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After a year of climate records, CT lawmakers push for action: 'We're just running out of time'

A Department of Transportation worker clears debris in the median of Route 15 after the highway flooded during rainstorms in Meriden, Connecticut on December 18, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A Department of Transportation worker clears debris in the median of Route 15 after the highway flooded during rainstorms in Meriden, Connecticut on December 18, 2023.

With just a month left in Connecticut’s legislative session and the failure to pass major climate legislation last year still fresh, lawmakers are advocating for a wide-ranging proposal to combat climate change.

The Connecticut Climate Protection Act of 2024 has over 20 parts. The omnibus bill would declare a climate crisis in Connecticut, which helps the state get federal funds for emissions-reducing action. The proposal would also update the state’s emission targets to be net-zero by 2050, invest in energy efficient buildings and push for climate change mitigation.

Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, spearheaded the bill, and said it also includes incentives for businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable practices.

The proposal is more all encompassing and stronger than last session's versions, Palm said. “This is not a bill to punish people for doing the wrong thing — it's to incentivize them to do the right thing.”

This latest push for climate action comes on the heels of the planet’s warmest season on record, and after a year of record high temperatures globally. All while Connecticut experienced a year of public health risks tied to an increasingly warmer climate — from heat waves to poor air quality from Canadian wildfires and flooding amid record rainfall.

The measure passed out of the Environment Committee and was unanimously split along party lines. Republican committee members cited concern over how it would impact energy demand and costs, the CT Examiner reported.

In public testimony, the Yankee institute called the bill a “government overreaction” to climate change that would raise taxes.

“And there is the ugly truth, expressed often behind the closed doors of climate activism, but rarely in public: To make climate change the state’s primary focus, we’ll have to be willing to sacrifice lower-income residents to this brave new carbon-free world,” said David Flemming, director of policy and research at Yankee Institute.

According to Palm, the Office of Fiscal Analysis is assessing the bill's potential cost. She said the proposal would next go to the House floor for further consideration.

Palm spoke with lawmakers at a press conference Wednesday to call for its approval this session — along with a separate bill to expand solar and another to examine electric vehicle infrastructure.

“We are talking about catastrophic events if we don't intervene now,” State Sen. Dr. Saud Anwar said. So anyone who says it is not the right time, there is never a better time.”

The General Assembly is in session until May 8.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.