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Vermont Climate Council gathers BIPOC input for Climate Action Plan

Vermont view from Mt. Philo
Pat Bradley
Vermont view from Mt. Philo

The Vermont Climate Action Council has been holding a series of public engagement events to receive input on a draft Climate Action Plan. Recent meetings included general public input and one that focused on BIPOC communities.

In 2020 the Vermont Legislature passed Act 153, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which set state goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It created a Climate Council charged with implementing a Climate Action Plan. The council and its five subcommittees have been holding a series of public meetings, both in person and virtual, to gather public input.

A public engagement session this month included consultants from Climate Access, a nonprofit that is working with the council to develop the climate plan. Executive Director Cara Pike explained they will, along with another consulting firm, summarize the information that is gathered.

“That will be shared in a report back to the Climate Council and subcommittees for consideration as they are moving forward to put together the initial Vermont Climate Action Plan by December 1st.”

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Director of Global Warming Solutions Act Jane Lazorchak says the state is trying to do something it has never done before.

“We are trying to not only speak to the what that needs to be done but also the how, the actions that are needed to get us there. This is all done within a comprehensive look at how to make this transition equitably, to put frontline and impacted communities first in this transition. And that just takes time. And the way we want to engage with Vermonters also takes time. And we’re thinking about this really in a co-creation process.”

Rise Consulting is also aiding the Climate Council. The firm specializes in creating inclusive and equitable strategies.

A virtual session focused on gathering input from BIPOC, or Black, Indigenous and People of Color, was initially postponed due to internet security concerns. The rescheduled meeting echoed some common interests but focused on the plan’s potential impact on underserved communities. Ana Mejia is concerned about where the plan’s priority action investments will occur.

“Even if you look at like affordable housing, if you look at working lands, those investments aren’t trickling down to our community. We see a lot of hoarding of the benefits that is associated with these investments," said Mejia. "So I had a thought for affordable housing, making sure that there are allocations for the BIPOC community. And also, this is linked to the working lands, but if there’s going to be incentives to ag making sure that they provide affordable housing and actually safe, sanitary housing for farmworkers. I want to make sure whatever investments we’re making that they actually benefit our community, that they are equitably distributed.”

Indigenous resident Randy Kritkausky expressed numerous concerns and worried there is a high probability that the Climate Action Plan will not be implemented.

“What is Plan B for Vermont if this plan cannot be implemented as the Legislature demands that it be implemented on the timeline? How is that plan going to deal the differential impacts of failure on different communities including the BIPOC?," asks Kritkausky. "In 20 or 25 years we’re not going to cease carbon emissions. It’s going to take us that long to rebuild the grid! So this ain’t gonna happen the way it’s being planned. And this canary is saying hey I smell something foul, well intended but foul, and it ain’t gonna materialize the way it’s being outlined.”

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