MONTPELIER — The Vermont Youth Climate Congress on Friday delivered to lawmakers a declaration of demands to combat climate change.
Dozens of students with the Vermont Youth Lobby and its climate congress packed into the Cedar Creek Room for a news conference, offering specific solutions to climate change. They then delivered those declarations to the House committees now considering climate change bills and initiatives.
On the same day, several of the same committees received the Global Warming Solutions Act that will put Vermont on the path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 by turning greenhouse gas reduction goals into mandatory requirements for state agencies.
The youth event followed the convening of the congress in November, also at the State House, when 170 students gathered to hammer out a strategy and solutions to climate change.
“We’re facing an unprecedented global emergency,” said Lili Platt, a senior at Harwood Union High School, one of the organizers of the event and the congress. “Just thinking about the magnitude of climate crisis can be so terrifying that it paralyzes people.
“But we must do something and act. I am angry that those least responsible for climate change suffer the most from it. As young people, we will be living through the continued dire consequences of climate inaction,” she added.
Platt said 76% of Vermonters are concerned about climate change, but added there was “hope” if action was taken to address it.
“Vermont must play a role to end climate injustice, and as its youth, we are demanding that our government do their part,” Platt said, urging Vermont lawmakers to become national and global leaders in building a model to address climate change.
Evelyn Seider, a senior at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester and co-organizer of the congress, added: “A big part of the climate congress was finalizing a declaration in which it demands, by the youth, that we act. We can no longer afford to do nothing, so we are protesting the fact that the state is not doing enough to address climate change.”
Seider noted that the state’s carbon emissions had increase by 16% since 1990, while those of neighboring states had fallen.
“The longer we wait, the more costly and disruptive the changes will be and the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world,” Seider said, pointing to major forest fires, including those in Australia that have destroyed thousands of homes, killed more than a billion animals and caused massive displacement of people.
“Had we listened scientists 10 or 20 years ago, we could have been well on our way,” Seider said. “Unfortunately, that is no longer an option. But we still have the power to change our state for the better, and we must. There is no other option.”
Platt said youth activists would be at the State House every Friday to continue to lobby legislators to act on climate change.
A group of students then read through a list of “concrete” solutions to address climate change. They included: Vermont achieve “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2032 and decarbonization by 2040”; funding solutions to climate crisis by charging fossil-fuel companies for the pollution their products cause; incorporating climate justice into the Vermont school curriculum; and banning the development of new fossil-fuel infrastructure and restrict the expansion of existing fossil-fuel infrastructure.
Also students called for more support for renewable and energy-efficiency programs to weatherize homes and use cold-climate heat pumps, and encourage the use of electric vehicles and provide the infrastructure for charging stations.
Gabe Groveman, a sophomore at Montpelier High School, voiced concerns about multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative — the other major piece of climate legislation Vermont is considering.
Students said they also supported the recently introduced Vermont Green New Deal bill, proposed by Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington County, to tax the wealthiest 5% of Vermont earners to raise $30 million for programs to combat climate change. Visit vermontyouthcongress.com/become-a-citizen-co-signer to read the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration.