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Climate change policy priorities for 2020

Below, find brief summaries of some policy priorities we are advocating for during the 2020 legislative session. They will need your help and support to pass!

Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA)

Vermont has a responsibility to do our part to cut pollution in line with what world scientists say is required to avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming. Incremental action is insufficient and puts our economy, public health, and Vermonters quality of life at risk.

The Global Warming Solutions Act will serve as the accountability framework needed to change the trajectory of our rising emissions and achieve our shared goals. This accountability framework will: 

  • Set Vermont on a path toward meeting our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord by 2025 and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 
  • Establish binding targets, initiating a comprehensive process and requiring meaningful, stepped action to achieve those targets.
  • Force the state to meet its obligations by authorizing citizen suits – only if they fail to meet key milestones.
  • Prioritize and protect low income and vulnerable Vermonters, ensuring a just transition for people from every part of the state, by ramping up investments in common sense, money-saving, carbon-shaving tested solutions like Low Income Weatherization.
  • Generate economic opportunity by keeping far more of our now-exported dollars in state and putting people to work in well-paying careers in innovative fields like solar, advanced wood heat, building energy efficient housing, and more.
  • Harness the strengths of our rural, working landscapes and our valuable farm, forest and soil assets to go beyond 100% reduction and sequester carbon, simultaneously increasing resilience and enabling strategic adaptation.
  • Leverage the commitment of other New England states who have taken similar actions, growing their economies and protecting public health across the region.

Commitment to 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030

By deploying new, in-state, renewable supplies we can build resilient communities and put people to work powering our lives with renewable resources. Today, we send about 80 percent of every dollar we spend out of state to pay for imported, dirty fossil fuels.

To fully realize the benefits of a transformed energy economy, Vermont must implement a true 100% renewable electricity standard that prioritizes new and local renewable energy generation to:

  • Deploy new renewable energy sources, reducing fossil fuel use by replacing costly and inefficient fossil-fueled vehicles and heating with more efficient, electric-powered options powered by clean energy.
  • Create climate resilient communities, increasing energy choices and improving access to innovative advanced energy technologies for all Vermonters.
  • Create jobs and strengthen our local economy, spurring entrepreneurship and keeping far more money spent on imported energy in Vermont.

Modernize Vermont’s Energy Efficiency Utilities

Today’s energy challenges need modern solutions. Heating and transportation are Vermonters’ biggest energy costs and the most polluting sectors of our economy. We can reduce emissions and help those facing the highest energy cost burden at the same time by using the existing statewide infrastructure of the efficiency utilities Vermonters have invested in and benefitted from – like Efficiency Vermont and Burlington Electric Department – for cleaner, more cost-effective alternatives.

Maintaining our current investment in our efficiency utilities while enabling them to focus on reducing climate pollution, rather than merely cutting electricity use, will:

  • Make it more affordable for Vermonters to heat our homes and businesses. We can use cleaner electricity to power efficient solutions with lower operating costs than their fossil fuel counterparts.
  • Keep more money circulating in the local economy by investing in proven solutions, which will help more Vermonters stay warm, save money and reduce pollution.
  • Bring new technologies to the state to increase availability and reduce costs. From lightbulbs to cold climate heat pumps, the efficiency utilities have grown the market for efficient products. A modernized efficiency utility could expand these efforts and help grow the market to reduce costs and increase access to innovative technologies.
  • Generate greater impact by sharing goals between energy efficiency and distribution utilities, making electric vehicles more affordable and expanding their availability; increasing weatherization efforts; enabling Vermonters to control when we use electricity to reduce system costs; and more.

Participate in the Transportation and Climate Initiative

Vermonters will save money by moving away from fossil-fueled transportation, and with transportation fuels making up nearly half of our climate pollution, cutting their use is a critical climate action. A little over a decade ago, under the leadership of Governor Jim Douglas, Vermont became one of the first states to join the first multistate agreement to set a cap on climate pollution, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The RGGI agreement has substantially driven down pollution in the electric sector across the Northeast. We have the opportunity to join a similar effort with other states to reduce pollution from the transportation sector through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), with the goal of developing an equitable program to generate revenue to help all Vermonters invest in cleaner transportation alternatives, while mitigating potential financial impacts on those least able to afford them

A strong, equitable Transportation and Climate Initiative will:

  • Reduce carbon pollution from transportation – our most polluting sector.
  • Advance equity, by using revenues to invest in solutions for low income and rural Vermonters, for whom transportation is particularly burdensome.
  • Transform our transportation sector, by creating programs for cleaner transportation, such as; electric buses, rail transit, hybrid and electric passenger vehicles, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, affordable housing in and near our community centers, and more.
  • Invest in a just transition for all Vermonters working in collaboration with states around the region to transition to a cleaner, more equitable, affordable and efficient system.

How You Can Help…

To follow what’s happening and to find ways to support needed progress on climate change, here are a few things you can do:

  • Call or email your legislator/s. Ask for their leadership and support for the policy priorities described above. Find your legislator/s’ contact info at https://legislature.vermont.gov/
  • Call the Governor at 802-828-3333. Tell him you’re counting on him for bold climate action this year.
  • Sign up for VNRC’s e-newsletter here.
  • Follow #ActOnClimateVT via social media and participate in events, actions and other opportunities as they arise.
  • Follow VNRC, Vermont Conservation Voters and partners’ “Climate Dispatch” from the Statehouse, every Friday afternoon, via Facebook Live.

This post was originally published on September 16, 2019. It was edited on January 7, 2020.

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