Global Warming Solutions Act Next Steps
In January of 2020, a coalition of 30 business, environmental, low-income, youth, public health, faith, and climate justice organizations including LCC identified the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) as an essential priority for the 2020 Vermont legislative session. Nine months later, in late September 2020, GWSA officially became law after a veto by VT Governor Phil Scott was overridden by both the Vermont House and Senate. The legislation requires Vermont to reduce climate damaging emissions while simultaneously creating jobs, improving resilience, reducing energy burdens for rural and marginalized communities, and using natural systems to capture and store carbon.
The new law helps chart a path toward meeting the state’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord by 2025 and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 by turning greenhouse gas reduction goals into requirements and setting binding deadlines for the state to cut climate pollution. While Vermont has pledged to reduce emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the state is not on track to meet the 2025 goal. Vermont is also the only New England state with higher emissions than it had 30 years ago and it has the highest per-capita emissions in the region. The measure allows people to sue the state over missed targets and creates a Climate Council to develop a comprehensive implementation plan and ensure communities are prepared for existing and potential consequences of climate change. GWSA puts Vermont in line with states like New York and Massachusetts, who are at the forefront in taking action on climate change.
Appointments were made to the Vermont Climate Council in late October 2020 and group has had two meetings to date. Appointees to the diverse 23-member group are listed below and their biographies can be found here:
- Susanne Young, Chair, Agency of Administration, Secretary
- Julie Moore, Agency of Natural Resources, Secretary
- Anson Tebbetts, Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, Secretary
- Lindsay Kurrle, Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Secretary
- Sean Brown, Agency of Human Services, Commissioner of Department of Children for Families, designee
- Joe Flynn, Agency of Transportation, Secretary
- Erica Bornemann, Department of Public Safety, Director of Vermont Emergency Management, designee
- June Tierney, Department of Public Service, Commissioner
Members Appointed by the VT Senate Committee on Committees
- Abbie Corse, The Corse Farm Dairy, member to represent the farm and forest sector
- Chad Farrell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Encore Renewable Energy, member to represent the clean energy sector
- Jared Duval, Executive Director or Energy Action Network, member to represent energy and data analysis
- Kelly Klein, Founder and CEO of Groennfell Meadery and Havoc Mead, member to represent the small business community
- Lauren Oates, The Nature Conservancy, member to represent the resilience and disaster response
- Sophia Clark, Hyde Park, youth member
- Sue Minter, Executive Director of Capstone Community Action, member to represent the Vermont Community Action Partnership
Members Appointed by the VT House of Representatives
- Adam Knudsen, Dynapower, member to represent Vermont manufacturers
- Catherine Dimitruk, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, member to represent rural communities
- Chris Campany, Windham Regional Commission, member to represent the municipal governments
- Johanna Miller, Vermont Natural Resources Council, member to represent a statewide environmental organization
- Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Vermont State Climatologist, UVM Professor of Climate and Climate Change, member with expertise in climate change science
- Liz Miller, Green Mountain Power, member to represent distribution utilities
- Richard Cowart, Regulatory Assistance Project, member with expertise and professional experience in the design and implementation of programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Vacant, member to represent the fuel sector
The Council will meet throughout 2021 to discuss ways Vermont can reduce climate pollution to meet targets established in the Paris Climate Accords and other longer term targets the state has commit to. They will also identify ways to build community resilience to climate change effects such as increased flooding, more frequent and intense storm events, and unpredictable weather patterns. Early in 2021 the Council will create subcommittees made up of both Council and non-Council members to take a deeper dive into major subject areas as outlined below.
Rural Resilience and Adaptation Subcommittee
“…shall focus on the pressures that climate change adaptation will impose on rural transportation, electricity, housing, emergency services, and communications infrastructure, and the difficulty of rural communities in meeting the needs of its citizens.” (Solutions Act, pg. 9)
Cross-Sector Mitigation Subcommittee
“…shall focus on identifying the most scientifically and technologically feasible strategies and programs that will result in the largest possible greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the most cost-effective manner.” (Solutions Act, pg. 11)
Just Transitions Subcommittee
“…shall ensure that strategies consider the disproportionate impact of climate change on rural, low income, and marginalized communities and that programs and incentives for building resilience are designed to be accessible to all Vermonters and do not unfairly burden any groups, communities, geographic locations, or economic sectors.” (Solutions Act, pg. 11)
Agriculture and Ecosystems Subcommittee
“…shall focus on the role Vermont’s natural and working lands play in carbon sequestration and storage, climate adaptation, and ecosystem and community resilience.” (Solutions Act, pg. 11)
By December 2021 the Climate Council will produce a document with a comprehensive list of recommendations for meeting state climate goals while advancing equity and community resilience. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources will act on the recommendations they have the authority to implement while others will require legislative action.
Just as community involvement and advocacy was critical to the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act, it will be critical to its implementation. Please stay engaged and involved. The next meeting of the Vermont Climate Council will be on Monday, January 4, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held via Microsoft Teams. Click here to access the meeting link and minutes of the November and December meetings.