Climate Strike_Montpelier 1

A crowd of demonstrators stage a “die-in” Friday blocking Main Street in Montpelier during a Student Climate Strike as part of a day of global climate actions.

The recent climate strike was as inspiring as it was humbling. Around the globe, in country after country and city after city, crowds gathered to demand our leaders take action to solve the climate crisis.

The momentum for the strike built from the efforts of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student who held her own climate strike for a year. From her efforts a global strike was born, with actions in 125 countries spanning six continents.

Roughly 4 million people went on strike across the globe, every one of them demanding their leaders take action to cut back on polluting greenhouse gas emissions so we have a future that supports life for all people and all creation.

Here in Vermont, a number of strikes combined to bring thousands of people together. In Burlington, Montpelier, Brattleboro, Middlebury and Lyndonville, the strikers displayed the disruption that climate change brings. It was not that long ago that Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont. Since then, fiercer storms have wreaked havoc on roadways, buildings, and communities. No corner of the state has been spared. And more disasters are coming.

In response to these disasters the slogan “Vermont Strong” was born, as we worked to rebuild and survive together. This climate strike now shows how with that same “Vermont Strong” spirit we can tackle the climate crisis and do our part to send climate change packing.

Led by youth, the climate strike shows the rest of us what really matters. Compared to other protests, this one seemed louder. It probably needed to be. For decades, the fossil fuel industry has stood against the science that showed our climate was changing. They’ve put profits over people, and convinced our leaders to do the same. But the lives of youth today will bear the brunt of climate disruption. Their voices are loud and their humbling clarion call reminds the rest of us how important it is to act now.

The protests showed the breadth and the depth of people’s commitment to tackling climate change. Sure it is tough, but youth know tough — as do the rest of us. With this toughness we can push local leaders to fight against climate catastrophe. Loud voices alone won’t do it, but loud voices show our leaders that the people support bold action.

You can be sure there are not thousands of people demanding Vermonters pollute more, build more drafty homes, and burn more fossil fuels. It’s time to listen to the folks who demand action, and demand solutions, when their future lies in the balance.

In Vermont, we can step up our efforts and do our part to support the calls of the student strikers. We need strong laws, clear regulations, and practical solutions. Our first stop would be for Vermont to commit to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in line with what science demands — and in line with the goals we set more than a decade ago. We have missed those goals and it is time to get back on track.

A bill in the legislature, the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act, does just that. It requires the state have regulations and policies in place to ensure we cut greenhouse gas emissions. It sets the framework for future action to curb climate pollution and makes sure we get it done.

With a Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act, Vermont will join New York, Maine and Massachusetts by having requirements in place to back up our goals. This law will foster innovation so new buildings will be cleaner, more cars on the road will be electric, and all of us can pollute less. It will also keep more money in our pockets and help us live in healthier communities.

We have the solutions to solve the climate crisis. We need our political leaders to follow the will of the people and the will of youth globally. Through robust climate legislation, Vermont can help prevent the worst impacts of climate change and show what real climate leadership looks like.

Sandra Levine is a senior attorney with Conservation Law Foundation in Montpelier.

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