Democratic Congressman Peter Welch was the keynote speaker to close out the recent Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network annual conference.
The Action Network, commonly referred to as VECAN, describes itself as “the network of over 100 Vermont town energy committees and the organizations that support them.” The groups and network work on energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction and production of in-state renewable energy.
The network’s 13th annual conference was held virtually this year and the agenda included a review of climate action opportunities, the status of solar, weatherization and transportation opportunities and energy equity.
On the last day of the conference keynote speaker Congressman Peter Welch expressed optimism that there will be a marked change in energy and environmental policy when President-elect Joseph Biden is sworn in. “We’re going to have a new energy policy and that new energy policy is going to have the full backing of the President. And it is going to be to accelerate as quickly and as comprehensively as we can the existential challenge we have to bring down carbon emissions to zero and to move to a clean energy economy. I mean it’s breathtaking what it means to go from a person who was a denier that climate change exists to a person who’s going to have the most ambitious climate action policy of our lifetime. And it’s overdue.”
Welch is pleased that Biden has appointed John Kerry to a new cabinet position as special presidential envoy for climate. “By having been the former Secretary of State he’s really in a position to cooperate with other countries and we need cooperation globally in order to have the huge impact on reducing carbon emissions that we all know we need. We’re at least going to have some wind at our back on doing everything that we possibly can as quick as we can to address climate change.”
Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy & Climate Action Program Director Johanna Miller coordinates VECAN’s town energy committees. She fielded questions for Congressman Welch submitted by those attending the conference. “There are lots of questions related to weatherization. We know weatherization saves people money. It reduces energy burden. It puts people to work. What does the landscape look like from your perspective in potentially getting dollars into Vermonters’ hands and low income Vermonters in particular?”
Welch: “Well, the Biden administration has made a specific commitment to try to tighten up and make energy efficient 4,000 homes, pardon me four million, and do weatherization of two million homes. Obviously very very substantial particularly compared to the Trump Administration.”
Miller found several questions reflected concerns on how partisan politics could potentially impact energy and environmental policies. “What does the landscape look like if Mitch McConnell is back at the helm in the Senate?”
Welch: “Mitch McConnell calls himself the Grim Reaper. This is a real problem and he will I believe be as obstructionist as he possibly can. The President’s going to be able to act very quickly to undo many of the executive orders of President Trump, for instance like getting us out of the Paris Accords, like rolling back some of the environmental protections against coal burning and methane. But the power that McConnell has and the way he’s used it in the past is going to be a continuing challenge for us unless we have a good outcome in Georgia.”
The Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network is planning a follow up virtual conference in January.