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Coalition reviews Vermont’s actions towards meeting climate goals

WAMC/Pat Bradley
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The recently released annual United Nation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletinreports that the three main greenhouse gases reached new record highs in 2021. The UN’s World Meteorological Organization warns that the use of clean energy must double within eight years in order to limit the rise of global temperatures.

Vermont passed a Global Warming Solutions Act in 2020 and subsequently formed a Climate Council to direct efforts to meet emission reduction goals. Vermont’s Act on Climate Coalition held a recent webinar to detail the progress and failures so far.

The coalition is comprised of more than 30 Vermont organizations working to ensure the policies in the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act are implemented. The Vermont Natural Resources Council coordinated the webinar to provide an update on policy development and implementation of climate action in the state.

Vermont Conservation Voters Executive Director Lauren Hierl provided a background.

“In December 2021, the state adopted its first ever statutorily required Climate Action Plan," noted Hierl. "A number of aspects of that plan are moving forward. Notably last year, lawmakers invested historic sums in climate initiatives including municipal energy resilience, weatherization programs, electric vehicle incentives and lots more. Meanwhile the federal government passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act which finally makes serious federal funding available to Vermonters to access clean energy technologies.”

Energy Action Network Executive Director Jerrod Duval gave an overview of its 2022 annual progress reportfor Vermont.

“The Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2020 and one of the things that that act did was struck the word ‘goals’ around emissions reduction and replaced it with the word ‘requirements’ and now Vermont has legally binding emissions reduction requirements that shall be met," explained Duval. "This year’s report shows that we are not currently on track to meet the emissions reduction requirements for 2030. The main reason for that is that many of the key policy recommendations that were in the Climate Action Plan have failed to advance.”

Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy and Climate Program Director Johanna Miller, a member of the Vermont Climate Council, reviewed efforts to reduce emissions in the transportation sector. She noted that public engagement is occurring in some areas at the same time the Agency of Transportation is developing a required carbon reduction plan.

“They’ve hired a consultant to work with them to examine existing programs, the sort of impact and efficacy and the cost effectiveness of different programs but also to deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions," reported Miller. "So that is an important piece of work that is underway at VTrans. And additionally through that work they are also looking to examine other potential policy and regulatory approaches. Ideally that will be a very important foundation. We want to see transformation in the transportation sector to get people where they need to go cleaner, more efficiently and through more multi-modal options.”

State Representative Kathleen James, a Bennington Democrat and member of the Legislative Climate Solutions Caucus, reviewed last session’s environmental actions.

“Last year we did get some good work done," racalled James. "We did pass an environmental justice bill. We allocated significant amounts of funding to weatherization. And then in the annual transportation budget we fund programs to help low- and moderate-income Vermonters purchase electric vehicles or more fuel efficient cars. So we got some stuff done. But we also had some very serious setbacks. The governor vetoed the Clean Heat Standard and our attempt to override this veto failed by a single vote. This was from my point of view a really serious setback to Vermont achieving its climate goals.”

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