Nearly 30 advocacy organizations outlined a 2020 Climate Action Plan at the Vermont Statehouse this week. The groups say the proposed polices would enact critical environmental policies while strengthening Vermont’s economy.
The 2020 Climate Action Plan is based on four priority proposals: a Global Warming Solutions Act that would mandate current voluntary state emissions goals; implementing the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative; attaining 100 percent renewable energy across the state by 2030 and upgrading energy efficiency utilities and technologies.
A similar plan was put forth during the first half of the biennium. Vermont Public Interest Research Group Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Edgerly Walsh says this is broader in scope and more aligned with what needs to be accomplished. "If these four policies are actually enacted this year that really would set Vermont on track to get to our short, medium and long term climate commitments which leaders from Governor Scott on down have made very clear that they support. Now it's time for them to support the actions to actually achieve those commitments.”
Sierra Club Vermont Conservation Program Manager Robb Kidd says the coalition’s priorities are in line with the legislature’s Climate Solutions Caucus. “The Vermont legislators' Climate Solutions Caucus have been meeting every Thursday for the last number of years and they've been talking about different climate issues. So for example the Global Warming Solutions Act, the reintroduced bill, has 87 legislators who signed on to it already in the House. So the bill that has that many people supporting on it is showing the priority of getting something done right off the bat.”
Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy and Climate Program Director Johanna Miller says the four policy priorities are interconnected. “One of those priorities sets the process, the planning, and the parameters in place to ensure progress across the board. It sets the stage for action and then three other priorities that will help us innovate and reduce costs and carbon in transportation and heating and procure more renewable resources. It's a lot but it is possible and there's a lot of momentum and support for them.”
Miller says passing the policies would make a big difference for the environment. “We have 10 years collectively as a civilization to do all we need to do and Vermont has an obligation to do our part. And so far, we've done far too little. And it's our hope that these policy priorities move forward swiftly. And I think it will make a meaningful difference because everyone's got to step up and do their part.”
How much of a difference can Vermont actually make in the global climate challenge? On Wednesday NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their annual assessment of global temperatures, which found 2019 was the second warmest year since they began recording temperatures in 1880. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director Gavin Schmidt says every action that combats global warming is crucial. “These initiatives, you know, reducing our footprint on the planet, they need to be repeated in many other places and collectively, in the same way that we vote and our individual vote you might not think that that counts, but collectively our votes count. Collectively our carbon dioxide emission cuts count. And your influence is not just on the tons of carbon dioxide you didn't emit, but as a leadership role in encouraging people to see the possibilities for their cuts in the future as well.”