Climate group pushes Vermont lawmakers to take bold action in 2020

Published: Oct. 2, 2019 at 11:58 PM EDT
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Vermonters are keeping the pressure on lawmakers to pass sufficient bills on climate change in 2020.

On Wednesday night, five lawmakers and the Vermont Climate Solutions Caucus held a public discussion on climate policy to hear what type of bills Vermonters want to see passed. The organization is organizing a series of climate policy discussions across the state hoping to engage more Vermonters in the conversation.

They talked about five bills: the Carbon Tax, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Renewable Electricity Standard, the Energy Efficiency Utility Modernization, and the Transportation and Climate Initiative Authorization. The panel of lawmakers said these are bold pieces of legislation that they feel confident about.

Wednesday’s discussion was hosted by the Richmond Climate Action Committee. It was the first of many to be held between now and the time lawmakers return to Montpelier.

“We’re really at a turning point. I think the amount of attention being paid to climate change in the last two months is unprecedented. People really feel that the world is changing and that it’s time to do something about it,” said Chris Granda of the Richmond Climate Action Committee.

Five Vermont lawmakers joined in on the talk and took questions from their constituents. Sen. Chris Pearson, P-Chittenden County, said the turnout spoke volumes to the energy and passion people in Vermont feel about making progress in addressing the climate crisis.

“It was really a two-way discussion. We’re trying to hear what’s important to people and we’re trying to help them see what we are expected to work on so that we can harness some grassroots energy. In this type of crisis, there’s no one solution,” he said.

The group spent two hours talking about some of the climate bills most likely heading to the Statehouse for a vote in 2020, such as the Global Warming Solutions Act. Granda says it would take statewide goals that already exist in policy and put them into law.

“And that’s important because right now there are targets in the schedule but nothing happens if we don’t meet them,” Granda said. “And Vermont’s greenhouse gases have actually been going in the wrong direction. So this would put some teeth into that.”

They also talked about other key pieces of legislation that lawmakers say could help Vermont reach its energy efficiency goals within the next few decades.

“There’s this idea of putting the Paris goals into state law and also hitting a target of net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Pearson. “That is also a foundational piece of legislation so that Vermonters know we’re on track and we’re going to put our money where our mouth is.”

The group told elected officials they were disappointed in this past legislative session. Some of those lawmakers said they feel the same way but they’re optimistic other lawmakers are starting to feel the pressure to take action on climate change due to the energy and momentum from Vermonters this past year.