Author Archives: BlueCOP

Blue COP: A ray of opportunity after a wave of emotional events

Despite more than 70 side events scheduled on the topic of oceans at the Blue COP, the ocean is still on the sidelines. However, with leadership from the small islands and other ocean-minded states, there is a movement afoot to chart a new course for the integration of the ocean-climate nexus into formal international climate negotiations going forward.

COP25 week 1 negotiations culminated in OCEANS DAY less than 24 hours after a sobering session by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding their findings on the state of the ocean and cryosophere (SROCC Report).

A few major takeaways from the 700+ page report include that (1) the ocean has been absorbing a significant amount of the world’s emissions and heat – and it is feeling the effects (2) the frozen regions of the Earth are warming, resulting in losing snow and ice at rates faster than the rest of the world (3) scientists predict that things are expected to get a lot worse and (4) adaption is available, however only to a certain point. IMG_1886The authors left us with the simple, yet profound message that our ocean and cryosphere sustain us, are under pressure and are changing, and affect all our lives. Thus, we must act now.

Despite this call to action, the negotiations seem to be moving at a pace slower than the rate glaciers are melting. Regardless of the pace, oceans are still not part of the actual negotiations at the Blue COP.

Despite being on the sidelines we saw a ray of hope when Dr. Lisa Levin was called to the front stage during the IPCC session on the SROCC report. Earlier this year, we learned about the role of scientists in international negotiations by speaking with Dr. Lisa Levin from Scripps Oceanography. We got to see her in action this week when she was called on stage because of her scientific contributions to the SROCC report.

Despite being on the sidelines we saw a ray of hope when Dr. Lisa Levin was called to the front stage during the IPCC session on the SROCC report. Earlier this year, we learned about the role of scientists in international negotiations by speaking with Dr. Lisa Levin from Scripps Oceanography. We got to see her in action this week when she was called on stage because of her scientific contributions to the SROCC report.

The ocean science reflected in the SROCC report sits on the sidelines of decisionmaking, in particular, because there are no formal negotiations pertaining to the ocean-climate nexus.

So while the youth use their voice to express concern over the loss of a world with vibrant coral reefs and Arctic wildlife like polar bears, the main issue—the global ocean— still does not have a seat at the formal negotiating table. For the past two years, ocean-minded nations have been working together to remedy this issue. The Ocean Pathway, co-chaired by Fiji and Sweden, works to create an “ocean inclusive” UNFCCC process.

H.E. Ms. Helen Agren, Ambassador for the Ocean, Sweden, speaks during an Ocean Day event

H.E. Ms. Helen Agren, Ambassador for the Ocean, Sweden, speaks during an Ocean Day event while Mr. Taholo Kami, Special Representative for the Ocean Pathway, Fiji, looks on

Visionary leadership has emerged over the past week as ocean champions take action. No stranger to voyaging out ahead in uncharted waters, ocean-minded states are leading the effort to include oceans in the formal climate negotiations going forward. Indonesia, Fiji, Costa Rica, Seychelles, Panama, and Palau introduced a joint proposal to integrate issues relating the connection between oceans and climate change into the formal work of the UNFCCC. The proposal aims to highlight the ocean climate nexus and promote as well as ensure that ocean related issues are addressed in international climate negotiations.

An ocean "lady in waiting" at IFEMA. There are over 80 sculptures of Las Meninas placed in iconic spots around Madrid

An ocean “lady in waiting” at IFEMA. There are over 80 sculptures of Las Meninas placed in iconic spots around Madrid

It identifies three deadlines for action. First, it asks the Chair of Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to create a dialogue during the fifty-second session (June 2020) centered around the climate-ocean nexus and the most efficient arrangements for addressing these issues under the UNFCCC framework. Second, the proposal invites both parties and non-party stakeholders, and representatives from other international processes, to submit comments on this issue by March 21, 2020. Finally, the proposal asks for recommendations from SBSTA body for consideration during COP26 next year in Glasgow (November 2020).

