Things are heating up in Vermont and around the world. This summer, Burlington experienced both the three hottest consecutive days on record, as well as the warmest night ever recorded, with temperatures never dropping below 80 degrees.
While Vermont may be committed to addressing climate change on paper, at our current trajectory, we won’t meet either our Comprehensive Energy Plan goal of 90% total renewable energy by 2050 or our state’s statutory greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets. The recently released GHG emissions inventory by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources shows that, despite these strong goals, our emissions have risen dramatically. Over the course of just two years, 2014 and 2015, Vermont’s emissions rose 10%.
It is the exact opposite direction of where we need to go. It is not just an environmental issue, it is an economic one. Vermont imports all of the fossil fuels we rely on so heavily to heat our buildings and power our transportation network, which means strategies that keep more of those energy dollars in state can save Vermonters significantly. Thankfully, there are solutions we can embrace as individuals, as communities, and as a state.
We can take action as individuals to reduce our energy use, often in ways that end up saving us money and increasing our comfort in our own homes. One opportunity to take action is the upcoming Button Up Vermont campaign, aimed at elevating the money-saving, comfort-creating benefits of tightening up our homes and buildings. Ensuring that buildings are properly air sealed and weatherized can keep money from literally leaking out the door. Learn more about this effort, and how you and your community might participate, at www.ButtonUpVermont.org.
On the community level, Vermont is fortunate to be home to a network of over 100 town energy committees. These all-volunteer groups are helping to make their communities more energy- independent, affordable and livable. For the past year, I’ve had the privilege of helping to support these boots-on-the-ground groups as an AmeriCorps member serving with the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN). I have been inspired by the commitment of these local leaders who are helping their municipalities retrofit municipal buildings, getting solar installed at schools, partnering with businesses on transportation solutions and more. Connecting with your town’s energy committee, joining one or starting one yourself – with VECAN’s help – can be another powerful way to advance much-needed solutions. For the full list of energy committees or info about how you can get involved, visit www.vecan.net.
Finally, supportive state policies and leadership are also essential. Ensure that you go to the polls this November informed about where candidates stand on environmental, energy and climate priorities. Visit the nonpartisan VermontConservationVoters.org and check out their legislative scorecard and candidate endorsements. You can also check out the recommendations laid forth by Governor Phil Scott’s Vermont Climate Action Commission. The Commission recently released its report on strategies that the state should pursue to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. Check out the Commission’s final report and share your thoughts on what needs to be done by submitting your comments on the report’s conclusions by the end of September. Find all of the info by searching online for “Vermont Climate Action Commission.”
Vermont has a job-creating, money-saving leadership role to play in tackling climate change. And there are solutions at every level – individual, community, and at the state – that can be advanced and, cumulatively, start to move our state in the right direction.
For help in starting an energy committee – or advancing energy project’s and priorities in your town – contact the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network – or reach out to Ian Hitchcock, an AmeriCorps Member serving with VECAN. Reach Ian by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 802-223-2328 ext. 118.