Another View: The time is now for real climate action

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Timing can be everything.

For advocates for climate action, the stars seem aligned.

Because of our dependence on the natural world, coupled with our quality of life, Vermonters have traditionally been mindful of our carbon footprint and our role in keeping it in check. (Depression-era residents were using every scrap of food and saving every salvaged part.)

Now, however, we are in a moment. With Democratic presidential candidates each addressing the climate emergency as part of their campaign platforms; high-profile activism that has spurred a global youth movement; the divestment by companies — including Green Mountain Power here in Vermont — as well as higher-education institutions, away from fossil-fuel companies; and socially responsible businesses across the nation (but especially Vermont) coming up with more "green" solutions to improve their products and services, one might say the stars have aligned.

Legislators of every stripe are feeling the pressure to "do something." Vermonters are being vocal, showing up at meetings, holding protests, and sending various messages that climate inaction has gone on too long. It is time to turn the tables, and make bold choices toward climate action.

We were encouraged this week when 30 organizations representing business, youth, poverty alleviation, public health, environment and other diverse interests presented a policy plan for climate action in 2020.

"Vermonters are experiencing the intensifying, negative impacts of a warming world, and these changes threaten our every pursuit," wrote the stakeholders in the plan.

There is not one piece of the plan that should be considered over another. We believe lawmakers should look at all four of the legislative priorities, and consider them as a whole.

It includes:

- Enacting a Global Warming Solutions Act that enables and requires state government to achieve climate emissions reductions, by holding the state accountable to developing and implementing a plan that will meet our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord by 2025 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

- Making a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 to move our state infrastructure away from imported fossil fuels and strengthen our local economy.

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- Modernizing Vermont's energy-efficiency utilities, enabling them to focus on reducing climate pollution through innovative new technologies while reducing the cost burden by helping low- and moderate-income Vermonters access cleaner, healthier and more affordable heating and transportation solutions.

- Participating in a just, equitable implementation of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a regional effort to reduce climate pollution by placing a cap on emissions from fossil-fuel companies and using revenue raised to help participating states invest in cleaner transportation options.

Already, 87 lawmakers have signed on to The Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688) — which creates the accountability framework that turns goals into requirements. That is a huge first step, and a sign that the momentum is real.

Many in the state's environmental lobby feel lawmakers have not gone far enough up to now. Likewise, they have been quite critical of this governor, who convened a Climate Action Council, accepted its recommendations, but has done little to implement them.

And the state's energy policy looms large, with very aggressive mandates looming over the next two decades.

But the landscape has changed. Climate change — or more specifically climate "emergency" or "crisis" — is being worked into many conversations, whether it is at general stores, in municipal meetings, among health care providers, or in the halls of the State House.

Vermont joins Maine and New York, which both have put forth aggressive legislative actions toward climate change in the last two years, including expanding EV fleets for state vehicles, adding charging stations, and imposing incentives toward more renewable energy use. New Hampshire also is considering a bill to mandate climate change be taught as part of the curriculum for every public-school student.

For Vermont, this climate action plan is the right start. It sets the trajectory, and it sets a course for a cleaner energy future. It is bold action that we feel positions Vermont to once again be a leader in the nation — and the world.

It will be met with resistance by special interests and lobbyists. But our state's future, which depends on a stable climate in order to monopolize upon snow, foliage, syrup, apples and the like, needs this plan.

The time is now.

— Rutland Herald, Jan. 18


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