Vermont Climate Council seeks input on emission-reducing plans

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 4:46 PM EDT
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WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Climate Council is beginning to draft policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. It comes ahead of a key deadline passed into law last year.

Dillon Wright bought a new Tesla several months ago. The Waitsfield man’s a big fan and says he’ll never go back to pumping gas, but he wishes that there were more high-speed charging stations in Vermont. “We need more of them in the state,” he said.

Vermont’s Agency of Transportation says currently, Vermont has 31 fast-charging stations. Five are only for Tesla owners and another 10 may only work with certain makes of non-Tesla EVs. The number of charging stations could change in just a few years however. Vermont’s climate council and its subcommittees are digging into work on strategies to help Vermont reduce carbon emissions, like lower barriers to electric car ownership, creating more bike lanes, and encouraging the use of public transit.

The council was created by last year’s Global Warming Solutions Act. It requires Vermont to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Experts say it’s going to take a lot more than incentivizing electric vehicles and building more charging stations to meet those climate goals, including reimagining agriculture. Agriculture contributes about 16% of greenhouse gasses. Council member Abbie Corse says growing local food production, distribution, and sales will be essential, both for large farms and on small agricultural operations that play a critical role in supporting their communities. She stresses that a path forward for the industry needs to be rooted in equity for all farms. “I think we all benefit from a vibrant thriving agricultural economy. That also requires a thriving vibrant rural economy,” she said.

There are also long-term strategies including reimagining the layout of towns and cities to reduce automobile use and investing in housing and infrastructure for more thermal efficiency. “That’s going to require investments in downtowns and village centers like water and sewer infrastructure,” said Johanna Miller with the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

Some of the proposals could cost big bucks. “We have to put forward a plan that directs how we’re going to meet these strategies on the ground, and that includes funding options,” said Jane Lazorchak, the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act director.

They also want to leverage as much federal cash as possible. Currently, there’s no mention of specific funding mechanisms such as a carbon tax.

The council is also trying to lessen the impact on low-income and marginalized communities. They’re setting up several public input sessions to craft a plan that reflects Vermonters’ interests. “No matter what, we have to cut our emissions in order to get there over the next few years, and now is the time to act,” Lazorchak said.

The council’s full report is due on December 1.

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