EAST HARTFORD -- To figure out the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Connecticut could take a look at what's happening on the other side of its borders.

Panelists at an environmental forum this week suggested the state consider adopting some of the successful emissions-curbing programs in New York and Massachusetts to achieve its own climate goals.

Connecticut has until 2020 to get greenhouse gas levels down to 10 percent below what the state was emitting in 1990, and has until 2050 to reduce emissions by 75 percent to 85 percent below 2001 levels, per an act passed by the state Legislature in 2008. The state Department of Environmental Protection has until the end of the month to recommend strategies the state could use to reach those goals.

Some of the programs in use by neighboring states include revolving loan funds, energy disclosure policies and cutting vehicle miles traveled in the state.

Tina Halfpenny, the director of efficiency for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, said the state has one of the most ambitious plans in the country for reducing emissions. The department is charged with reducing gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. The initiative requires a $2 billion investment, but will gross $6 billion in benefits, Halfpenny said.

The gas utility companies in Massachusetts agreed to reduce their sales by 1.6 percent in 2012, while electric energy utilities agreed to reduce their sales by 2.4 percent. Because Massachusetts has decoupled energy sales from profits, the companies don't risk losing revenue. Connecticut has not decoupled utilities yet, but there are other models the state could use, Halfpenny said. The state could enact performance incentives or allow utilities to file for loss-based revenues, meaning they could get a portion of the energy savings back.

New York, meanwhile, has spurred energy efficient development by setting up a revolving loan fund and establishing creative ways for people to pay back those loans. The state budgeted $51 million for the fund.

New York also has an energy disclosure policy on the books for buildings and Massachusetts is piloting one.

The policy is similar to a nutrition label found on foods, except it discloses the energy consumption rates of a building, home or apartment. Most energy efficiency programs focus on new construction, but existing buildings account for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, said Carolyn Sarno, senior project manager for the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. A disclosure program would help future tenants make more educated decisions about whether they could afford to live in a particular place, and would give landlords and home sellers incentives to upgrade their homes, Sarno said.

Another crucial component to cutting down greenhouse gas emissions would be cutting the total vehicle miles traveled in the state, said David Kooris, vice president of the Regional Plan Association. New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania all have vehicle miles traveled per capita rates that are lower than Connecticut's.

Contact Vinti Singh at 203-330-6285 or vsingh@ctpost.com. Follow Vinti at Twitter.com/vintisingh