Climate change policy priorities in Vermont you should know about

The climate crisis is here now, and it is affecting Vermonters’ quality of life and pocketbooks. Here, find brief summaries of some potential meaningful policy priorities that may be explored this legislative session – but that will need your help and support to pass.

A Vermont “Global Warming Solutions Act”

Vermont must move beyond rhetorical support for action on climate and make our long-standing climate action goals requirements – as many other Northeastern states have done. A Vermont “Global Warming Solutions Act” would:

  • Make Vermont’s existing climate goals binding targets instead, with action both authorized and required by one or more state agencies to hit said targets
  • Set Vermont on a path towards 28% reduction in climate pollution by 2025 (the goals of the Paris Climate Accord) and towards a target of net zero climate pollution by 2050, and a reduction in climate pollution emitted of at least 75% from 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Send a strong market signal that will help catalyze entrepreneurial innovation and job creation.

Institute a 100% Renewable Electricity Standard

Building off of Vermont’s current Renewable Energy Standard, which sets a 75% by 2032 renewable electricity requirement, the state should move faster and in concert with other states implementing necessarily ambitious targets, and establish a 100% renewable requirement by 2030. There is a conversation underway to pursue this more ambitious policy, and move the deadline up. Specifically, there is exploration of:

  • 100% renewable electricity required for all utilities by 2030
  • Doubling of the in-state renewables requirement from 10%, currently, to 20% by 2030 with a consistent, ongoing increase in required new renewables beyond 2030 and a continued focus on community and grid resilience.
  • Expand “Tier 3,” the current law’s “energy transformation” tier. This tier in the RES requires utilities to help their customers reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas pollution in the heating and transportation sectors. It is important to maintain – and explore expanding – this requirement, as a powerful money-saving, carbon pollution tool.

Energy Efficiency Utility Modernization

Statutorily, Vermont’s “Energy Efficiency Utilities,” or EEU’s, are required to capture cost-effective electric efficiency savings. This requirement is paid for by a small charge on all Vermonters’ electric bills and those dollars are used to drive down electricity consumption. This model – and the programs and incentives it has deployed – have saved all ratepayers significantly in lowering rates and avoiding purchases of new energy supply. As we move as a state, nation and world away from dirty, dwindling fossil fuel supplies, electrification of our heating, transportation and other energy needs is key. Last year, the Legislature established a proceeding – now underway – at the Public Utility Commission to explore and pursue a new model for our EEU’s and, importantly, a new metric to guide their work – and that is reducing carbon pollution. This is a huge opportunity – if we get it right and seize it. Vermont should:

  • Continue to invest in cost-effective electric efficiency – saving all Vermonters money – while expanding the programs our EEUs can offer to allow them to help Vermonters reduce energy use and climate pollution for heating and transportation.
  • Making cutting climate pollution a new top priority for EEUs, and pair it with traditional metrics such as reduced energy and peak electric usage as secondary goals.

Participate in a Strong, Equitable “Transportation & Climate Initiative”

The State of Vermont has been working with 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and Washington, DC on a regional approach to reduce climate pollution from the transportation sector through a cap and invest program.  This work is known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). This robust regional effort, currently underway, is aimed at designing an equitable program that reduces carbon pollution from transportation – our most polluting energy sector – and uses the revenue raised to help people invest in more diverse transportation options, such as vehicle electrification, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, transit, affordable housing in community centers and far more. There are likely to be public meetings, public input opportunities, and a legislative lever to pull to ensure Vermont helps craft and participates in a strong program that prioritizes vulnerable and rural Vermonters.

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:

  • Participate in the September 20th global climate strike – in whatever way that you are inspired and able – to show support for young people across the planet who are demanding action.
  • 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.
  • Meet with your legislators, regularly, and ask for their leadership and support for bold climate action, such as some of the potential powerful policies listed above.