direct all government buildings to create a plan to transition to net zero energy use or create more renewable energy than they need.
4. Make mass transit options priority one for the Department of Transportation.
5. Pressure the legislature to pass these requirements into law
…. and much more.
The question that we must ask ourselves and that Gov. Lamont should be governing by is not “Are we doing better than before?” but “Are we doing everything we can to ensure our survival?” When we look at Executive Order 3, the answer to that question is unequivocally “NO”.
Benjamin Martin is a member of the Steering Committee of 350 CT.