While a new report says Vermont is not on track to meet its emissions reduction requirements, the head of the agency tasked with making those requirements a reality says much is being done and that the 2050 goals are more important for the climate as a whole.
“While there is a lot of important information in this comprehensive 40-page report, a key takeaway is that Vermont is not on track to meet our 2030 emissions reduction commitments.” , said Jared Duval, executive director of Energy Action Network. “A big reason is that Vermont has so far not adopted at least one of the policies that have been proven by other states and countries to provide a high degree of confidence in reducing emissions – emissions caps and/or performance standards – for our two most fossil fuel-intensive and climate-polluting energy sectors: transportation and heating.”
The report Duval refers to is an annual publication of the Energy Action Network and can be viewed online at bit.ly/0909Report
Vermont has done well in reducing emissions from the electricity sector, but not so much in transportation and heating, which account for a larger portion of the state’s emissions, he said.
Passing the clean heat standard would have gone a long way toward reducing those emissions, Duval said, but the bill that would have made it law was opposed by Gov. Phil Scott in the last legislative session. A waiver of the veto then failed by one vote.
“Not having the clean heat standard was the single most important emissions reduction strategy in the climate action plan,” Duval said. “Without this or its equivalent, and many other policy advancements, we simply cannot be sure that we will meet these legal requirements.”
If the state fails to meet its legal requirements, it can be sued by individuals or groups, Duval said, although few would want to see that route taken given that the courts are a far more brutal tool than ‘a politic.
It’s happened before in other states, Duval said, namely Massachusetts.
“What happened was they were taken to court because it was not believed that what the state was planning to do would have met those requirements,” Duval said. “So the Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered the state of Massachusetts to come into compliance, which is one of the reasons they’ve dramatically ramped up a number of programs, including trying to push through initiatives in terms of transport and climate.
Julie Moore, secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, said on Friday that she did not share the Energy Action Network report’s apparent pessimism.
“I would highlight the fact that in the state budget (for fiscal year 2023) there are very significant federal funds, through (the American Recovery Plan Act) in particular, that have been directed to climate-related initiatives,” she said. “The biggest of those is probably an $80 million investment in weatherization, but there’s also money related to electric vehicles and working with Vermont homeowners and some of our utilities. more rural to improve service so that homeowners can take advantage of all beneficial electrification opportunities in the future.
She said there’s an “incredible amount of work” being done by the state on the environment and climate, and that the 2050 emissions requirement is bigger than the 2025 and 2030 requirements.
“That may be me personally more than an agency stance,” she says, “(but) the 2050 goal is what’s really important. It challenges us to essentially decarbonize our way of life.
“The requirements of 2025 and 2030, I don’t want to push us to take action to meet those requirements that are not really in service of achieving the 2050 target, because the fact is: the global environment won’t notice if we miss 2030,” Moore said. “I think that’s where my worry lies.”
The state is also developing rules for the adoption of California’s clean car and clean truck standards, “which will ensure that a significant number of electric vehicles go on sale in Vermont, and I consider that this is integral to our overall ability to meet the transportation sector goals that were established in the Global Warming Solutions Act,” Moore said.