Time to Reevaluate State’s Role on Climate Change?

Issues & Policies

Last month, the president released what he and others have characterized as “the biggest step yet to combat climate change.”

The proposal is highly praised by environmentalists and others who believe such action by the federal government is long overdue. But others say the proposal will result in higher energy prices and a significant loss of American jobs.

While these opposing viewpoints will battle over implementation of the president’s plan for many months or longer, the proposal, ironically, has gone all but unnoticed in Connecticut.

That may seem odd as we have many interest groups, policymakers and individuals who are very concerned about climate change as well as Connecticut’s economy, jobs, and its highest-in-the-continental-United-States electricity prices.

Why the lack of fanfare?

The answer is simple–and a little jarring to those concerned about Connecticut’s economic future.

The reality is that President Obama’s aggressive climate change proposal pales in comparison to the laws, policies, and regulations Connecticut has adopted to address the issue.

For example, the president’s proposal calls for a reduction in carbon emissions from U.S. power plants to 32% below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Connecticut state law requires a total reduction in emissions of all greenhouse gases to 80% below 2001 levels by the year 2050.

State lawmakers adopted these highly aggressive climate requirements not because anyone believed a reduction in Connecticut’s emissions would have any impact on global climate trends.

Rather, policymakers wanted to position Connecticut as a leader on climate issues to spur action by other states and the federal government, and to position ourselves to take advantage of federal legislation or regulations likely to be passed within the first two decades of the 21st century.

These goals have been achieved, to the credit of their supporters. Other states and the federal government have adopted measures designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and, under the president’s plan, Connecticut would get credit for the emission reductions already achieved. Additionally, a global climate agreement is likely coming this fall from an international gathering in Paris.

In light of these accomplishments, it is timely for Connecticut to consider whether it makes better scientific and economic sense to align our laws, regulations, and policies with national and global commitments.

If not, Connecticut policymakers should explain how existing and any additional actions that exceed national and global commitments would improve our economy, create net job growth, affect our highest-inthe-nation (outside of Hawaii) electricity costs, and impact global climate.

CBIA believes this is a public policy issue worthy of thoughtful, constructive public discussion.

On September 18, businesses, policymakers and others will have an excellent opportunity to gain perspective on this and related matters when Yale professor and former DEEP commissioner Dan Esty delivers a keynote address at the CBIA Energy and Environment Council (E2) annual fall meeting.

Esty has been providing advice to the U.S. State Department, the French government, and the Secretariat to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change  (UNFCCC) with regard to options and opportunities for the new climate change agreement that is expected to be concluded at the UNFCCC conference of the parties (COP) in December in Paris.


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