Report: Vermont not on track to meeting climate requirements

Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:37 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A new report by the Vermont Climate Council finds the state is not on track to meet its first emission reduction goals by 2025 and that lawmakers need to step up in order to meet the carbon reduction target of 26% below 2005 levels. But some lawmakers and administration officials are throwing up red flags.

Vermont Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore says she believes they can meet the state’s 2050 climate targets. “The goal, ultimately, is decarbonization,” she said.

The biggest areas of focus are transportation and thermal energy which are responsible for more than two-thirds of the state’s greenhouse gases. Moore says the transportation part of the equation is already expected to see progress as more electric vehicles are sold in the state. “Now, our focus is on reducing emissions in the building and thermal sector,” she said.

Despite The Vermont Climate Council report’s bleak outlook for meeting the first emissions requirements by 2025, those working toward them aren’t ready to throw in the towel. “We are currently not on track, however, analysis by the EAN {Energy Action Network} and by the Vermont Climate Council shows that meeting those requirements is achievable,” said the climate council’s Jared Duval. He says we will have a better idea of how close we are to meeting the 2025 requirements when emissions data up to 2020 is available by the end of this year. “We know we have the technology, we have the know-how, we have the best practices and the programs to meet these requirements.”

But climate activists say the state will have a better chance of meeting those requirements if policies like the Affordable Heat Act become law. While the measure is a priority for Democrats, the governor and some other lawmakers urge caution.

“To continue down this path of mandates and certain benchmarks is unrealistic in my mind,” said Rep. Mark Higley, R-Lowell. He has introduced a bill to change legally-binding emission requirements in the Global Solutions Act, back to just goals. It would also repeal the Climate Council, Climate Action Plan, and Vermont’s electric vehicle sales requirements. Higley says he is concerned about a lawsuit against the state if the goals aren’t met. “A huge waste of money and time and I just hope we can go forward with less restrictive guidelines.”

He adds that many of the mandates create a financial burden for his rural constituents and that a lawsuit would actually slow down the state’s progress in meeting the climate goals.

Moore says the state should remain focused on 2050. “What those long-term objectives are and making sure we are making common sense policy choices and investment decisions,” she said.

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