As Vermont’s legislators are buckling down to provide relief for struggling communities, they are also looking ahead to build a healthier, safer and more resilient Vermont for everyone. Seizing opportunities now will make communities stronger and avoid future damage and suffering.
Setting a model for other states, the Vermont Legislature continues to operate safely and remotely. With virtual meetings, they quickly secured hazard pay, as well as relief from evictions, foreclosures and utility shut offs. Legislators are now also looking to rebuild in ways that help Vermonters thrive and face the challenges ahead.
A key building block for the future is enacting the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority in the House before the pandemic hit. It is now being considered by the Senate. The bill turns the State’s goals to reduce harmful climate pollution into clear requirements and makes sure that the actions we take benefit everyone.
The brutal COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked the outsized impact of its toll on poor, minority, and marginalized communities. Rates of serious infection and death are most severe in areas already hard hit by pollution where higher rates of asthma, heart and lung disease make COVID-19 deadlier. These same communities face outsized impacts from climate change.
By passing the Global Warming Solutions Act now, Vermont can rebuild in ways that reduce pollution, lower energy bills, and support good paying jobs that build a safer and more secure future for everyone. The Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act would put the state on a path to slash polluting emissions while making sure rural communities and hardworking Vermonters prosper.
Stop Emissions from Rising in Vermont
Despite past efforts, Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased in recent years. The Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act would reverse this troubling trend. It creates a Vermont Climate Council to recommend actions that achieve the needed reductions by 2050 with clear benchmarks along the way. The bill also requires the state to put in place regulations to ensure success. No more missing targets or wishing we had done better. Vermont will see progress and know it is on track each step of the way.
Help Low-Income and Rural Communities Prepare for Climate Change
The bill is not just about regulations to slash emissions. It also kickstarts action to help vulnerable communities stay resilient in the face of climate impacts. With this bill, Vermont’s rural areas will be better prepared for the next, inevitable storm. It also makes sure that Vermonters with lower incomes, and those hit hardest by the costs of climate change, will have better access to clean energy, clean transportation, and lower heating and housing costs. Growing jobs and saving money makes this a win for everyone.
The bill also promotes the use of natural systems and working lands to capture and store carbon to better protect Vermont against severe storms and floods. Trees, soil, wetlands, and shorelines have valuable natural features that bolster resilience and keep carbon out of the atmosphere, keep water clean and flowing within river banks, and keep farmland fertile. Supporting and protecting these natural systems saves money and keeps Vermonters healthier and safe.
Provide Far Reaching Benefits
A Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act will guide state action to cut emissions, encourage investments in clean energy and community resilience, and modernize roads, and wastewater and energy facilities. Families can have new opportunities to drive cleaner electric vehicles or drive less and have more money available for other needs. Weatherizing Vermont’s oldest homes makes them safer, healthier, and more comfortable. And using more renewable electricity will keep lights on and businesses successful for the next decade and beyond.
Our reliance on dirty fossil fuels wrecks our air, our climate, our health, and our future. We can do better. The Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act makes sure we do. Taking definitive action on climate action goes a long way towards cutting pollution and keeping more money in Vermonter’s wallets.
Vermont’s legislature now has the opportunity for bold action to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and secure a better future for all Vermonters. Action now in the Vermont Senate will make sure Vermont sets a course for a safer, healthier, more resilient destination.
Sandra Levine is a Senior Attorney with Conservation Law Foundation in Montpelier, Vermont www.clf.org.