Op-Ed: Scott Should Look to Vermont Climate Council to Grow Vermont’s Economy and Fight Climate Change

Climate council zoom meeting screenshot with faces of council members

By Jordan Giaconia, Public Policy Manager, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and countless other Vermonters have been celebrating President Biden’s recent actions to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords—including our very own Governor Phil Scott. The Governor joined a bipartisan group of state officials in applauding the Biden Administration’s swift action to sign America back on to the legally binding, international treaty to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and preferably limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While Scott’s words were heartening, as were his recent budget recommendations, our state has much more work to do if we’re truly going to walk the walk when it comes to taking just, meaningful, and measurable action on climate.

Thankfully, Governor Scott has a fantastic tool at his disposal to help craft community-driven, equitable climate solutions—the Vermont Climate Council. Born out of the Global Warming Solutions Act—the Council is comprised of representatives from many walks of life. To name a few, we have someone from our farm and forest sector to speak to ways Vermont’s working lands can sequester carbon while supporting our local food systems; from the Vermont Community Action Partnership to ensure climate solutions address our state’s affordability challenges and meet the needs of vulnerable Vermonters; from our small business and manufacturing sectors to speak to how climate action can support both a healthy planet and a prosperous economy; and from our rural communities to elevate the unique challenges Vermont cities and towns face outside of Chittenden County.

When taken together, the 23 members of the Climate Council and those of its Subcommittees are not some distant bureaucratic body but a collection of some of the best and brightest leaders Vermont has to offer. They’re our neighbors, classmates, business owners, and environmental stewards. Each brings distinct perspectives from the communities that make our little state such a special place to live and work. The Council is already hard at work forging a climate action plan to grow our economy, guide Vermont in meeting its emissions reduction requirements and creating a space for BIPOC, lower-income, and other Vermonters, who have too often been left out of these processes, to shape policies that directly benefit marginalized communities, curb our emissions and boost energy affordability.

Honoring Vermont’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement is an opportunity to not only safeguard our environment but to grow our economy by investing in a stronger, more equitable and self-reliant Vermont. Estimates indicate that if Vermont can transform our thermal and transportation sectors at the pace and scale needed to meet the goals of the Agreement we would reduce the amount of dollars sent out of our state by over $1 billion between 2020 and 2035 and inject approximately $323 million directly into Vermont’s economy. These investments would be felt not just in state coffers but in our communities as well. Vermonters could expect savings up to $10,000 per household, or roughly $650 per year over the next 15 years—keeping money in Vermonters pockets and boosting individual buying power.

The Council’s role in this process is clear and codified—create a Climate Action Plan that achieves the following objectives: minimize negative impacts on marginalized, low-to-moderate-income, and rural communities; ensure that all regions of the State benefit from greenhouse gas emissions reductions; and support economic sectors and regions of the State that face the greatest barriers to emissions reductions, especially those that rural and economically distressed.

If Governor Scott is truly committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, he’ll look to the climate council for guidance.