Vermont Youth: “Protect Our Future. Act on Climate.”

On Friday, January 10th, dozens of students representing the Vermont Youth Lobby and the Vermont Youth Climate Congress closed out the first week of the 2020 legislative session — a week already abuzz with calls for bold climate action — by delivering their Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration to our elected leaders.

The Climate Declaration was written by, refined, and passed unanimously in a vote held by a coalition of 171 Vermont students representing 44 schools during the Vermont Youth Climate Congress, held at the State House on November 17th, 2019.

The students began their return visit to the State House promptly at 8:30 a.m., joining Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman for his weekly coffee with constituents to discuss the opportunities for Vermont to take the lead on climate action and to share strategies for young people to make their voices heard.

At 10:30 a.m., joined by over 30 Youth Lobby members, their teachers, parents, and allies, the press, and members of the General Assembly, the students held a press conference in the Cedar Creek Room to present their platform for climate action. They held signs that read, “PROTECT OUR FUTURE” and “ACT ON CLIMATE.”

They expressed their fear for their future and shared their hope that Vermont will do more on climate this year. Vermont Youth Climate Congress co-chairs Lili Platt (a senior at Harwood Union High School) and Evelyn Seidner (a senior at Burr & Burton Academy) delivered opening remarks in tandem.

“We’re facing an unprecedented global emergency,” said Platt. “As young people, we will be living through the continued, dire consequences of climate inaction. Vermont must play a role to end climate injustice. And, as its youth, we are demanding that our government do their part.”

Seidner remarked that, “The longer we wait, the more costly and disruptive the changes will be. We can no longer afford to do nothing. We are protesting the fact that the state is not doing enough to address climate change.”

They read excerpts from their Climate Declaration — which contains a whopping 23 proposed policy solutions — then shared their priorities for the 2020 legislative session. They took a stance in support of five pieces of  legislation on the table this session:

  • The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA)
  • Instituting a 100% Renewable Energy Standard
  • Expanding Efficiency Vermont’s Mandate to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Joining a Regional, Equitable Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI)
  • A Green New Deal in Vermont

Gabe Groveman, a Vermont Youth Lobby member and sophomore at Montpelier High School, emphasized that each of these policy proposals should go further, faster to address the climate crisis. And the students plan to send a group to the State House each Friday to hold Vermont leaders accountable.

After adjourning their press conference, Youth Lobby members delivered poster-size printed copies of their Climate Declaration. They brought them to House and Senate Committees and to the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Senate President Pro Tempore, and the Speaker of the House with the request that they be displayed for the duration of the session — a reminder to legislators to act now to protect their future.

The Vermont Youth Lobby exuded passion and urgency. At the Golden Dome, they held themselves with confidence, proved that they were well-informed, spoke respectfully, and were unwavering in their commitment to climate action. Now, it’s up to our elected leaders to heed their calls to act on climate.