Sun sets on week one of the COP25 negotiations in Madrid

Sun sets on week one of the COP25 negotiations in Madrid

As we welcome next week’s student delegation, we are delighted at the prospect of having a tangible way to contribute to the future of international climate negotiations, by using the power of our Vermont Law voice towards integrating oceans into the UNFCCC process. Negotiations are far from over, but the way ahead, and our role in contributing to international climate negotiations, is becoming more clear.

 

Should COP25 Re-brand? A “Show Me the Money!” Mentality

Center stage, COP25 seems to be all about money. The negotiations regarding climate finance and adaptation have made little progress this past week because of an ongoing conflict that has dominated negotiations since before the Kyoto Protocol: developed versus developing nations, and their associated financial responsibilities. Existing international legal instruments do not lend themselves to proper management of this ongoing conflict between developed and developing nations, and so it is now manifesting within the COP25 negotiations on the issues of climate finance and loss and damage.

Members of the G-77/China huddle during negotiations. Photo credit: https://enb.iisd.org/climate/cop25/enb/

Members of the G-77/China huddle during negotiations. Photo credit: https://enb.iisd.org/climate/cop25/enb/

It is well established that the developed countries are to blame for the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that is contributing to climate change. However, these developed countries are not the ones who will suffer the most from the perils of extreme flooding and drought. Developed countries for the last century grew their economy by burning fossil fuels and continue to burn a disproportional amount compared to developing countries. Although wealthier countries pledged to donate significant amounts of money to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation under the Paris Agreement, the climate-specific assistance given is far less than what was promised.

The issue of lack of adequate finance is most prevalent in the Climate Finance negotiations. Although the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was recently replenished in October 2019, raising $9.7 billion, these are merely pledges, and the fund will not be operational until these pledges turn into commitments, or money in the bank. Additionally, at COP16, as part of the Cancun Agreement, developed countries committed to a goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.

COP and CMA contact group on guidance to the Green Climate Fund. Photo credit: https://enb.iisd.org/climate/cop25/enb/4dec.html

COP and CMA contact group on guidance to the Green Climate Fund. Photo credit: https://enb.iisd.org/climate/cop25/enb/4dec.html

Nearly a decade later, several developing countries now seek an update on the status of this commitment, especially in the sessions dedicated to long-term climate finance. Developing countries see sessions on Long Term Finance, in particular, to discuss climate finance from a strategic perspective. AOSIS is very active in these discussions and has proposed a draft text. Developing countries suggest that they continue to face barriers in accessing climate finance and would benefit from access to simpler modalities of climate funds (such as streamlined access to GCF funding), favorable regulatory and policy environments, and provision of capacity-building and technical support.

There seems to be a disconnect between the stalling negotiations surrounding the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), and the galvanized international community calling for a financial response to the climate emergency. According to the United Nations, climate disasters are increasing in both frequency (one per week) and cost ($300 billion per year).  In advance of COP25, in an open letter to Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s Environmental Minister and COP25 President, over 150 civil societies (e.g., Oxfam, 350.org), called for an end to the stalemate in the negotiations on WIM, and endorsed a funding facility for vulnerable countries. Yet, negotiators cannot seem to move beyond the question of who will provide the support to address loss and damage. Developing countries expect that developed countries will facilitate the mobilization of both technical and financial support to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts. Earlier this week, like-minded developing countries called for a new financial mechanism and are trying to establish a Loss and Damage Finance Facility under WIM.

The SBI/SBSTA informal consultations on the WIM continue at full capacity. Photo credit: https://enb.iisd.org/climate/cop25/enb/

The SBI/SBSTA informal consultations on the WIM continue at full capacity. Photo credit: https://enb.iisd.org/climate/cop25/enb/

Developed countries are worried that such a financial facility makes the UNFCCC a humanitarian agency and establishes liability for the irreversible impact of climate change. But as parties negotiate the mechanics of finance, one thing they can all agree upon is the need for, and role of, money in driving action to address the climate emergency. As we head into the second week of negotiations, it remains to be seen whether the negotiations can move forward with a “Show Me the Money!” mentality.

