The Vermont legislature wrapped up its 2021 session Friday, and it was one for the history books. One big winner? Action on the climate crisis.
We’ll be sharing a full recap of the legislative session soon, but first we wanted to share some highlights from the state budget. In the middle of a pandemic unlike any in a century and an economic crisis at a scale to match, Vermont legislators laid the foundation for truly transformational investments across climate action, broadband, housing, and other areas where Vermont is facing monumental challenges, and has incredible opportunities.
On climate, the legislature did two big things in the budget. First, they devoted $46 million to direct climate spending. Second, they laid out in no uncertain terms that over the next three years, they will be devoting $250 million to cutting Vermont’s climate pollution.
They also laid out their plans “to invest in Vermont’s recovery and long-term future by supporting Vermonters’ health and well-being and by strengthening Vermont’s communities, businesses, environment, and climate.”
Vermont will be putting $150 million into broadband immediately and at least another $100 million over the next three years (as you’ve heard from my colleague Zach), and also investing $250 million in housing, and $225 million for clean water. These are all critical areas, and Vermont will be better for the legislature making each of these commitments.
On climate spending, here are a few of the highlights:
- $23 million for weatherization. This is going to cut energy bills and climate pollution for thousands of Vermont families (free, for low-income households), and support a major push in job training as well.
- $10 million for a new “Affordable Community-Scale Renewable Energy Program.” While some details are still being worked on, this program should support both solar and advanced wood heating options for low-income Vermonters, allowing thousands of families who would otherwise likely be unable to make an upfront investment in these clean energy options to do so.
- $5 million for the Clean Energy Development Fund, which will be used to further advance equity and climate action.
- $1.5 million for the Community Action Agencies to hire energy & financial advisors to work with low-income Vermonters and help them get on more solid financial footing, especially by reducing the burden their energy bills cause, by cutting fossil fuel use.
- $1 million for Regional Planning Commissions to work with municipalities around the state to implement their energy plans, from city halls being weatherized, to heating systems being upgraded, to downtown development and smart growth plans being fleshed out.
And again, this is just the start.
Created by the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Vermont Climate Council is coming out with the Vermont Climate Action Plan in December, and this foundational $250 million commitment to climate action the legislature has now made will be critical to that Plan’s success.
Of course there is no question that we must identify sustainable, long-term funding sources for ongoing climate action. And there are numerous other policies that will have to complement these investments for Vermont to truly get on track to hit its climate requirements. Today though, we celebrate a job well-done by the legislature.