It was a big week in climate-
Last week, as part of a virtual global climate summit, we saw world leaders make pledges toward doing more to protect the planet.
Here in Vermont, this time of year — and this week in particular — we are reminded that we can play a part as well. Green Up Day is coming up Saturday, and in advance of the statewide effort, we are seeing the trademark green bags starting to dot our roadsides. The litter (which seemed abundant this year) loses its battle this week.
But there is more going on, need we remind you.
Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act, passed in September 2020, effectively requires Vermont hit its climate pollution reduction targets. To do so, it established the Vermont Climate Council, which has been working to create comprehensive and equitable solutions to both reduce our carbon footprint and ensure our communities are prepared for existing and potential consequences of climate change.
The Climate Council consists of about two dozen individuals representing an array of backgrounds, from low income and climate advocates to a dairy farmer and a utilities representative.
Over the course of the year, the council (and its subcommittees) will meet regularly to discuss the ways in which Vermont can reduce our climate pollution in order to hit the targets set out by the Paris Climate Accords, and the other, longer term climate targets Vermont has committed to.
According to its charge, the council will also be finding ways to build the resilience of Vermont’s communities to the effects of the climate crisis, which are already being felt around the state. Increased flooding, unpredictable weather patterns, the spread of invasive species, public health threats, and more intense storms are all things we need to be prepared for — and there must be an organized response at the state level. This will look like building modern infrastructure, fortifying local electrical systems, and implementing town annual assessments to ensure our communities can bounce back quickly should we see another Tropical Storm Irene, or worse.
The subcommittees, made up of an even broader array of volunteers, is focusing on the pressures climate change adaptation will impose on rural transportation, electricity, housing, emergency services and communications infrastructure, and the difficulty of rural communities in meeting the needs of its citizens; identifying the most scientifically and technologically feasible strategies and programs that will result in the largest possible greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the most cost-effective manner; ensuring that strategies consider the disproportionate impact of climate change on rural, low income, and marginalized communities and that programs and incentives for building resilience are designed to be accessible to all Vermonters and do not unfairly burden any groups, communities, geographic locations, or economic sectors; and focusing on the role Vermont’s natural and working lands play in carbon sequestration and storage, climate adaptation, and ecosystem and community resilience.
Throw into the mix the work being done by scores of local energy committees in towns around the state, and you have an army of Vermonters leveraging a global cause. In addition, it is easy to point to businesses and nonprofits doing amazing work to keep Vermont on the path toward meeting its climate goals.
It is having an effect — not just here but across the globe.
Friday’s virtual summit briefly united the heads of global rivals America, China and Russia — on screens for two days — long enough to pledge cooperation on climate. Also, it saw the U.S. and a half-dozen allies commit to significant new efforts and financing to reduce climate-damaging emissions.
The closing message was the right one: Go forth and spend, making good on pledges for rapid transitions to cleaner vehicles, power grids and buildings to stave off the worst of global warming.
“The commitments we’ve made must become real,” declared President Joe Biden, who is seeking $2.3 trillion from Congress for legislation that would partly go for electric charging stations, for laying out an efficient new national electrical grid and for capping abandoned oil and gas rigs and coal mines. “Commitment without doing anything is a lot of hot air, no pun intended.”
“We’re going to do this together,” Biden said.
From neighborhoods to world leaders, we all have a part to play in this effort. We hear about the various ways climate change is touching nearly every aspect of our lives, from the economy to tourism, to weather events, to ticks and emerald ash borers. It’s a thing.
And we have the opportunity to turn it around — one bag of trash, one pledge and one act at a time.