 

Progress on the Margins, For the Marginalized

Money, finance, moolah, whatever you want to call it, it is truly what the negotiations at COP seem to be all about. Progress is slow when it comes to two main issues we are tracking here at COP25, Article 6 and climate finance. Despite the lack of urgency at the center of the action, we saw significant progress on the margins, for the all too often marginalized communities.

Feria de Madrid

Feria de Madrid

Article 6 is a high priority issue at COP25. Little headway has occurred on Articles 6.2, 6.4, and 6.8, because countries continue to disagree on one main governance issue. The debate continues over whether the Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which advises COP on science and technology matters, should become the main implementor of WIM, or whether there should be a new independent system to facilitate action and support and provide technical guidance to the countries that need it.
Climate finance negotiations are of interest to many observer and party delegations. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) was established in 1992 to handle the worlds’ most pressing environmental issues. Since its inception, the GEF has given over $19 billion in grants and co-financed more than $100 billion in support of thousands of projects across the globe aimed at addressing issues with biodiversity, climate change and sustainable forest management. Negotiations at COP25 are tense and stymied because of disagreement over whether performance reports need additional review or are sufficient enough for forward movement.

Established almost three decades after the GEF, the Green Climate Fund operates as a financial mechanism to assist developing countries with adaptation and mitigation practices to combat climate change. The GCF negotiations have been tense because there are questions as to whether it is being managed properly. The room got quite tense when one particular party explained that it had submitted project proposals for access to GCF funding, but had not received any word yet on approval or rejection, and questioned whether the lack of response was an indicator of discrimination.

When looking at COP25 negotiations, and the main issues, it may seem that the sense of urgency with which COP25 began has quickly fizzled. However, look to the margins and you will find parties coming together to make a better, more inclusive world. With significant momentum heading into COP25 after the 2019 summer Bonn Climate Change Conference, the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) Facilitative Working Group agreed during COP25 negotiations to an initial two-year work plan for 2020-2021 to implement three main functions, which are knowledge, capacity, and climate change policies and actions. It is clear from the pace at which the LCIPP is moving that international climate negotiations do not always move slow.

LCIPP Timeline

LCIPP Timeline

If we can learn anything from this year’s COP, it is to track the silent underdog negotiations. That is where we can find hope for a better future, because in this climate emergency, we need to focus on doing the next right thing, one step at a time. Center stage could learn a thing or two from the margins, where progress can, and must be made, by showing up and moving forward.

Big Ocean States have Big Ideas on Carbon Markets, Adaptation, and Loss and Damages

On December 3, 2019, the Vermont Law School COP25 student delegation started covering both negotiations and various side events of interest to small island nations. The primary focus of the day was the still unresolved details of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 is one of the most complex and obscure concepts of the Paris Agreement and has been an unresolved issue since 2015 because it is contentious and has wide-reaching implications. Generally, Article 6 will establish an international carbon market. Three main sections of Article 6 are up for discussion: 6.2, 6.4, and 6.8. First, Article 6.2 pertains to an accounting framework for international cooperation and allows for countries with existing carbon trading networks to link their emission schemes. Second, Article 6.4 covers the establishment of a central United Nations mechanism to trade credits from emission reductions achieved through implementation of specific projects. Finally, Article 6.8 recognizes a work program for non-market approaches, such as applying a carbon tax. Pre-negotiations started last week and will continue through December 9, 2019.

Student delegates at COP25. Top, l-r: Gillian Cowley, Naveed Nanjee, Ashli Taylor. Bottom, l-r, Antonia Douglas and Jordan Stone.

Student delegates at COP25. Top, l-r: Gillian Cowley, Naveed Nanjee, Ashli Taylor. Bottom, l-r, Antonia Douglas and Jordan Stone.

