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A Gathering for Clean Energy Task Forces and their Allies

As the reality of climate change comes home to Connecticut’s communities, so does the need for bolder and more imaginative responses: a speedier shift to clean energy and greater resilience to the stresses of a changing climate. State policy and resources can help. But leadership must also come from our cities, towns and villages — the places we have to protect and the source of political will.

Connecticut’s initial response to climate change, the Global Warming Solutions Act, was a visionary public policy. But Climate Action 2.0 calls for more than policy. We need a groundswell of local creativity, a movement of innovators who can scale up clean energy and create a resilient built environment in which all our people can prosper. 26 local Clean Energy Task Force representatives gathered in Wallingford on July 18 with state and issue experts to identify new opportunities. Thanks to videographer John Hartwell, most of the presentations are available online:

Opening remarks by Clean Water Action’s Melissa Everett addressed the important role of local initiatives in “cities, towns and villages that are small enough to touch but big enough to matter” and where local government and neighborhood-scale actions can truly connect citizens to the larger policy agenda.  She pointed to research that people can assimilate the challenge of climate change in groups rather than in isolation, and noted that well led small groups like Clean Energy Task Forces have been the anchor of many social change movements with the dynamism needed today.

A panel on state policy and programs laid out Connecticut’s historic and current efforts including deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions targeted by 2050, and the importance of transportation and land use – and therefore lifestyle and livable communities in this picture.  Click to Download PPP slides for Jeff Howard, Rebecca French, and Bill Dornbos.

Architect and holistic planning consultant Don Watson – a subject matter advisor to FEMA – framed the local opportunity to upgrade standards, codes and plans to protect public health and safety as local governments are required by law to do.

After a working lunch, we wrapped up the day with a focus on innovative approaches to governance that bring together public and private interests and drive continuous improvement.  Mimi Cedrone of the Institute for Sustainable Energy attended the annual conference of one such model, Sustainable Jersey. She reported – and inspired broad interest in learning more. (Click to download her presentation)

Our day of learning and exploration gave rise to useful, shared ideas for action, starting with communities’ needs and what local partnerships can offer.

Local needs:  clear, current, detailed info on state programs and their changes, and the opportunity to work as an equal partner with state agencies in developing next-gen programs;  data management and financial analysis tools (making the business case for innovative practices);  

Local assets:  knowledgeable, experienced skilled volunteers; on-the-ground opportunities for clean energy & green infrastructure; political support/ cover and reality checking for new ideas. Institutions and agencies with mandates to act (code enforcement, schools, more). 

Here is a short summary of ideas generated in the final discussion, clustered thematically.  

Program

9:30 – 10:00 Registration and Networking

10:00 Welcome, Introductions, Opening Remarks by Melissa Everett,
CT Energy Program Manager, Clean Water Action “Climate Action 2.0:  Why Communities are More Important than Ever”

10:30 – 11:30 Connecticut at a Crossroads – Panel and Discussion

11:30 – 12:15 BREAKOUT GROUPS and short break:  What kinds of support do communities need? What do local communities bring to the table?   How can state and local efforts align?

12:15 – 12:45 Donald Watson, FAIA   “Community Planning for Resilience”
Don Watson is an architect, FEMA subject matter expert, author of Design for Flooding, and a unique voice for participatory planning in the face of climate change.

12:45 – 1:30 Lunch buffet and table discussions
Micro-grids ….   Geothermal……    Energy planning…  Adaptation funding… Legislative strategy… linking resilience and economic revitalization…

1:30 Collaboration and Governance: The Sustainable Jersey Model  
Mimi Cedrone, Institute for Sustainable Energy
Mimi recently attended the annual conference of Sustainable Jersey (.org) a highly successful statewide membership organization providing incentives, technical assistance and grants to member municipalities.   

2:00 Where from Here?  Wrapup discussion

Click here to read Clean Water Action CT's comments to the Governor’s Council on Climate Change.

Click here to learn more about the Governor’s Climate Change Council.

>> Climate Action 2.0 Program