Vermont environmentalists weigh in on Biden’s climate pledge

National

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — When the U.S. rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement in January, it renewed the country’s commitment to climate action. And, at the Climate Summit last Thursday, the Biden administration ensured they’re taking steps to hold us all accountable.

“By maintaining those investments and putting these people to work, the United States sets out on the road to cut greenhouse gases in half by the end of this decade,” said Pres. Joe Biden, vowing to cut greenhouse gases by 50% by the year 2030. Environmentalists in the state say this is a crucial goal Vermonters can commit to personally.

Jennifer Rushlow is the Associate Dean of Environmental programs at Vermont Law School. She says Biden’s pledge is ambitious but essential.

“Implementing this vision is a tall order. We’re going to have to completely envision how our transportation system works, how we building buildings” said Rushlow. “But I don’t really see it as optional. I honestly think we would be worse off if we did nothing.”

Rushlow says 32% of the state’s greenhouse emissions are from transportation. Thirty-five percent is from the housing sector. “So, that adds up to 67%. It’s really mostly in the individual’s control in terms of how they travel and what their homes are,” she said.

Johanna Miller, the Director of the Energy and Climate Program with the Vermont Natural Resources Council, says Vermont has made significant progress when it comes to the electric sector. “Vermont was the first state, the first entity, to establish an energy-efficiency utility back in the late 1990s, early 2000s,” she said.

“But, we’re not leading anymore,” Miller continued. “Some of our neighbors in the northeast—and certainly, states like California, Oregon, Washington—are leading, and Vermont sort of lagged for a while.” This was an initiative designed to reduce Vermonters’ energy bills and energy consumption. 

Miller is also a member of the Vermont Climate Council and a former member of Gov. Phil Scott’s Climate Action Commission. She explains that the state only recently passed the Global Warming Solutions Act. In 2020, it officially turned the state’s climate goals into requirements. 

“We have an opportunity to move back into a leadership role and I think the Biden Administration really set a tone yesterday with their ambitious commitment,” Miller says.

Professor Rushlow says that, similar to Biden’s pledge, the Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 40% by 2030, and 80% by 2050. 

“That was a really important step toward firming up an enforceable commitment to reducing Green House Gas Emissions,” said Rushlow.

 

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