With Business Support, Global Warming Solutions Act Becomes Law!
Last week, in the eleventh hour of what has been the longest legislative session in Vermont’s history, House and Senate lawmakers overrode Governor Scott’s Veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act—officially making the bill law. The Solutions Act sets binding deadlines for Vermont to cut climate pollution and requires the state to create a diverse climate action council tasked with developing a detailed plan to reduce emissions, reduce energy burdens for marginalized communities, and bolster our climate adaptation efforts.
From environmental advocates and public health officials to business leaders across the state, the Global Warming Solutions Act received support from broad swath of Vermonters who together mustered a powerful call for climate action. Thankfully, House and Senate lawmakers heard us loud and clear—wasting no time in pushing the bill forward.
Charting the Path Toward a Clean Energy Future
Despite Vermont’s standing commitment to the Paris Climate Accords and broad public support for climate action, our little state is woefully behind in doing our part to tackle the climate crisis. In fact, Vermont has the highest per capita emissions in the Northeast region, and we are the only state in New England that hasn’t reduced our emissions below 1990 levels. Vermont’s dithering when it comes to reducing harmful climate pollution and moving away from fossil fuels has not only kept our emissions on the rise but stifled economic growth and opportunity.
Vermont spends approximately $2 billion every year on energy resources that pollute our air and further the climate crisis—namely heating and transportation fuels. Of that $2 billion, roughly three quarters, or $1.5 billion, leaves our state’s economy. Meanwhile, climate solutions like efficiency and renewable energy development keep considerably more dollars flowing into our local economies. According to the Energy Action Network’s latest progress report, 60 cents of every dollar invested in weatherization, 62 cents of every dollar spent on electricity, and 80 cents of every dollar spent on wood heat stay local—creating family-sustaining jobs for Vermonters and strengthening the Vermont economy. These numbers are particularly poignant as our state continues to reel from the public health and economic impacts of the of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until last week, Vermont did not have the kind of comprehensive policy and regulatory framework needed to reduce our state’s emissions and tap into the economic, job-creating potential of decarbonization. With the passage of the Solutions Act, we now have the tools we need to tackle the climate crisis and develop a new model of prosperity as our state begins to recover from COVID-19— one that puts climate resiliency and a just, low-carbon transition at the center of our recovery efforts.
The Power of VBSR Businesses as a Force for Change
The successful passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act was thanks in no small part to the advocacy and collective action of VBSR’s climate-friendly businesses across the state. While many had already taken steps to reduce their carbon footprints and improve efficiency, members took their green practices to the next horizon this year—namely the halls of the Vermont statehouse.
In January, some of Vermont’s most iconic companies gave employees time off to lobby policy makers at the Statehouse in Montpelier as part of massive employee climate lobby day VBSR put on with partners in the #ActOnClimateVT Coalition. More than 100 employees met with elected officials and called on the Governor and the legislature to make climate change a priority in this legislative session and to pass a package of laws to ensure that Vermont meets its goals of a 40% reduction of GHG levels by 2030, and 80-95% reduction by 2050—the Solutions Act chief among them. The employees warned that Vermont’s failure to reduce carbon emissions is damaging to the economy, environment, and their way of life.
These impassioned activists represented a diverse cross-section of the Vermont workforce, coming from cities and towns across the state and representing a broad range of industry, including manufacturing, brewing, renewable energy, banking and financial services, value-added foods and recreation. Before a full day of meetings with lawmakers they filled the Cedar Creek room at the State House to capacity for a press conference, calling for transformative climate action and emphasizing the need for equitable solutions and investment in local renewable energy.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Vermont, state lawmakers made the difficult transition to zoom-based legislating and business leaders did the same with their climate advocacy—taking to the halls of the digital statehouse and pushing for climate action from afar via social media, press, phone, and email outreach to their legislators.
When the Solutions Act finally cleared the legislature and was sent to Governor Scott’s desk, VBSR partnered with Burton, Seventh Generation, and VPIRG to deliver an important message of support from the Vermont business community; publishing an ad on behalf of over 75 businesses and a powerful business climate testimonial video urging Scott to sign the bill.
Taken together, over 110 businesses came out in support of the Solutions Act. It was their efforts and those of their employees that helped set the stage for the initial passage of the Solutions Act and eventually a strong veto override vote —proving just how powerful socially responsible businesses can be in galvanizing positive change in the statehouse.
Implementing the Solutions Act
With the roll out of the Solutions Act set to begin in January 2021, VBSR and our partners will be working diligently to ensure that Vermont creates the most robust climate action plan possible and that the solutions put forward uphold our continued commitment to an equitable, prosperous clean energy future.
Here’s what comes next:
- Vermont will establish a diverse Climate Council to help chart a path forward—including representatives from rural communities, municipal governments, utilities, the fuel sector, clean energy sector, manufacturers, the small business community, farm and forest sector, youth groups, as well as a number of climate and energy scientists. With input from state agencies, legislators, and everyday Vermonters, this council will create climate action plan to ensure we meet our emissions targets, prioritize our most vulnerable communities, and build a stronger, more resilient economy.
- With the Council’s climate action plan in hand, state agencies will work together to identify strategic opportunities to build community resilience and reduce pollution. The best of these plans will be brought forward to the Climate Council.
- Vermonters will have the opportunity to provide input on these proposals and help shape our state’s climate solutions to ensure they are effective, equitable, and affordable.
The work has only just begun and next year we will need the voices of socially responsible business leaders like you to maintain the momentum we’ve built over the course of this long, eventful session. In the meantime, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating this historic victory.
To our climate champs in the House and Senate, thank you for stepping up, listening to Vermonters, and passing the Solutions Act. And to our members, thank you for making your voices heard and proving that VBSR’s quadruple bottom line of people, planet, prosperity, and parity is not just a set of values, but the foundation for swift, thoughtful climate action!