Breaking Down the Global Warming Solutions Act

The climate crisis is here now, and it is affecting the quality of life and pocketbooks of Vermonters. More severe storms, punishing heat waves and growing tick populations are just some of the impacts. Since 2006, Vermont has had statutory goals to cut carbon pollution and do our part to combat this global crisis. Unfortunately, we are missing those goals by miles and our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise dramatically.

There is a dire need for Vermont – and the world – to reduce the pollution that is warming our planet and threatening a stable, habitable earth for young people and future generations. Strong policies must be put in place now to right this course. Thankfully, several important ideas are being discussed for Vermont’s 2020 legislative session. To move from a policy idea to policy and program implementation, however, strong public engagement and political support is required. All Vermonters who care about reducing pollution, moving to a more independent and equitable energy system and putting people to work in the clean energy economy must get involved.

Below we’ll discuss one of the key policies VPIRG will be supporting in the 2020 legislative session – a Global Warming Solutions Act.

What is the Global Warming Solutions Act?

Put simply, the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act (named after a similar law passed a decade ago in Massachusetts) is a bill that would turn our climate pollution goals into requirements, mandating that the Administration, through the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), take the measurable steps necessary to hit those targets. Similar legislation has passed throughout much of the north east, including New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut. And these laws work. In Massachusetts, for instance, climate pollution is down 23% over the last two decades – by contrast, in Vermont our emissions are up 16%. There’s no doubt about it – we need to be doing more, and the Solutions Act will work as a fundamental next step towards once again making Vermont a leader on climate action.

The full text of the bills as introduced in the 2019 legislative session can be found at the following links: Senate (S.173)/House (H.462).

Our goal is to see a Solutions Act passed in the 2020 legislative session that requires Vermont hit the Paris climate accord target of a 28% reduction in climate pollution by 2025, and ultimately requires Vermont to be net-zero by 2050 through a combination of dramatic decreases in fossil fuel use, and substantial carbon sequestration from Vermont’s farms and forests.

What does this process look like once implemented?

Within the first year of passage of the Solutions Act, the Secretary of Natural Resources (ANR)will be required by law to produce a set of rules that will get the state to reach our first benchmark by 2025, and these rules will be reviewed and updated every 2 years going forward. At this rate, if passed in 2020, the first set of rules will be completed no later than July of 2021, giving the state 4 more years to hit the Paris climate targets. These rules will come along with each policy’s projected emissions reductions, lending quantifiable measures to the report that can be verified.

This is also about accountability. If the Administration doesn’t do the required rulemaking, or the rules set out by ANR are not strong enough to reach our targets, the state could be taken to court – and the courts could require ANR reevaluate the rules and come up with bolder policies.

Here’s the bottom line: goals are nice, but by themselves they don’t get the job done. It’s time we fully commit to doing our part to cut climate pollution and join our neighbors throughout the region in passing binding climate pollution requirements. Take action now by telling your legislators to pass the GWSA.