Updated: Feb 18, 2022
A recent report demonstrated that despite broad public support for climate action, the Connecticut Legislature, once a leader on climate, is now behind neighboring states. 2022 is the time to act to Build a Better Connecticut and spark a healthy, equitable, resilient, and sustainable transformation of our built environment. The report identified the following common excuses for not enacting climate legislation, and I have offered my response to each and every one below.
Natural gas is essential for Connecticut.
Counterargument: Natural Gas is a fossil fuel. Combustion inside the home is dangerous and causes well documented negative health outcomes that disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. Distribution systems are incredibly leaky and methane is a strong greenhouse gas. Many natural gas leaks occur at the meter and inside the home. We must stop new gas infrastructure and have a plan for phasing out gas over the long term.
Climate legislation will disproportionately hurt low-income residents.
Counterargument: Climate change is already disproportionately hurting low-income communities. CT has the highest energy costs in the nation, and one of the highest levels of energy burden which means that low-income residents require assistance from the State to afford their energy bills. Energy efficiency lowers energy costs for low-income residents, and clean energy creates better air quality for disadvantaged communities that already have higher rates of asthma and other health impacts related to air pollution. The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority already recognizes the benefits of energy efficiency for low-income residents and requires funded affordable housing projects to achieve Energy Star Certification and gives additional points for even higher levels of efficiency. We also have the opportunity to fund a just transition that prioritizes training low-income residents for green jobs that are already available and in high demand, like the successful workforce training program run by Efficiency for All that includes wraparound services, compensates students, and immediately places them in good paying jobs.
Carbon pricing is just another tax.
Counterargument: What is the cost we pay for not taking action? Higher insurance rates related to flooding, damaged property, and more immediately the health impact costs related to air pollution. RMI estimated that in 2017 in the State of Connecticut the combustion of fossil fuels within buildings led to 318 premature deaths and $3.567 billion in health impact costs.
Connecticut is too small to matter.
Counterargument: We have a long coastline and billions of dollars worth of property at risk of rising sea levels. We have been a climate leader before with the first in the nation CT Green Bank, and we can work with our neighboring states to have a larger impact. Reducing air pollution in the State has immediate health benefits. Inaction is causing a brain drain with climate motivated young professionals going elsewhere. Climate-conscious developers are taking their business elsewhere as well. Climate action inspires innovation which leads to economic development.
Renewable and EV bills are unrealistic and unfair
Counterargument: I own an EV, and it is awesome! I don't have to go to a gas station or get the oil changed, and it has a lower total cost of ownership. We need to create plans to transition towards a renewable economy. It can't happen overnight, but we can set the plans in motion so business and industry know how to respond. The technology exists today to make the transition. We just need the political will to transition away from fossil fuels.
Connecticut will appear extreme and anti-business.
Counterargument: All of our neighboring states are doing more to address the climate crisis, and they have not experienced downturns in economic development. In fact, inaction is causing a business crisis in our state with professionals leaving to find career inspiration elsewhere. CT is a desirable place to be, and our policies should be attracting talent here, instead of appeasing those that want to maintain a status quo that does not serve the health or long-term financial stability of our residents.
Voluntary efforts only, please! (meaning no regulations, only incentives)
Counterargument: The incentives have been wildly successful, but not enough to meet our climate targets or to meaningfully improve the quality of life for disadvantaged communities. Incentives require effort to utilize, and mostly businesses that already have resources are the ones benefiting. Energy efficiency affects health and wellbeing, not just of the building occupants but of the entire community. Early adopters have shown that energy efficiency can be profitable and leads to a lower cost of ownership. Now policy is required to capture slow adopters who would prefer to maintain the status quo rather than transition to the most current and best practices that achieve positive outcomes for themselves and their communities.
We should not go first.
Counterargument: We wouldn't be. Climate action is sweeping over the nation. There are may precedents from other jurisdictions to be inspired by. See the featured precedents for the Build Better CT Platform.
We are already leaders.
Counterargument: Not any more. Other jurisdictions are passing much more progressive climate legislation. We can follow their lead.
The good news is that the legislature has the power to make a big difference. The Governor’s latest Executive Order 21-3 puts building strategies upfront, but it is only a starting point. The legislative priorities for a stretch code and mandatory energy labeling do not have a high price tag, and their benefits will be substantial. The Connecticut Green Building Council looks forward to working closely with Legislators and others to help develop, pass, and implement these smart, future-oriented initiatives successfully.