GREENWICH, CT — After weeks of debate, the Greenwich Board of Selectmen approved a climate change resolution at last week’s selectmen meeting.
What originally started out as a proposal from student activists to declare a climate change emergency in town, morphed into a compromise between that proposal and another one submitted by resident and Board of Estimate and Taxation member Harry Fisher.
“I think that the product that we finished with was actually stronger than the one we originally had. I really thank everybody who collaborated and was involved in the process,” said Isabelle Harper at last week’s meeting. Harper is a recent graduate of Greenwich High School, and first brought forward the resolution several weeks ago.
“I think this is going to be a really good thing for the town and it’s going to build upon all of the things the town has been doing to help the environment and to help the people, because the environment and people are interconnected,” Harper added.
There had been debate in recent weeks about the word “emergency” in the resolution, so it was ultimately removed entirely. Critics said declaring a climate change emergency could bring about unwanted mandates from the state and federal level.
There was also debate about whether certain goals in the resolution were doable for the town.
The final resolution points out that there have been 14 extreme weather events in the state of Connecticut since 2012 that have resulted in an estimated $16 to $24 billion in flood damage.
The resolution says that Greenwich “will continue to prioritize, considering other town priorities and policies, ways to advance sustainability and climate resilience whenever town departments develop future departmental priorities, policies, plans, budgets and actions, and that the board of selectmen hereby encourages town bodies to do the same.”
The resolution outlines goals for the town in which it would develop a sustainability and climate resilience plan by December 2023.
The plan may include different strategies involving 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 climate.”
Two tweaks were made to the language of the resolution last week before the final vote.
First Selectman Fred Camillo and Selectwoman Lauren Rabin voted yes to remove the word “shall” and replace it with “may” in the resolved clause about the climate resiliency plan because they felt it was too binding; Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan voted against.
The board unanimously approved a typographical change by deleting an extra “and.”
Camillo thanked everyone for working on the resolution and coming to a compromise that satisfies all parties involved.
“We think this is a good blueprint for the town,” Camillo said. “People on both sides of this issue had a say in it. I think this shows that the town takes the environment very, very seriously, that we can lead, but we can do so responsibly and make it local.”
Camillo said he’s open to having other boards and commissions look at the resolution, too.
“They might see something we don’t see. They might make it even better,” he said.
McGuigan applauded the student activists for their work.
“You have modeled what a very productive and constructive grassroots effort can do,” she said. “It might not be everything a climate activist would want but it is still a really, really good outcome for our environment.”
Greenwich resident and current UConn student Nicole Freitas, who is also an intern at Save The Sound, spoke briefly during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I’m really grateful as a young student and a resident and an admirer of nature for you guys voting yes on the resolution and supporting climate action,” Freitas said. “I urge you guys to continue supporting climate action, because of course, the future of Greenwich is in your hands.”