Weinberger proposes revenue-neutral Vermont carbon pollution fee and rebate, cut emissions, create jobs, and boost Vermont’s economy
Friday, Mayor Miro Weinberger, joined by a coalition of environmental and business leaders, proposed a statewide carbon pollution fee that would cut emissions by 37 percent by 2040 when combined with existing clean energy policies, create new jobs, and boost state economic growth. The Mayor’s proposal is based on a newly-completed component of the City’s Net Zero Energy Roadmap, first released publicly last month, and demonstrates that putting a price on carbon would have broad economic and environmental benefits for Vermonters. Further, Mayor Weinberger also announced that Burlington will continue to lead by example by becoming one of the first cities in the nation to apply an internal carbon price when evaluating future decisions about investment in the City’s fleet and building heating systems.
“As Burlington continues to pursue ambitious climate goals, it has become clear to me that without a price on carbon pollution we are fighting the climate emergency with one hand tied behind our back,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “That’s why, as part of our Net Zero Energy Roadmap, we also analyzed the economic and environmental benefits of a statewide, revenue-neutral Vermont carbon pollution fee. The results provide strong evidence that we can take critical action to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis and benefit Vermont’s economy at the same time. Today, I renew my call for a pro-economic growth, revenue-neutral carbon pollution fee that provides rebates to every Vermont household and business, and brings us closer to the future that we need.”
Mayor Weinberger shared these announcements at the Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) Conference today near Burlington, where he was joined by a broad coalition of partner organizations that support putting a price on carbon pollution. Those partners included environmental leaders from the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), as well as Vermont business community leaders from Burton, Seventh Generation, and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR).
How a Revenue-Neutral Fee Would Work
Under the revenue-neutral fee and rebate model that Mayor Weinberger proposed, virtually all of the revenue collected by the fee would be rebated back out to Vermont households and businesses. In this model, the State would apply a carbon fee to the purchase of all fossil fuels, and then rebate those revenues back to Vermont households and businesses, with a per capita rebate for every household and a rebate for businesses in proportion to how many jobs they support.
The analysis released today shows that the average Vermont household is projected to receive cumulative rebates that are slightly higher than those households’ annual carbon pollution fee payments. The model projects that all households that take steps to weatherize their homes, convert to electric vehicles (EVs) or cold climate heat pumps, and take similar action will see even greater financial gains from the rebate program, on average even after taking into account the cost of these investments.
While this study did not model household income impacts, comparable studies, like the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office carbon pricing study, have found that rebate programs can be progressive, with higher-income households consuming and paying greater fees than other households, and with the rebate helping to offset cost impacts for low-income households.
British Columbia is one example of a jurisdiction that has had a price on carbon since 2008, which has been rising since. There, the province has demonstrated a reduction in emissions between 2007 and 2016 of 3.7 percent, while GDP grew 19 percent over the same period and tourism continued to rise.
Major Findings of New Analysis
The analysis released today shows that implementing a revenue-neutral carbon price that starts at $30 per ton on heating and transportation fuels would, in combination with existing energy and climate policies, have the following effects:
· Reduce Vermont’s current carbon dioxide emissions for heating and transportation by 25 percent in 2030 and by 37 percent in 2040;
· Help increase the use of renewable electricity and decrease fossil fuel use;
· Make a major dent in Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions, and combined with other regulations and policies, help achieve key state climate and energy goals;
· Add an average of $21 million annually to Vermont’s GDP and create and sustain hundreds of new jobs; and
· Shift purchases away from out-of-state and international fossil fuel companies and toward local renewable producers, contributing to the boost to the Vermont economy.
Mayor Weinberger first announced his support for a revenue-neutral Vermont carbon pollution fee in December 2018 at VECAN’s annual Community Energy and Climate Action Conference. Last month, Mayor Weinberger and the Burlington Electric Department released a “Roadmap” that outlines pathways for Burlington to follow to achieve its goal of becoming a Net Zero Energy city across the electric, thermal, and ground transportation sectors by 2030, and concludes that the Net Zero Energy goal would be more cost-effective with a proper price on carbon.
