Environment

Vermont leaders vow to step into breach on climate goals

Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference Tuesday announcing the Vermont Climate Pledge Coalition. Photo by Morgan True/VTDigger
BURLINGTON — State and local leaders joined with businesses and nonprofits Tuesday to announce an initiative intended to galvanize support for addressing climate change after the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord.

Mayor Miro Weinberger called President Donald Trump’s decision a disaster and a “historic mistake” that places the onus for meeting targets in the international agreement on states, municipalities and the private sector.

To that end, Weinberger and Gov. Phil Scott announced the Vermont Climate Pledge Coalition. It will collect voluntary pledges from cities, towns, colleges, businesses and others to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy and efficiency projects.

Those pledges will be presented at a conference in the fall. The Agency of Natural Resources will help estimate the pledges’ collective impact on emissions. The pledges will then be “bundled” and presented to We Are Still In, a group organized by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that is handling similar pledges nationwide, Weinberger said.

The Vermont Climate Pledge Coalition will track whether members are meeting their pledges and will offer support to meet those goals. But, as with the Paris accord, there is no enforcement mechanism.

Ashley Orgain, director of mission advocacy and engagement for the home products retailer Seventh Generation, praised the initiative and said her company is excited to participate.

“It’s hard to have a healthy business on a sick planet,” Orgain said.

Seventh Generation has instituted what it calls a self-imposed internal carbon tax, calculating a figure for the carbon dioxide it emits. Orgain said the company then allocates that money to purchase energy from renewable sources, increase efficiency at the company and in its supply chain, or purchase carbon offsets.

“Carbon pricing is good corporate citizenship,” she added, noting that Microsoft, Dow Chemical and Ben & Jerry’s have placed an internal price on carbon.

Orgain called for wider use of carbon pricing, calling it “an essential solution for Vermont.”

Scott said his administration is committed to meeting emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for Vermont set by his predecessor. Those goals call for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 40 percent below 1990 levels and for 90 percent of energy used in the state to come from renewable sources by 2050.

Imposing a price on carbon isn’t the way to achieve those goals, he said. The governor said he would apply the same lens his administration uses in all policy areas to addressing climate change: Will it help grow the economy, increase affordability and protect the most vulnerable?

Lawmakers have proposed various ways of taxing carbon emissions.

“I believe (carbon pricing) would put downward pressure on revenues around Vermont,” Scott said. “We have to remain competitive. If we did it as a country that might be one thing, but to do it as one state would be very difficult.”

Scott also rejected industrial wind power projects on ridgelines, saying they’re not needed to reach Vermont’s renewable energy and emission reduction targets. “I think there’s other technology to replace that. If it was the only option it might be a different story,” he said.

Instead, the governor said the state should make greater use of tax credits to support efficiency and renewable energy. He pointed to tax credits for conservation, electric vehicles and renewable energy in his proposed budget.

“It didn’t pass, but that doesn’t mean we stop,” Scott said.

Scott said he would be forming his own commission to chart a course for meeting the statewide emission reduction and renewable energy goals.

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  • chris wilmot

    These people clearly have never read the protocols of the Paris accord

    And “voluntary” pledges using state resources to fund a leftwing political group?

    Heck no!

    That’s a conflict of interest on many levels

    Can you say kickbacks ?

    Not to mention it’s flagrantly illegal

    Perhaps Scott can ponder his political future as he drives in endless circles burning fossil fuels

  • James Maroney

    My mother used to say that charity begins at home. Note bene: taking local action to slow climate change is all very well and good but conventional agriculture is now the leading generator of global greenhouse gases and its effects are nowhere more evident than here at home in the green state, which has spent fifty years and $2B subordinating the attainment of its water quality standards to the protocols of the conventional dairy industry.

  • Willem Post

    Addition:
    It is always prudent to have some estimates of capital costs to implement any endeavor.

    – The present world investments in RE systems to achieve the Current Policy Trajectory goal of 60 billion Mt of CO2eq (for 3.7 C) is about $300 billion/y, of which China spends about $100 billion/y.

    – The investment required to implement COP-21 pledges to achieve 56 billion Mt (for 3.5 C) would be at least $500 billion/y during the 2016 – 2030 period.

    – The investment required to achieve 42 billion Mt (for 2 C) would be at least $2 trillion/y during the 2016 – 2030 period.

    – The investment required to achieve 39 billion Mt (for 1.5 C) would be at least $2.5 trillion/y during the 2016 – 2030 period.

    A table with above values is in this URL.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop-21-world-renewable-energy-and-world-trade

  • John McClaughry

    The desperate VPIRG campaign to defeat The Menace of Global Warming continues with its latest recruit, Phi Scott, who has ratified all of Gov. Shumlin’s plans for jacking up electricity prices and feeding the renewable-industrial complex with somebody else’s money. But Scott deserves considerable credit for at the same time rejecting the carbon tax so beloved by VPIRG, for essentially the same reason that Climate Warrior Shumlin dragged his feet on that issue: it would have no effect on climate change, and other states would eat Vermont’s economic lunch.

  • chris wilmot

    Most of the money obama signed us up (it was never voted in by our reps) to spend was slated to “develop” third world countries

    The Paris accord would have made climate change worse by aiding the overpopulation of continents like Africa

  • Edward Letourneau

    Must be you don’t have to drive a 100 miles a day to work, or heat a home with oil.

    • chris wilmot

      He makes his living lobbying for a carbon tax

      He is the definition of biased

  • Edward Letourneau

    VPIRG should start buying the homes of people who want to leave Vermont to get away from the taxes and fees. That will lower the carbon footprint in a measurable way. As a bonus they can tear the homes down and let wild things grow, thus serving their other wish to make Vermont a park where only the rich can live.

  • Willem Post

    Addition:

    US population 325 million

    VT 0.62 million

    UN Green Climate Fund: $100 BILLION in 2020, greater ANNUAL amounts thereafter.

    US share at least $25 billion, because China and India would not pay.

    VT share 0.62/325 x 25 = $47.6 million in 2020, greater ANNUAL amounts thereafter.

    VT has trouble raising annual money to clean Lake Champlain.

    The UN fund would become the mother of all boondoggles.

  • Willem Post

    Tom,

    Stepping up to do what?

    How much would Vermont be on the hook for?

    US population 325 million

    VT 0.62 million

    UN Green Climate Fund: $100 BILLION in 2020, greater ANNUAL amounts thereafter.

    US share at least $25 billion, because China and India would not pay.

    VT share 0.62/325 x 25 = $47.6 million in 2020, greater ANNUAL amounts thereafter.

    VT has trouble raising annual money to clean Lake Champlain.

    The fund would become the mother of all boondoggles.

    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop-21-world-renewable-energy-and-world-trade

  • Ritva Burton

    Sending money to Michael Bloomberg to manage is the first problem I see!! “Carbon pricing” which used to be called a “carbon tax” is also a problem – why the name change?? Sort of like “global warming” was changed to “climate change”. I’m OK with Trump pulling out of the Paris accord, at least until they (whoever “they” are), figure out what to call “the problem”.