On Thursday morning the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve a climate change resolution that commits the town to developing an action plan by December 2023.
Originally the resolution, which was drafted and presented for consideration by a group of GHS students led by the impressive Isabelle Harper from the class of 2022, included the word “emergency.”
Ultimately the word emergency was eliminated from the title, and a vote by the Selectmen was delayed more than once.
A vote was anticipated at the July 19 meeting. At that meeting, there was a lot of public comment, mostly focusing on the idea that high school children should required to take the school bus to the high school. No vote was taken.
The resolution was re-drafted during a meeting on July 21 that included input with representatives of a variety of town departments including the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Planning & Zoning Commission.
The resolution’s name was changed from a Climate Emergency Resolution to “Resolution Declaring Greenwich’s Commitment to Advance Sustainability and Climate Resiliency.”
At the last Selectmen meeting, on July 28, still no vote was taken.
The day prior to the meeting, Harry Fisher, Republican BET member acting as a private citizen submitted an alternate resolution.
Fisher said he objected to the term climate denier. “I believe that climate has been changing for thousands, hundreds of years,” he said. “The real question on the table is, how can we ever quantify the impact of humans?”
“I think it’s also important not to conflate weather and climate. Last week’s weather was just weather. Hurricanes are just weather events,” he added.
And so on Thursday, a vote was finally taken after discusson about an edit of a single word.
The resolution include a “Therefore” clause about the town adopting a Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan by December 2023.
Selectwoman Lauren Rabin made a motion change the word “shall” to “may.” (see below)
Rabin explained the reason for her motion was “For the purposes of getting it all done and not over promising and under delivering the after Dec 23.”
“that the Town of Greenwich sets forth the following goals: the development of a Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan by December 2023 that (shall) MAY include strategies in the areas of new buildings, energy efficiency, transportation, renewable energy, solid waste, water and waste water. land use, natural systems and the Town operations, to move Greenwich toward carbon neutrality and increase community resilience to a changing climate;
Republicans Mr. Camillo and Ms Rabin voted to change shall to may. Democratic Selectwoman Ms Stone McGuigan voted not to. The motion passed 2-1.
Still, the Selectmen voted 3-0 to adopt the resolution.
All three Selectmen commended the students who initiated the resolution.
“You modeled what a productive and constructive grass roots effort can do,” Stone McGuigan said. “I was thinking about the recent Schumer-Manchin compromise on the federal climate change bill, and I’d say the same: It might not be everything a climate activists would want, but it is still a really good outcome for our environment.”
First Selectman Camillo said it was rare to see adults or students reach out and talk to people with different opinions.
“That’s really what it’s about,” he said, going on to recall his time as a State Rep and how bills he proposed in Hartford were never passed the way he wrote them.
“When you work across the aisle you usually come to a better product, unless it’s jammed down people’s throats,” he said. He noted there were people who were disappointed the final resolution wasn’t strong enough, but that Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated people had all participated in the process.
“No one has a monopoly on good ideas. You exhibited great leadership,” he told the students. “Sometimes when adults were heated over it, you kept your cool.”
During public comment Isabelle Harper, the GHS class of 2022 grad, said, “I think that the product that we finished with was much stronger than the one we originally had.”
Myra Klockenbrink, a mentor to the student group, put the resolution in larger context.
“The point is that the town is doing a lot,” she said. “And think of what the town can do with a coordinated approach and a fleshed out plan directed at mitigating climate change, forestalling its worst effects and adapting to those outcomes that are unavoidable at this late date.”
“Greenwich can do all of this and step out as a leader in the state and the region in saving lives, habitats and property values, and giving people hope we can get on the other side of this crisis without bringing down our economy, our commons, or our democracy in the process. We have learned from a recent meeting with DEEP commissioner Katie Dykes that there is a lot of federal and state money available to support these actions.”
She listed numerous town initiatives to address climate change:
• The 2019 POCD emphasizes preparation for the challenges of climate change and the need to support town departments in their efforts.
• The Town hired consultants to evaluate its public properties and infrastructure vulnerability from coastal flooding and sea level rise.
• Coastal flood zones were mapped out by DPW.
• DPW elevated three drainage pumps to reduce damage during flooding events.
• DPW now requires low impact development approaches.
