A sudden climate change—unseasonably warm weather turned seasonally cold—drove supporters of an updated climate plan for New Haven from rallying on the steps of City Hall to under the steps indoors.
Members of more than 30 organizations that fight for causes ranging from the environment to peace gathered there Wednesday to call on Mayor Toni Harp’s administration to update the city’s climate action plan, which was last written in 2004.
They delivered a letter to Harp’s office. It was accepted by staffer Maya Welfare, who said that the mayor was out of town at conference.
Shannon Laun (pictured), climate and energy attorney for the New Haven-based Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said as a major city in the state, New Haven should be a leader in helping Connecticut achieve its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 80 percent by 2050.
“We’re calling on Mayor Harp to update the city’s climate plan and start implementing strategies to reduce greenhouse gases,” Laun said. “They city’s current plan is from 2004 and at this point it is badly outdated.”
Laun said the time is ripe for the city to act given the changes in technology, science and policy around climate since the last plan was written. It also appears to be a good time politically given the recent internal climate-change agreement reached in Paris and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Council on Climate Change upcoming release of strategies to help the state reach its 2050 emissions reduction goals by July.
Rabbi Josh Ratner (pictured), director of the Jewish Community Relations Council and a member of the steering committee for the Connecticut Rountable on Climate and Jobs, said political will on climate change makes a difference.
“I believe that climate change is a moral crisis that requires a political response,” he said. “As a Jew, I take seriously the Biblical command in Genesis that we are to act as stewards of the environment. The natural world is not a resource for us to exploit, but it’s a treasure for us to guard and protect.”
Ratner said that the environment is sometimes pitted against development in government decisions. In response, he pointed to a study released by the roundtable last fall refuting that notion.
“We can protect our planet, combat global warming, and grow our economy through creating jobs,” Ratner said. As the governor’s council prepares a new climate change action plan ... [its] stated goal is not only feasible but could strengthen the economy in the process. By pushing an aggressive climate protection plan, we could save consumers money on electricity, heating and transportation costs, while creating 6,000 more jobs.”
Lee Grannis, coordinator for the Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition Inc., called transportation the largest contributor to air pollution in the state. New Haven government could play a strong role in changing that by moving its fleet toward more alternative fuel vehicles, he said. “Now, it is time to put our efforts behind medium duty to heavy duty vehicles where we can get major greenhouse gas reductions.”
New Haven government has for years been implementing environmental initiatives such as solar roofs and fuel cells. Kelly Kennedy, executive director of Bike Walk Connecticut, said the city is ahead of the curve when it comes to active transportation because it is the leading city in the state in terms of the number of people who bike to work. She praised the city’s goNewHavengo project, which encourages people to walk, bike and use public transportation. (Read about that project’s results here.)
“Keep thinking outside the car,” Kennedy urged. “Continue to identify biking and walking as part of the city’s strategy for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.”