Legislature fiddles while Connecticut’s carbon dioxide levels rise

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The future of Connecticut’s environment is in jeopardy.

For years, Connecticut residents breathed easy knowing our state was leading the way toward a greener, more climate-resilient world. Carbon dioxide emissions were dropping across the state year after year, and Gov. Dannel Malloy had committed to continuing this trend through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Unfortunately, all the progress we made over the last decade has been compromised. A new report published by the Acadia Center shows that carbon dioxide emissions in Connecticut climbed roughly 4.4 percent since 2012. This figure doesn’t just represent a significant spike in carbon dioxide levels and a major threat to our state’s environment. By breaking Connecticut’s eight-year streak of reduced emissions, this chilling new data signifies the end of an era.

How did this happen? Connecticut’s environmental champions certainly haven’t let down our guard – we’ve kept fighting for a cleaner future, and have supported Gov. Malloy’s efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gases by 2020.

Instead, the Acadia Center suggests that the modes of transportation we use, including cars and jet planes, are to blame for rising emissions. While the need to slash emissions from the transportation sector has long been known, progress has been slow. Some improvements were made this past legislative session, but critical components of a sustainable transportation future were blocked, despite widespread public support.

After two years of effort by Connecticut Fund for the Environment and others in the Connecticut Electric Vehicle Coalition, important policies to spur electric vehicle sales and expand charging infrastructure were created through state investment and the passage of House Bill 5510. But sadly, if potential customers want to purchase an electric car from Tesla, they are forced to go out of state to get these clean vehicles.

Why? Because instead of choosing to expand access to electric vehicles, this year Connecticut decided to shelve Senate Bill 3, which would have allowed manufacturers of electric vehicles, like Tesla, to sell these clean cars directly to consumers.

This bill would have helped our state progress toward its climate goals by encouraging drivers to choose eco-friendly modes of transportation, reducing our state’s dependency on gasoline-fueled vehicles, and shrinking our greenhouse gas emissions. By allowing Tesla to open stores in Connecticut, the bill also would have created jobs and revenue, boosting the state’s economy.

We can’t afford to make this same error again. Time is of the essence: the Acadia Center estimates that carbon dioxide emissions for 2015 will be even higher than previous years, meaning things will only get worse if the state doesn’t take swift action.

Leaders like Gov. Malloy, environmental watchdogs like us, sustainable companies like Tesla, and members of the community want to change the status quo in our state and protect Connecticut’s environment for future generations. If state legislators are willing to come to the table and work with us, together we can get Connecticut back on track to meet its climate goals and embrace a clean transportation future.

Don Strait is President of Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

 

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