• Energy efficiency is being addressed in town buildings.
• A food scrap program is underway.
• A pollinator pathway resolution was passed.
• The Greenwich Tree Conservancy and Parks & Rec have planted over 500 trees in the past year.
• Parks & Rec and environmental groups have planted native wetland buffers along coastal areas to promote shoreline stabilization.
• P&Z is developing new landscaping regulations to mitigate the heat island effect, carbon sequestration and prioritizing the right kind of plant species that should be planted in specific settings.
• The Greenwich Land Trust and Conservation Commission have added 80 acres of open space to Greenwich.
• The Greenwich Greenscape Committee and Tree Conservancy are awaiting state DOT approval to plant 500 trees along the post road.
Nicole Freitas, a climate policy intern with Save the Sound, who had testified multiple times in favor of the resolution said she was grateful for the positive vote.
“My generation obviously is expected to experience extreme weather events due to anthro-progenic climate change,” she said. “We will be disproportionately affected by the gradual warming and due to that increase concentration of methane and greenhouse gas emission.”
“I do wish the resolution could have included the State’s goals to supply 100% of its electricity from zero carbon resources by 2040,” she said. “I think that bill’s intent was to recommend towns to recognize the urgency in transitioning to clean energy, and its inclusion would have increased sustainable action in Greenwich.”
“The future of Greenwich is in your hands,” Freitas added.
RESOLUTION DECLARING GREENWICH’S COMMITMENT TO ADVANCE SUSTAINABILITY AND CLIMATE RESILIENCY – Final 8/11/22
WHEREAS, the Town of Greenwich has experienced extreme weather events, including severe storms,
drought, and intense heat, which have resulted in increased risks to public health, loss of power and basic utilities, high riverine floodwaters, inland and coastal flooding; and
WHEREAS the state of Connecticut’s average annual air temperature has warmed 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century(1) ; and higher temperatures may have a direct impact on air quality and people’s health, triggering heat-related illness, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders and the higher probability of mortality; especially for our most vulnerable residents; and
WHEREAS there have been 14 extreme weather events in the state of Connecticut since 2012, including Ida, which caused an estimated $16 to $24 billion in flooding damage in the Northeastern United States, making it the costliest storm to hit the region since Hurricane Sandy in 2012(2), with an estimated $44 billion in insured loss (3); and
WHEREAS predictions by CT Institute of Resilience & Climate Adaption (CIRCA) show Connecticut sea level rise could increase 1.5 feet by 2050 and up to 3 feet by 2100, based on the level of action taken today to reduce carbon emissions.
4 Portions of coastal communities and sections of I-95, rail lines, and local airports are expected to experience tidal flooding, without storm action and over-development, due to increased sea levels
WHEREAS there are numerous national and international reports and panels that have studied the effect of climate changes on ecosystems and humans, including but not limited to the United Nations’
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP); and WHEREAS, according to the EPA climate changes are projected to increase the frequency and intensity of storms in all regions of the United States; the EPA has established a Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center; and
WHEREAS the EPA’s Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center and CT DEEP are available to assist municipalities in determining strategies for adapting to the potential impacts of climate changes, including, but not limited to, the impact of drought, storms, and flooding; and
WHEREAS local communities play a crucial role in addressing climate change as they are on the front
lines of its consequences and their actions can have a measurable impact on the region; and WHEREAS the Town has a Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) that recognizes the adverse impact of development on inland flooding; and
WHEREAS the Town of Greenwich recognizes and continues to address the challenges presented by a rapidly changing climate.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE GREENWICH BOARD OF SELECTMEN
- The existence of a rapidly changing climate which threatens the future of our natural
world upon which our community, region and country rely; and
- The Town of Greenwich will continue to prioritize, considering other Town priorities,
policies, and ways to advance sustainability and climate resiliency whenever Town
departments develop future departmental priorities, policies, plans, budgets, and actions,
and that the Board of Selectmen hereby encourages other Town bodies to do the same;
- That the Town of Greenwich sets forth the following goals: the development of a
Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan by December 2023 that may include strategies
in the areas of new buildings, energy efficiency, transportation, renewable energy, solid
waste, water and wastewater, land use, natural systems, and the Town operations, to
move Greenwich toward carbon neutrality and increase community resilience to a changing
Adopted this day of _, 2022