Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Vermont Climate Action Commission Collects Ideas

By Rick Wackernagel

Responding to federal inaction and a request from Vermont environmental organizations, Vermont Governor Phil Scott established a Climate Action Commission last July to accelerate progress toward Vermonts greenhouse-gas emissions and renewable-energy goals. The Commission is finishing its first action collecting its first round of ideas. Assessing its prospects, Commission Chair, Peter Walke, says, This Commission comes together during a unique opportunity that our predecessors did not benefit from. Low-carbon alternatives are now economically competitive. As the Vermont Council on Rural Developments national summit on the climate economy showed, Vermont now has a chance to meet its aggressive goals in a way that drives prosperity for all Vermonters.

Governor Scotts first two charges to the Commission were:

  1. Drafting a plan for reaching Vermonts renewable-energy and greenhouse-gas emissions goals, while supporting economic growth; increasing affordability; and ensuring access to low-carbon alternatives for all Vermonters.
  2. Holding public scoping sessions to collect ideas from Vermonters.

The Commission has 21 members, drawn from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and representing economic sectors engaged in collecting, distributing, conserving and using energy. They were selected to provide a broad spectrum of viewpoints that would produce robust consensus on near-term actions to take.

This group meets once a month. Meetings are open to the public. Date, time and location are available on the Commissions web page, at The four scoping sessions have been completed. Total attendance was about 275. Public testimony from the first three sessions was available on the Commission webpage when this article was written.

Ideas submitted will be read, categorized and evaluated by the commissioners. The evaluation will include the ideasabilities to help meet the five goals in the Governors first charge and other criteria developed by the commissioners. Commissioners will identify three, or perhaps a few more, high-priority, specific, concrete actions to recommend to the Governor and the Vermont legislature in January for immediate consideration. Full results for all ideas received will be included in a report in the summer of 2018. That report will include descriptions of the ideas and assessments of their expected impacts.

A wide variety of ideas, from simple to complex, were suggested. Listing all 273 here is impossible. A smattering follows:

  • New-construction ideas included, among other things, renewable-energy production from all the usual suspects at both community and commercial scale, electric- and hydrogen-vehicle charging stations, bio-digesters, park-and-ride lots, and Western-corridor rail.
  • Information and education about low-carbon alternatives will help consumers understand their choices and choose wisely.
  • Ideas for reducing use of fossil fuels in transportation included promoting computerized or cooperative car sharing and carpooling, establishing markets in which local producers and consumers could buy and sell goods and services, expanding broadband and mass transit, subsidizing electric-vehicle purchases, and raising parking fees.
  • Pricing carbon will create an incentive to reduce fossil-fuel use. The revenue could be returned to residents and/or businesses, and/or used to finance energy-efficiency and/or renewable-energy investments, and/or to reduce taxes.
  • Job-training can open new opportunities in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Carbon can be sequestered through appropriate farming practices and other emerging technologies.
  • We can improve our planning processes by creating a cabinet position on climate change, by developing a process to integrate regional and town energy plans with utilitiesIntegrated Resource Plans, and by building on existing plans and analyses.
  • Technology-development ideas ranged widely, including developing more stringent energy-efficiency standards for appliances; developing hardware to use surplus renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen (to fuel trucks and heavy equipment) and oxygen; and organizing a technology-development council to identify, prioritize and develop opportunities to reduce weatherization costs.

Recognizing that not all good ideas will have been presented by January, the Commission continues to accept and assess new ideas. Making recommendations is not the final step. The Commission will also identify leaders to shepherd recommended ideas through development into implementation, then monitor and evaluate results. This first round is focused on mitigation, i.e., preventing greenhouse-gas emissions. A second round will focus on adaptation, improving Vermonts ability to bounce back after extreme weather events and to cope with other impacts of global warming. Taking on the role of coordinating development and implementation, and regularly repeating the process of identifying and assessing opportunities could ensure that we are progressing in a cost-effective manner.

Its a case of the more the merrier. If you have ideas you would like to suggest, send them to

Rick Wackernagel lives in Burlington, Vermont and is a member of the Energy Committee of the Sierra Club Vermont Chapter.

Vermont Climate Action Commission members:


Organization or business

Peter Walke, Chair

Agency of Natural Resources

Paul Costello, Co-Chair

Vermont Council on Rural Development

Adam Knudsen


Bethany Fleishman

Vital Communities

Bill Laberge

Grassroots Solar

Bob Stevens

Stevens and Associates

Harrison Bushnell

U-32 High School

Joe Fusco


Johanna Miller

Vermont Natural Resources Council

June Tierney

Department of Public Service

Kristin Carlson

Green Mountain Power

Linda McGinnis

Energy Action Network

Liz Gamache

St. Albans City

Marie Audet

Audet’s Blue Spruce Farm

Mary Sprayregen

Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

Michael Schirling

Agency of Commerce and Community Development

Michele Boomhower

Agency of Transportation

Peter Bourne

Bourne Energy

Robert Turner

R. J. Turner Company

Stuart Hart

UVM Grossman School of Business

Tom Donahue

BROC Community Action

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