Commentary

Dick McCormack & Mary Sullivan: Climate accord withdrawal a bad deal for state

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, and Rep. Mary Sullivan, D-Burlington, who are co-chairs of the Climate Solutions Caucus of the Vermont General Assembly.

On the global stage, President Trump’s unilateral action is an abdication of American leadership. His disregard for our strategic allies and global trading partners will have immediate and long-term implications. His impetuousness makes America less secure, less healthy, less innovative, and less wealthy.

Across the planet, we will all suffer the consequences of President Trump’s recklessness, but younger generations will deal with the worst implications of his climate ignorance.

Vermont won’t be immune. The president’s retreat threatens our economy, endangers our health and could permanently alter the landscape that nourishes our bodies and souls.

Vermont’s jobs and economy are at risk:

• Global trade supports more than 95,000 Vermont jobs, and President Trump just turned his back on Vermont’s trading partners.

• Trump loves coal, but there are no coal jobs in Vermont. We do, however, have a thriving clean energy economy that employs more than 17,000 Vermonters – and their jobs could be on the line.

While Vermont can’t endorse the Paris accord on its own, we can live up to the values it engenders and the goals that it sets.

• One in 10 Vermont jobs rely on tourism, but international visits to the United States are down by more than 10 percent since Trump’s inauguration. His disregard for the other 196 countries in the Paris agreement will likely continue this downward trend, leading to fewer visitors, fewer sales, fewer jobs and higher taxes.

• Without a global effort to reduce carbon pollution, Vermont will be hammered by more severe weather events. Tropical Storm Irene cost Vermont $1 billion to clean up.

Vermonters’ health is at risk:

• Fossil fuel emissions are deadly. Every Vermonter needs to be concerned that the president is encouraging more mercury, lead and arsenic to enter our air and water.

• The clean water supply for tens of thousands of Vermonters is threatened by toxic algae blooms that are exacerbated by rising temperatures.

• As a result of climate change, Vermont now has some of the highest incidences of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme and anaplasmosis.

Vermont’s landscape is at risk:

• The natural Vermont that we know and love – maple trees, snow for skiing, fresh water, clean air, native wildlife, vibrant foliage – are all threatened by climate change.

But, even as the president of the United States makes a bad deal for Vermont, there remains hope.

While Vermont can’t endorse the Paris accord on its own, we can live up to the values it engenders and the goals that it sets. We look forward to working with Gov. Scott on our involvement in the U.S. Climate Alliance. We need to continue to properly fund Efficiency Vermont and other efforts in the state. We need to move more rapidly on funding and promoting public transportation and moving the transportation sector away from fossil fuels. We need to increase funding for home weatherization. We need to be sure our soils are helping to reduce atmospheric carbon. We look forward to a partnership with the governor to make this happen.

Vermont leads the nation in clean energy jobs per capita. We are one of 10 states to price carbon pollution in the electric sector. We hope to soon price it in other sectors as well, which helps with the transition away from fossil fuel. Since the turn of the century we have begun to decouple Vermont’s economy from fossil fuels, reducing emissions by 13 percent while growing state GDP at the fastest rate in New England.

We are on our way to meeting the spirit of Paris, but we can and should do more. Doing so will improve our health, create jobs and strengthen our economy –- and that’s a good deal for Vermont.

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