Another primary focus here at COP25 is all things ocean. Referred to as the Blue COP, small island nations have led the way here at COP25 in communicating that we must continue to reduce emissions, and we cannot look to the ocean to solve our climate emergency. The current state of our ocean’s health is a symptom of the international communities’ failure to act. In many negotiations and most side events attended by student delegates, the role of the ocean has been central to the dialogue.

Beyond the Article 6 negotiations discussed above, student delegates tracked the issue of Adaptation, which is divided into two main topics: (1) what to do to prepare for impacts associated with climate change (e.g., sea level rise, increased storminess, erosion) and (2) what to do in response to impacts already occurring. In a perfect world, vulnerable countries would be able to prepare for the impacts of climate change through adaptation and then could respond to those impacts through a loss and damage mechanism. But those coastal nations on the front lines of the climate emergency must both prepare for, and respond to, the effects of climate change simultaneously, and with limited financial resources.

The Blue COP

The Blue COP

According to the UNFCC, adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. Further, it refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. The informal consultations regarding National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) commenced December 3, 2019. Under the Cancun Adaptation Framework, NAPs were established to enable Parties to identify and address medium and long-term adaptation needs. The planning process is continuous, progressive, and iterative, and allows for a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory, and transparent approach. Since last year’s COP24, the focus has been on identifying and addressing the gaps and needs of countries in implementing their NAPs. Yesterday’s negotiations centered primarily on process, and financing mechanisms were of interest to many parties.

The first negotiations of WIM taking place.

The first negotiations of WIM taking place.

Many small island nations must also consider what to do in response to loss and damage from impacts associated with climate change in parallel with how to prepare for a more resilient future. Created six years ago at COP19, the Warsaw International Mechanisms for Loss and Damage (WIM) addresses loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The goal of this week’s WIM negotiations is to come to agreement regarding the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change. Expressing some concern over the lack of time—and lack of representation—parties also continued the dialogue over whether loss and damage should be narrowly focused on financial needs or expand to cover adaptation measures.

While Vermont Law was busy with negotiations, student delegates also made time to go to several side events on topics ranging from Fossil Fuels to the Ocean. Stay tuned as we continue our daily posts on what is happening here in Madrid. #TimeForAction.

 

 

Making Waves at COP 25: Calls for Action and Stronger Commitments

Let us open our ears to the multitudes who are demanding change.
Let us open our eyes to the imminent threat facing us all.
Let us open our minds to the unanimity of the science.
There is no time and no reason to delay.
We have the tools, we have the science, we have the resources.
Let us show we also have the political will that people demand from us.
To do anything less will be a betrayal of our entire human family and all the generations to come.

– H.E. Mr. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Stations

Secretary General to the United Nations, António Guterres, closed his opening remarks to the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention with a call for action. This call to action, this urgency, is without doubt the tone that Chile has chosen to set for COP25, the Blue COP.

The walkway guiding attendees to the registration desk is lined with slogans calling for new rhetoric at today’s COP—one drawing our attention from change, to emergency. The mission of this year’s COP Presidency is clear: to respond to the protests raging across the globe, to integrate science into policy, to tackle the world’s addiction to coal, to strengthen commitments to emissions reductions, and to abandon the UNFCCC’s incremental approach for one that is “transformational.”

GC_1

The side events we attended as a group during our first 12 hours at COP held true to this message. The first, Global Climate Action: Indigenous Rights, Territories & Resources, turned attendees attention to the link between consumption in one nation and exploitation in another. With heavy emphasis of the negative effect of globalization, of the links between excessive consumption and human rights violations down the supply chain. In particular, the panelists discussed the devastating impacts the raging forest fires have had on the Amazon, and many indigenous communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on it.

Los incendios forestales tienen en llamas el pulmón del mundo
(Forest fires have the lungs of the world on fire)

Using the Amazon as a key example, each panelist emphasized the global nature of today’s local issues. The panelists concluded with a call for immediate global collective action to support and fight for indigenous rights.

