EAST DORSET — A crowd of about 50 people attended a climate action meeting at Emerald Lake State Park in East Dorset on Sept. 22 to discuss potential action steps to be included in the Vermont Climate Action Plan that is set to be released Dec. 1.
The Global Warming Solutions Act created and appointed the Vermont Climate Council, which is charged with drafting a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The meeting was the second in-person event to be held by the Agency of Natural Resources with the help of Climate Access who partnered with Rise Consulting to handle the public engagement portion.
At Wednesday’s meeting, attendees were broken into groups and asked to consider questions such as “What actions are most important to you and why?” regarding climate change and potential action steps. The smaller groups were asked to share their ideas and priorities.
Promoting regenerative farming was one of the action items mentioned by several of the individual groups during the last half-hour segment of the discussion. Regenerative farming focuses on farming and grazing practices that, among its other benefits, reverses climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, which results in carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle, according to regenerationinternational.org.
The State of Vermont joining the Transportation Climate Initiative, focusing on insulation to make buildings and homes more energy efficient, increasing renewable energy production, reducing waste and consumption, focusing on thoughtful and equitable management of human needs, reducing sprawl and focusing on local, sustainable solar and other energy initiatives were also among some of the ideas raised at the meeting as potential action steps as the Vermont Climate Council develops its plan with the help of ANR.
There are five sub-committees that have drafted a set of climate actions. Those subcommittees focus on the different aspects of work that need to be done and they would reach a consensus of what actions would be prioritized and passed on to the council to adopt, according to Jane Lazorchak, Director of Global Warming Solutions Act at the Vermont ANR.
“The idea is to prioritize based on the implementation schedule and some of that will be informed by the engagement here tonight along with considerations around how impactful are these actions with respect to greenhouse gas reductions,” Lazorchak said. “We’re doing that science data analysis behind that right now to quantify that and then we’ll also look at cost-effectiveness, feasibility, as well as equity; how equitable are the actions that we are putting forward, as well as … what actions actually elevate emissions reductions, but also speak to resiliency, (and) adaptation.”
Lazorchak continued to say that once a consensus was reached, it would be sent to the council who would then have multiple meetings where the prioritized actions would be reviewed, the council would provide an open discussion and then provide written feedback.
There are some actions they know will need acted on, such as electrification and weatherization and then there will be a more inclusive set of actions based on public feedback and deliberative polling of the attendees of the meeting to reprioritize work in other areas such as sequestration and adaptation and they plan to make decisions in March, Lazorchak said.
There are some actions that will require legislation that, she said will begin in January and then there will also be rulemaking.
“We are obligated to put forward a full suite of rules by July of 2022 for ANR and then we also have individual actions, programmatic changes, those kinds of things that are more around education and broader strategies,” Lazorchak said.
The intent with some of the items is to begin this coming legislative session in order to meet the 2025 reductions. Over the course of the next year, Lazorchek said she expects to see new rules, regulations and more incentives.
The law calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas levels to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Failure to meet that target or subsequent emissions targets would result in citizens being allowed to sue the state.
Once the council report is issued Dec. 1, it will be up to the Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Legislature respectively to implement the findings in rules and law.
The next two meetings will take place today in Island Pond and Sunday in Colchester.