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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mayor supports carbon cap

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Mayor John DeStefano Jr. joined environmentalists Tuesday in calling for a statewide carbon cap to combat global warming.
At a press conference Tuesday morning at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School, amidst tanks of turtles, salmon eggs, dangling inflatable planets and student cutouts of giant feet depicting carbon footprints, city leaders and environmental activists claimed cities and states must take the lead on global warming while Congress remains inactive.
"While Congress has barely begun to debate these issues, cities and states are rolling up their sleeves to get the job done," said Chris Phelps, program director for Environment Connecticut.
Six state environmental organizations have joined forces on a push to pass legislation to cut emissions in the state to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050.
According to Connecticut Fund for the Environment staff attorney Charles Rothenberger, emissions levels are difficult to measure, but the state estimates 44 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents were produced in 1990. By 2001, just over 46 million metric tons were produced statewide.
The agencies have been on a statewide tour pushing policies that would help achieve the targeted reduction in those numbers, including energy-efficient building codes, promotion of biofuel, use of energy-efficient appliances, and expansion of passenger and freight railways.
The plan also calls on the state to evaluate the impact climate change may make on state infrastructure and the environment.
"When we started this, we thought this was a big ask," said Jessie Stratton, director of Government Relations for Environment Northeast.
But response from state leaders has been unexpectedly positive, she said. "This is the time," she said.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s environmental plan, released in September 2006, calls for a 20 percent reduction by 2020 in peak electricity use and fossil fuel consumption, while pushing use of alternative fuels, renewable resources, and energy efficient technology.
Rell spokesman Rich Harris said he was unfamiliar with the specific plan presented Tuesday, but said Rell has "certainly been a strong advocate for lowering greenhouse gas emission."
With no federal commitment to reduce carbon emissions, states and cities like New Haven have taken independent action, DeStefano said, noting Barnard School had the largest solar panel display statewide when it opened in 2006.
While the city has encouraged "green building" in its latest school construction projects, early projects were "not as sensitive," DeStefano said, adding the city plans to return to those buildings to improve efficiency.
"New Haven is already ahead of the curve. This is more about establishing a cap that would apply to our entire state," said Phelps.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or at ebenton@nhregister.com.

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