The panelists featured in Nature Based Solutions: Integrating Coastal Ecosystems in 2020 NDCs mirrored the urgent calls for action expressed by both the Secretary General and the representatives from indigenous communities in Latin America. In his opening remarks for the panel, the Ambassador to the Seychelles emphasized the theme of COP25—year of ambition.

From a technical, scientific perspective, the panelists in this side event discussed the key function coastal wetlands (mangroves, sea grasses, and salt marshes) play in both mitigation and adaptation. But from a more political and general perspective, the panelists spoke to the power that Small Island Developing States (SIDS)—or as the Ambassador to the Seychelles, referred to them, Big Ocean States (BOS)—wield as a result of being both at the forefront of the battle against climate change as well as holding tremendous potential to mitigate the impacts of climate change by protecting the ocean, a carbon sink.

A panelist representing the interests of the Bahamas gave the most inspirational lecture of the day. She spoke of her personal experiences in the Bahamas, from July to September, when she and thousands of others live in fear of a hurricane, like Dorian, sweeping through the 14 islands of the Bahamas, wiping out infrastructure, flooding the streets, and leaving little but desolation in its wake. She called for the COP to be realistic about our future; about the fact that SIDS produce less the 1% of global emissions yet pay the highest price; about the fact that adaptation is not enough; about how only commitments to rapid and significant cuts in global emissions will save the lives of billions; and about how “the planet needs to understand, that there is no planet B.”

The negotiations over the next two weeks will reflect whether the content and outcomes of the agreements and debates reflect the sense of urgency in the air at the opening of COP25.

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COP25 Day 1 Pictures

COP25 Day 2 Pictures

Lorenzo Quinn's Sculpture

Lorenzo Quinn’s Sculpture

Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna, speaking at a side event

Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna, speaking at a side event

The "Blue Pacific Continent"

The “Blue Pacific Continent”

Students meet every morning to discuss client priorities and plan for the day ahead

Students meet every morning to discuss client priorities and plan for the day ahead

Negotiations

Negotiations

Seychelles Ambassador, Ronny Jumeau, speaking at a side event on nature based solutions

Seychelles Ambassador, Ronny Jumeau, speaking at a side event on nature based solutions

COP25’s Move to Spain: Leaving Civil Society Out in the Cold?

On October 30th, the Chilean government announced it would no longer host COP25 which was to be held in Santiago, due to security concerns stemming from mass protests. The protests are a response to the country’s rising cost of living and increasing levels of inequality, which are some of the highest in the world. Protestors are demanding systemic change and better social conditions, including, among many other demands, higher pensions and wages, and affordable healthcare and education. After Chile’s withdrawal as a host for COP25, Madrid offered to host the event, with Chile still as the president-designate of COP25. This last-minute venue change to Madrid was a cause of serious concern for many Chilean environmentalists, scientists and NGOs. Many civil society groups, particularly Latin American groups, fear that this will mean that civil society won’t have an adequate platform at this year’s COP. What impact will this shift have, if any, on the role civil society are able to play at COP25 and the focus on issues of inequality?

“Chile woke up” has been the rallying call of protestors against the government and growing inequality. Cameramemories, Flickr

“Chile woke up” has been the rallying call of protestors against the government and growing inequality. Cameramemories, Flickr

Civil society groups, one type of non-state actor, have for some time played a significant role in the making and implementation of international environmental law, and in global level climate negotiations more generally. They have played a powerful role as observers, and have released analyses and reports that offer useful perspectives on the information governments have provided with respect to their contributions. This type of support has enabled stakeholders, including other parties, civil society organizations, and concerned citizens to form their own views on the level of ambitions parties claiming.

