On December 1, 2021, the Vermont Climate Council adopted its initial Climate Action Plan on a strong 19-to-four vote.
The Council has been working incredibly hard to meet the statutory deadline of releasing its initial Plan on December 1st, which they accomplished. Next up, far more outreach is needed with public engagement and consideration of public input – particularly from historically marginalized populations.
In the meantime, key policies advanced in the initial Climate Action Plan include:
A clean heat standard, analogous to a renewable energy standard for the heating sector, which will help Vermonters access clean and affordable heating options;
A dramatically scaled-up investment in weatherization, which will help many more Vermonters – particularly lower income and historically marginalized Vermonters – access weatherization services to cut their heating bills and have healthier and more comfortable homes, while cutting their climate pollution;
A suite of transportation investments to help people access clean and affordable transportation options, and a recommendation to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks rules to help drive innovation and market deployment of more clean, efficient vehicles;
A recommendation to adopt an environmental justice policy;
A recommendation for an updated renewable energy standard; and
Adoption of a suite of smart growth policy priorities that will support more climate-resilient communities through well-sited housing and other development in compact community centers, paired with stronger protections for our forests, farmland, wetlands, rivers and other vital natural resources.
An important note related to transportation: as you might have seen, last week Massachusetts and Connecticut announced that they would not be implementing the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) right now, which the Council had included as its highest-impact transportation recommendation in earlier drafts of the Plan. Leaving TCI-P out of the Plan creates a gap in pollution reduction that must be filled. The Council signaled its intent to adopt an updated Plan no later than June 2022 to identify additional actions we must take in the transportation sector.
The Council also left open the option for Vermont to participate in TCI-P or another cap-and-invest program for the transportation sector in the future, and urged quick legislative action to set the table for receiving potential revenue from any such program, while establishing criteria and a process for cost-effective, equitable transportation investments.
Brian Shupe, Executive Director of Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) relayed, “I want to share my sincere gratitude for the countless hours and immense amount of work the Climate Councilors and Subcommittee Members have put into this process already. And thanks to all of YOU who took the time to weigh in throughout the process.”
While many of the details must still be worked out, and much more community input must be gathered, the plan provides an important foundation for action. It makes clear that the administration and lawmakers can and must take strong action to meet our climate pollution reduction, equity, and resilience targets.
With unprecedented federal funding available, there are no more excuses, and no time to lose. We must get to work implementing solutions laid out in the Climate Action Plan that will help all Vermonters benefit from the clean energy economy.
Brian Shupe is the Executive Director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC). Learn more at vnrc.org.