Burlington Will Lead by Example with Internal Carbon Price
The Mayor’s announcement included a new step that Burlington will take to become one of the first municipalities in the nation to use an internal carbon price to evaluate certain of the City’s major purchasing decisions, much like local businesses, including Seventh Generation and Ben & Jerry’s, already do.
Going forward, Burlington will use a carbon price of $100 per ton when evaluating all fleet purchases and leases, as well as all heating system replacements during major building renovations. This carbon price is similar to what the State of Vermont Public Utility Commission uses to evaluate energy efficiency programs in Vermont.
“While we call on the state to act by pricing carbon, it is important that cities and communities continue to lead by example as well,” said Mayor Weinberger. “That is why today in Burlington, we are borrowing a page from the playbook of successful local businesses by using a carbon price to evaluate our own procurement decisions. This will drive our City to more efficient choices for vehicles and heating systems, reduce emissions, and save taxpayers on operating expenses.”
In many cases, a conventional vehicle or heating system may have a slightly lower upfront cost. By properly pricing carbon pollution, the City will be able to better consider the full lifecycle cost of the investment. Frequently, the cleaner vehicle or renewable heating system will also be more efficient, and help the City save money on operating costs over time. For example, when the City chooses an electric vehicle (EV) over a conventional one, the City would save more than $4,000 over the life of the vehicle by charging with Burlington Electric Department’s 100 percent renewable electricity instead of buying gasoline.
Broad Support from Business and Environmental Leaders
“I applaud the leadership of Mayor Weinberger and the City of Burlington in recognizing the urgent need for bold solutions like carbon pricing to tackle climate change. It’s not a pretty picture: Our planet is on fire. We have to get serious,” said Johanna Miller, energy and climate program director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “Community leadership, political leadership and strong policies are three key components to turning the tide. Thankfully, stepping up also means saving people money, putting more people to work in the clean energy sector and improving public health. Leaders in Burlington clearly recognize this, and I look forward to working with them and others to make long overdue progress on this pressing issue.”
“Burlington is yet again backing up their commitment to climate action with both rigorous analysis and concrete actions,” said Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Clean Energy Program Director at VPIRG. “We commend Mayor Weinberger and his team for commissioning this research on carbon pollution pricing. It confirms what VPIRG members have been saying for years: ambitious climate policy is good for Vermont’s economy and environment.”
“Carbon pricing is essential in the fight against climate change,” said Chris Miller, Head of Global Advocacy at Ben & Jerry’s. “A well-designed program, like the one proposed by Mayor Weinberger, cuts pollution, grows jobs, and reduces income inequality. It’s a win, win, win.”
“Seventh Generation was one of the first companies in Vermont to implement an internal price on carbon, and we are thrilled to see Burlington leading by example as well,” said Ashley Orgain, Global Director of Advocacy and Sustainability at Seventh Generation. “We have found carbon pricing to be an important tool for addressing the climate crisis. Individual companies and municipalities can’t tackle Vermont’s contribution to climate alone. We need a statewide program like the one Mayor Weinberger has proposed today. Protecting the health of Vermont’s economy and environment, as well as future generations, requires Governor Phil Scott and Vermont’s legislators to enact a statewide price on carbon pollution.”
“Burton was founded in 1977 in a barn in Londonderry, and Vermont has remained our home base since,” said Jenn Swain, Global Senior Sustainability Manager at Burton. “These roots and our shared values with the Green Mountain State are a proud part of our company culture and identity. However, Vermont has fallen behind on its existing climate commitments and CO² emissions in the state are on the rise. We cannot wait any longer to implement strong policy response to the climate crisis, which should include a meaningful and effective price on carbon.”
“Our business members know that climate action is the greatest economic opportunity in Vermont history, and that climate change represents the greatest single threat to the health of our industries, employees, communities and natural environments,” said Samantha Sheehan, Communications Manager of VBSR. “The cost of inaction is too great. We need bold leadership on issues of climate action and we are excited and inspired to see Burlington leading the way.”