One of the main goals of COP25 was to ensure the open and transparent participation of civil society. A number of civil society organizations in Chile were included in the COP25 committee and helped design a civil society environmental summit space to be created in the “Green Zone” (which was to be open to everyone and located directly next to the official negotiating space). These groups, which included Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance, Climate Action Network Latin America, Asociacion Ambiente y Sociedad, and La Ruta del Clima, amongst others, stated that they were not consulted in the government’s decision to withdraw form hosting COP25. They view this decision as a “barrier to the effective participation of civil society organizations and indigenous peoples in climate change processes and actions,” one that completely disregarded the efforts, time and resources that local and regional civil society and non-profit organizations have invested in planning for this COP to make the international community aware of the socio-environmental impacts of climate change on Chile and the Latin American region.

These organizations are not alone in expressing their concerns. Greenpeace Chile’s national director also expressed similar concerns, indicating that Chile’s withdrawal from hosting COP25 expressed a reluctance to fully engage civil society organizations in the international climate dialogue. In the same press release, Chile also stated that the move of the COP from Chile to Madrid “must not stop the debate in Chilean society on environmental and social injustice.” Maisa Rojas, the director of Chile’s Center for Climate Science and Resilience and the COP25 scientific coordinator, also expressed similar concerns. She noted the importance of ensuring engagement of civil society, and highlighted the interlinked nature of issues of inequality and climate change. The director of the Chilean chapter of the World Wildlife Fund said that even though the Chilean delegation aims to still focus on equity in climate issues, he fears that the move will likely dampen the focus on inequality.  He stated that “we’re moving to an environment where we aren’t going to be subjected to any protesting of a significant nature…so essentially, we don’t get to see that reality of what inequality is triggering.”

The People's Summit 2019 brings together organizations and social articulations from various territories and sectors of the world, to share experiences and promote alternative solutions to the system and strengthen global organization and local action to stop the socio-environmental catastrophe.

The People’s Summit 2019 brings together organizations and social articulations from various territories and sectors of the world, to share experiences and promote alternative solutions to the system and strengthen global organization and local action to stop the socio-environmental catastrophe.

For these reasons, many civil society organizations will still be sending delegations to Santiago, in addition to the delegations they will be sending to Madrid. Organizations such as the Climate Justice Alliance, Friends of the Earth International, Grassroots Global Justice, Right to the City, and Indigenous Environmental Network will be joining Combre de los Pueblos, which is scheduled for Dec 2 to 7. An agenda is set to discuss climate justice issues including support for popular movements in the Americas, deep engagement with international allies, political education and leadership development, and just transition, in hopes to bridge the gap between the official COP25 in Madrid and the unofficial civil society COP events still taking place in Chile.

Bringing Climate Action a Little Closer to Home – Subnational & Non-State Actions in Vermont

On November 4, 2019, the U.S. submitted to the United Nations a formal notification of its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change. This formal notification officially initiates the process of withdrawal, which will take effect one year from the delivery of the notification. The timing of this withdrawal is significant because in 2020, countries are expected to update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement and to submit their long-term low-emission strategies to the United Nations. This Trump Administration decision was strategically aimed at avoiding submitting its contributions. However, according to a press statement by the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, the U.S. will still contribute to international climate discussions, and pledges to continue to work with global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change, and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

You may be wondering how the country could still contribute to the international response to climate change. One means of contribution is through the efforts of non-state and subnational actors. Non-state and subnational actors can include cities, states, regions, private companies, investors, foundations, civil society organizations and cooperative initiatives. These types of actors, from across the U.S., have been stepping up in response to the lack of commitment to the international climate change agenda exhibited by this administration. This year, the U.S. Department of State is expected to send only a small team of negotiators to the UN climate talks in Madrid, Spain. However, many subnational and non-state actors will be present, and showcase their efforts to implement their own individual climate targets.

