A temperature change projection for Connecticut by CT DEEP. CT DEEP

Our state has set commendable, ambitious targets to do our part in addressing climate change, but our ability to achieve these goals may come down to what happens in this legislative session.

SB 1145, An Act Concerning the Establishment of Sector Specific Subtargets For Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions, would provide the necessary tools for our state to achieve the climate goals we have already set. Legislators must make its passage—this session— a priority.

Connecticut residents support —and expect— strong action on climate. A recent survey showed that 88% of Connecticut voters think that climate change is either a problem or a crisis, and large majorities support plans to transition to zero-carbon electricity and net-zero emissions by 2050. Connecticut voters are eager for the state government to take bold action to address climate change.

In many ways, our government has delivered on these expectations. Major milestones include passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008 and last year’s approval of a 100% zero-carbon electricity supply bill and the Connecticut Clean Air Act. Our state produces key reports like the comprehensive energy strategy and the integrated resources plan to help us understand where we are and produce insight into how we might move forward.

But we are falling short of our goals. The most recent Connecticut inventory of statewide greenhouse gas emissions indicates that we are not on track to meet our 2030 and 2050 emissions targets. Despite all our success in setting important goals, there are tangible actions that must be taken if we are going to reach them.

Fortunately, SB 1145 would help address this shortfall by making significant improvements to the Global Warming Solutions Act and helping set a clear path for how we are going to decarbonize.

Once we have an in-depth understanding of the actions needed, we must empower ourselves to take those actions. In Connecticut, that means our state agencies, particularly the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), must have at least a minimum of authority to act. Without that authority we have goals but no means of achieving them. We have ambition but are keeping our hands tied behind our back. SB 1145 would finally address this critical missing part of the Global Warming Solutions Act. Our legislature isn’t equipped to take the day-to-day actions needed to implement climate policy, but DEEP can. Until DEEP can get to work, though, we will continue to see Connecticut failing to meet its climate commitments.

To be clear, any regulatory measures proposed by DEEP would still need to be approved by the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee. Importantly, the state legislature remains in a position to oversee and assure that DEEP actions are appropriate and conform to the will of the people.

The bill is also critical because it would establish sector-specific sub-targets that will significantly advance the in-depth climate planning we need for a clear path to climate goals, while also helping to enable the significant economic opportunities that climate transition offers. In addition, such planning will help identify the lowest cost and highest reliability power supply options. SB 1145 also recognizes, for the first time, the importance of natural and working lands and negative emissions from carbon capture in our climate accounting.

Opponents are painting the bill as a risky measure, throwing out absurd fantasies about the state banning livestock or sending big government goons to seize our kitchen appliances. These objections are offered in bad faith and should be treated as such. In truth, these actions are tried and tested. Indeed, our neighbors have already undertaken similar measures. Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have all recently updated their climate laws to adopt more stringent targets, establish greater accountability, and provide mechanisms for enforcing their laws. We are simply asking the legislature to deliver the tools required to meet the goals they have already set.

The most recent report issued by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reminds us that our planet’s ecosystems have already endured substantial damage and increasingly irreversible losses. As climate change continues to worsen, the effectiveness of our adaptation strategies becomes increasingly limited. Any future where we limit warming to either 1.5° or 2°C —the levels needed to avoid sustained catastrophic impacts —requires immediate action.

It’s now or never. Connecticut voters want our state to do our part in this global endeavor, and now it’s up to our legislators to deliver for their constituents, the state, and our planet. Pass SB 1145.

Nathan Frohling is Director of External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.