RACE on Paris Climate Accord: Responsibility shifts to local level

Protecting the environment is a local responsibility — now more than ever — because the federal government won’t do it.

That’s the consensus from the Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord last week.

“What Trump’s done puts more emphasis on people to act responsibly and convey the benefits of doing the right thing,” said co-chair of Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment (RACE) Rob Freeman.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now; it just means people have to do more to convey the reasons why we should be more responsible at a local level.”

Freeman said that despite greenhouse gas emissions being linked to climate change, the country remains split on the subject.

“I think that the country has a very bifurcated belief system about what people think it’s real or fact based,” he told The Press last week.

“I think that the science indicates that climate change is real…

“I couldn’t tell you why greenhouse gas emission levels are impacting the ozone layer from a scientific perspective, but you assume it’s manmade — why wouldn’t you do something to affect that in a positive way?”

Dedication to conservation

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said local conservation and efficiency efforts are not subsiding.

“We will still continue to do what we feel is best as a municipality,” Marconi said Monday, June 5. “And that kind of a decision [pulling out of Paris accord] hopefully won’t impact us in terms of what we’re able to do here.”

Marconi wrote a letter to appeal to the state not to repurpose the funds Ridgefield receives for energy efficiency.

"Ridgefield has been able to make great progress in its energy management, thanks in large part to the proper use of those dedicated-to-energy revenues over the years,” said Patrice Gillespie, municipal outreach coordinator for SustainableCT Energy Network Program, which is part of Connecticut’s Clean Water Fund.

“And Ridgefield is within reach of earning another two Bright Ideas Grants from Eversource, amounting to $20,000. If the RGGI funds and the Energy Efficiency Fund itself are redirected, those hard-won grants are not the only benefits that Ridgefield stands to lose.”

Marconi said the Paris Climate Accord and the state’s decision to redirect funds are not related, but the money has contributed to meaningful contributions in the past.

“This is a sort of a double whammy from above,” said RACE member Ben Oko. “Both the federal government and the state government — for very different reasons — are withdrawing support form carbon emission and energy efficiency programs.”

Money saver?

Conserving energy not only protects the environment, but it saves money long term, according to Marconi.

“The efficiencies that we have created have allowed us to reduce the costs of operating our buildings — that’s the biggest cost savings that we’ve seen,” he said.

“These programs are vital and important, in the long run we’ll save a lot more money — they’re [state] stepping over $20 bills to pick up pennies.”

Freeman disagrees with President Trump’s economic reasons to pull out of the agreement.

“The larger implications of what Trump is doing makes us be more thoughtful and puts more emphasis on the business community and the people who believe in acting responsibly regarding climate change,” he said.

“And double down on their efforts to make people understand that sustainable behavior and energy efficiency green building — that type of investment in sustainability has a real return of investment and makes business sense.”

RACE

Oko said that the committee has been working on a solar energy campaign this year.

“One of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions is how we heat our houses,” he said.

“Trying to get solar into your house is a big help in making your home more energy efficient.”

The committee has a new website — www.racefortheearth.org — that has solar energy campaign information, and will soon have more resources for environmentally-conscious residents to access.

“RACE has been around for a number of years, but it hasn’t been very active until recently and I think that the actions that RACE is now taking are potentially very good for Ridgefield,” said Oko.

The commission is also pushing for residents to upgrade their weather stripping and lightbulbs as well as have their homes checked to develop a working plan to make it more energy efficient.

“This program has also been around for a while,” he said.

“We’re trying to get people to look again to have this done,” he added.