It’s been one year since Gov. Phil Scott established his hand-picked Climate Action Commission. This anniversary follows on the heels of the release of the most recent Vermont Greenhouse Gas Inventory report two weeks ago — a sobering report detailing how Vermont climate progress is accelerating in the wrong direction, with climate pollution 16% above 1990 levels. Today VPIRG stood with our allies the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), Capstone Community Action, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV), in a joint press release asserting that Vermont must be doing more to live up to our climate commitments and tackle carbon pollution, grow the state’s economy and protect the most vulnerable Vermonters.
Montpelier – One year ago, on July 20, 2017, Governor Phil Scott established a diverse, 21-member Climate Action Commission and charged this body with developing recommendations that would meet the state’s necessarily ambitious clean energy and climate commitments. Those goals are:
- In statute, a 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gases by January 1, 2028, a 75 percent reduction by January 1, 2050, and a commitment by 2025, “to produce 25 percent of the energy consumed within the State through the use of renewable energy.”
- The Comprehensive Energy Plan further targets 40 percent renewable energy by 2035 and 90 percent of all energy needs through renewable supplies by 2050 – along with a reduction in energy consumption per capita by more than one third by 2050.
The Commission’s charge – and achieving the State of Vermont’s statutory goals – just got much harder, however. Just days before the governor’s Climate Action Commission met for the last time, the Agency of Natural Resources released its long-awaited updated greenhouse gas inventory report; an analysis of Vermont’s progress towards meeting these goals. This analysis provided a sobering update from the most recent 2013 report and showed that, over just two years – 2014 and 2015 – Vermont’s greenhouse gases rose by 10 percent; 16 percent over our statutory targets. In stark contrast, last week California announced that it has reduced its emissions to 1990 levels – four years ahead of their target – all while experiencing a strong 2.9% growth in their GDP last year.
“The Climate Action Commission is set to deliver its recommendations to Gov. Scott on July 31st and, while strong, they are cumulatively insufficient in terms of what needs to be done to meet our goals. This new greenhouse gas report just intensifies that shortfall – to an extreme,” said Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy & Climate Program Director Johanna Miller. “We are not serious about our goals, unless we are willing to actually look hard at what it will take to meet them. We need many sufficiently strong, economy-wide policies and different approaches to change this disappointing, upward trajectory.”
“Despite longstanding, strong state goals aimed at reducing reliance on dirty, imported fossil fuels, this report shows we are trending in the exact opposite direction. It’s an embarrassment – and a gigantic missed opportunity,” said Ben Edgerly Walsh, VPIRG Climate and Energy Program Director. “This is a crisis, and it demands more than the empty rhetoric we’ve gotten from Governor Scott so far.”
“Vermonters with low incomes are disproportionately impacted by the consequences and the costs of climate change,” said Capstone Community Action Weatherization Director Paul Zabriskie. “They bear the worst brunt of climate intensified storms, suffer real energy insecurity issues and spend a much higher percent of their incomes on energy than other Vermonters. Doing something serious about climate change is essential to protect the most vulnerable Vermonters.”
“Fighting climate change is not just about protecting the environment, it’s also about protecting and growing our economy,” said Daniel Barlow, public policy manager at Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. “Vermonters use the second most fuel oil for heating per capita in the United States, which hurts our environment and our bank accounts. About 80 cents of every dollar that we spend on imported fossil fuels drains out of our state economy. Businesses across Vermont understand that climate change is a threat to our way of life and the solution involves creating good-paying jobs for Vermonters in our clean energy economy.”
Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters added, “With a federal administration moving us backwards on climate and clean energy, and increasing climate pollution here at home, we urgently need – and Vermont voters expect and deserve – elected officials who will examine which policies will work best to help all Vermonters transition off expensive and polluting fossil fuels, and then strongly advocate to enact and implement the transformative policies we need.”