VBSR: An Urgent Call to Action on Climate Change
Climate change represents a major threat to Vermont’s economy and environment. The purpose of this document is to encourage and enable VBSR members to spread the word that we can address climate change at a state level. Our objective is to create a groundswell of support for action – we need such strong public and business support that the legislature will feel compelled to take aggressive action.
- Climate change is happening now, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. And despite the work Vermont has accomplished, our emissions have increased in recent years and without dramatic action, Vermont will not meet our climate goals and obligations.
- Every year we wait to act means that the future changes we need to undertake must be significantly larger on an annual basis than if we had started earlier. Waiting to address climate change is like waiting until you are 62 to start saving for your retirement at 65.
- Climate change threatens Vermont’s economy and brand and we are already seeing the impacts on a number of state industries, including winter and summer tourism, and agriculture. Climate change threatens the quality of the Vermont brand in the marketplace.
Vermont has new information. The recently published Analysis of Decarbonization Methods in Vermonta study requested by the Vermont Legislature, provides an independent report on the opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their environmental and economic impacts. Key findings of the report include:
- The state can’t afford NOT to act. “The combined climate and health benefits of carbon pricing policies would exceed the economic costs for every carbon pricing scenario considered,” the report concluded.
- The state must rapidly deploy renewable resources. Carbon pricing alone will not be enough. We must increase solar and wind resources in the state in order to make progress in addressing climate change.
Vermont is a small state with limited resources. Why should we take this risk?
- Vermont can lead because we are small and have access to our government. We’ve led the country on a variety of other issues from establishing marriage rights for same-sex couples, growing our local food movement, to protecting our environment from toxic chemicals.
- Vermont risks missing out on the economic opportunities in combating climate change.
- Stalling action results in costlier decisions. Meanwhile, the gap between our emissions targets and our actual emissions rates will continue to grow, increasing the cost of future action. Some of the plans reviewed show significant economic benefits for Vermonters and they show the ability to address some of the income and economic disparities in the state which means everyone will get a fair slice of the pie.
Isn’t this just going to increase wind and solar development?
- The cheapest and cleanest unit of energy is the one we don’t use. That’s why VBSR’s climate action plans prioritize helping low and middle income Vermonters become more energy efficient, including weatherizing their homes.
- Right now, Vermont imports about $2 billion of fossil fuels to power our vehicles and heat our homes and buildings. Because these fuels are imported, more than 90% of that money goes right out of the state and into the bottom line of some of the world’s biggest polluters. Keeping that money locally through community-minded renewable energy development will be the biggest Buy Local campaign in the state’s history.
- Vermont needs to develop more in-state clean energy sources and we need to do this in a way that works for our natural landscape, rural communities, Vermonters of all income levels, clean energy developers, and our energy utilities. VBSR supports a strategy that makes Vermont energy independent – and spreads those benefits around to all communities and consumers while also protecting our natural resources that make the state a great place to live.
What proposals are the Vermont Legislature considering?
Thankfully, Vermont has many savvy elected officials who recognize the threat of climate change – and the economic opportunity for Vermont in becoming energy independent. The Vermont Legislature entered a new biennium in 2019 and there are a number of great proposals that can be reviewed and passed by the Legislature between now and the end of the biennium in Spring 2020. All three of the bills below have been introduced this year and are now under review by the House Energy and Technology Committee.
- The Vermont Equity & Infrastructure Act (H.477) uses a fee on the import of fossil fuels into Vermont to fund a $1.6 billion investment in the state’s economy. Among the projects funded in this bill are electric vehicle and infrastructure incentives, a boost in weatherizing funding, an investment in rural public transportation, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and creating a Rural Vermont Tax Credit. Download the full fact sheet on this legislation here: https://www.energyindependentvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/H.477-Fact-Sheet.pdf
- The ESSEX Plan 2.0 (H.463) is an updated version of the plan first proposed by members of VBSR and other organizations two years ago. This proposal would use a rising price on carbon pollution to fund dramatic reductions in green electricity costs for Vermonters and Vermont businesses, putting the state on the path to having the most inexpensive electric rates in the region. This legislation adds additional benefits for rural and low income Vermonters.
- H.462 would require governmental accountability in fighting climate change, including requiring the state to consider the carbon impacts of their operations and develop and implement plans to meet the state’s goal of being 90% renewable by the year 2050. The state would also report back to the Legislature on progress made in reducing emissions, creating a level of accountability for these efforts.
Additionally, VBSR has joined two dozen other groups in calling on the Legislature to approve a six-point plan that would fight climate change – and invest in our economy. These proposals would move Vermont off of imported fossil fuels and invest in weatherization, efficiency, and electric vehicle infrastructure.
What can I do?
Contact your legislator! Unfortunately, combating climate change has not been a major priority for leadership in the House and Senate this year. That’s why we need your help. Please take a moment to email, write, or call your State Representatives and State Senators and ask them to, “Take bold action on climate change and help harness the economic development potential of moving off of imported fossil fuels.”
Don’t know who your state representative is or how to reach them? This handy tool on the Legislative website will show you who represents you in the Vermont House in Montpelier and what their contact information is.