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Vermont Climate Council’s Initial Climate Action Plan Provides a Foundation for Progress

by | Dec 1, 2021

Established by the Global Warming Solutions Act passed by the Vermont Legislature last year, the 23-member Vermont Climate Council was charged with crafting a plan to meet Vermont’s legally required climate pollution reductions while advancing equity and building resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis across Vermont.

Today, in an overwhelmingly affirmative 19-4 vote, the initial required Climate Action Plan was adopted, which included the support of several members of the Scott Administration. Last year, Governor Scott aimed to scuttle the entire endeavor and vetoed the bill. The Legislature overrode that veto, requiring the administration to commence this now state-embedded, ongoing process.

“While REV is encouraged that the Vermont Climate Council acknowledged the need to move towards a future where 100% of Vermont’s electricity comes from carbon-free or renewable resources, we believe further action is needed now to combat the climate crisis,” said Peter Sterling, interim Executive Director at Renewable Energy Vermont. “Meeting Vermont’s energy and climate targets must be consistent with the principles of additionality laid out in both the Paris Accords and the Global Warming Solutions Act. And that should require 100% of Vermont’s electricity coming from renewable resources by 2030 with much higher requirements for newly built renewables than we have today, including at least 25% of that energy coming from clean, reliable and resilience-creating in-state renewable energy sources.” (source)

Since its inception in 2020, the Council has been working to meet the statutory deadline of releasing an initial Climate Action Plan on December 1st, 2021 – a requirement it met with today’s adoption. Advocates and members of the Council have made clear throughout the process that following the initial Plan’s adoption, far more outreach, public engagement, and consideration of public input is necessary – particularly from historically marginalized populations.

Key policies advanced in the initial Climate Action Plan include:

  • a clean heat standard, analogous to a renewable energy standard for the heating sector;
  • a dramatically-scaled up weatherization program that will help many more Vermonters – particularly lower income and historically marginalized Vermonters – access weatherization services to cut their heating bills and have healthier and more comfortable homes while also cutting their climate pollution;
  • a suite of transportation investments to help people access clean and affordable transportation options, and a recommendation to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks rules to help drive innovation and market deployment of more clean, efficient vehicles
  • a recommendation to adopt an environmental justice policy; and
  • adoption of a suite of smart growth policy priorities that will support more climate-resilient communities through well-sited housing and other development in compact community centers, paired with stronger protections for our forests, farmland, wetlands, rivers and other vital natural resources.

The announcements from Massachusetts and Connecticut in recent days that they would not currently be implementing the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), which the Council had included as its highest-impact recommendation in the transportation sector in earlier drafts of the Plan, took that cap and invest action off the table in the near-term in Vermont as well.

The Council acknowledged the gap that was left in the Plan, and specifically laid out its intent to adopt an updated Plan no later than June of 2022 supporting additional necessary actions in the transportation sector. The Council also left open the option for Vermont to participate in TCI-P or another cap-and-invest program for the transportation sector and urged quick legislative action to set the table for receiving potential revenue from any such program, while establishing criteria and a process for cost-effective, equitable transportation investments.

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