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Vermont’s initial Climate Action Plan approved by Climate Council

View of Vermont looking south from Mt. Philo
Pat Bradley
View of Vermont looking south from Mt. Philo

The Vermont Climate Council met on Wednesday to formally adopt the state’s initial Climate Action Plan.

In September 2020, the Vermont Legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act. It included the creation of the Vermont Climate Council, which was required to formulate and adopt an initial Climate Action Plan by December 1st, 2021.

The Climate Action Plan must address greenhouse gas emissions from certain sectors, achieve net-zero emissions across the state by 2050, encourage smart growth, and implement long-term sequestration and storage of carbon.

The first concern raised by members of the council was how any dissent, which is not included in the plan, could be filed. Moderator Consensus Building Institute Corporate Community Engagement co-director David Plumb summarized how opposing views would be included.

“Essentially what we’ve just done is in addition to a very issues-specific statement that folks could make, what we’re calling a dissent, we’re adding a second appendix that is a landing place for anybody who feels they want to explain their vote or their work more clearly. And we can call that a signing statement.”

The council had met on Monday and most of the Wednesday session was focused on clarification and finalization of changes. Plumb explained that following the presentation Council members would have at least 45 minutes to read through the 273-page plan before discussing it.

“One is we want to make sure everybody understands what’s in there. Two is if there’s an area where you’re really uncomfortable, is to say this is just not working for me I’m going to need to put a dissent in the document in that appendix that we’ve talked about. And then third is if something didn’t get edited correctly then that’s the one thing that we could actually do a quick little edit if we had to.”

After the reading break Vermont State Climatologist Dr. Lesley-Anne Dupigny-Giroux said this initial plan does not focus as strongly on the human element as it should.

“We did a great job on the built environment. We did a great job on the natural environment. But there’s some elements of climate change mitigation and how that affects and plays out for humans and in particular pieces around human health. Maybe a more concerted effort to bring the Department of Health on board or maybe some social scientists, some psychologists, who would help us.”

The plan was adopted on a 19 to 4 vote. It includes 64 strategies with more than 230 specific steps to implement the requirements in the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

Following the meeting executive branch members of the council issued a signing statement noting that no member appointed by the Scott administration “supports the overzealous process...” mandated by the legislation nor “...each and every action...” in the finalized plan.

A coalition of advocacy groups praised the adoption of the plan calling it “...a fantastic step forward."

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