Where does Vermont stand in all of this, and what role has it played as a subnational when the federal administration retreats from its international climate change commitments? Well, Vermont is taking action on a number of issues and at various levels, including state, local and the private sector. Vermont was one of the first States, headed by Republican Governor Phil Scott, to join the U.S. Climate Alliance in 2017, a coalition of States that have pledged to continue working towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. But even before joining the Alliance, Vermont had already been taking action. While action towards achieving climate change goals at the international level may seem remote and far removed from daily life, these initiatives are examples of how local planning and decision-making can shape the larger fight against climate change. Here are some of the efforts and initiatives across the State working towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and addressing climate challenges:

State Level Efforts

Comprehensive Energy Plan – In 2016, Vermont established new planning goals for reducing emissions from energy use, setting a goal of 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2030, and an 80 to 90% reduction by 2050. Achieving these goals requires change across all sectors, and the State has planned for changes in agriculture, forestry, transportation, waste management and energy to achieve these goals. The plan focuses on an energy revolution from renewable sources.

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Vermont’s energy flows in 2015, with paths forward to 2025, 2035, and 2050.

 

Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) –  Vermont is part of a regional collaboration working towards improving transportation, developing the clean energy economy, and reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector through a “cap and invest” system. As part of this collaboration, the State is developing a proposal for an investment plan that would ensure low-income residents in rural and urban areas access to affordable transportation and services. The investment plan include incentives for electric vehicles and other vehicle efficiency programs, expanded investments in transit, and incentives to influence land use decisions that decrease demand for single occupancy vehicles.

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An overview of the regional TCI “cap and invest” system that would drive down the price of compliance with transit air pollution reduction mechanisms.

City Level Efforts 

Burlington Climate Action Plan – The City, with significant input from the community, developed a climate action plan with over 200+ proposed climate change mitigation strategies.  These strategies cover various areas, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, mixed use development, policy, research & education, urban forestry & sequestration, water reduction & recycling, and local food production.

Net Zero Energy Roadmap – Released early this year, the roadmap is one of the most ambitious local climate agendas in the country. The roadmap identifies 4 key pathways to get to a Net Zero Energy city by 2030. These pathways include efficient electric buildings, electric vehicles, implementing a district energy system, and providing alternative methods of transportation.

Private Sector Efforts 

Vermont Climate Pledge Coalition – This coalition represents a group of organizations from across the State committed to meeting Vermont’s energy and climate goals. Founded in June 2019, the coalition had 32 founding members from educational institutions such as the University of Vermont, and Vermont Technical College, nonprofits such as the ECHO Center, and private businesses such as Burton and Seventh Generation.

Vermont’s Youth Pass Historic Climate Declaration

On September 20th, 2019, thousands of Vermonters of all ages walked out of class and walked out of work to protest inaction of our global leaders in the face of climate change. This day sparked something in Vermont’s youth—it was the beginning of a new movement.

The 171 student delegates of the first Vermont Youth Climate Congress gather on the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier just before unanimously passing the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration

The 171 student delegates of the first Vermont Youth Climate Congress gather on the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier just before unanimously passing the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration

Inspired by the Youth Climate Strike, 171 young Vermonters convened at the Statehouse for the first ever Vermont Youth Climate Congress. These student delegates hailed from 43 middle schools, high schools, colleges, and one law school (Vermont Law, of course). The idea to hold Vermont’s first Youth Climate Congress grew from a desire to do something more than protest – a desire to create that which students felt Vermont’s Legislators have thus far failed to do. Thus, on November 17th, 2019, Vermont’s next generation of voters and leaders drafted, amended, and unanimously passed the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration.

The Congress was organized by Vermont Youth Lobby, and spearheaded by two incredible young women who are currently high school seniors. Planning for the Congress had been underway for weeks – the Environmental Law Society (ELS) at Vermont Law became involved a month before the Congress took place. Representatives from ELS joined Youth Lobby members as well as staff from VPIRG at planning meetings every two weeks leading up to the Congress, were up late into the night on conference calls with the organizers the week of the event, and drafted much of the language of the Declaration, as well as multiple memos on Climate Justice, Resilience, and Infrastructure.

The ten delegates from the Environmental Law Society at Vermont Law School

The ten delegates from the Environmental Law Society at Vermont Law School

As organizers of a brand new event that had never been experimented with before—gathering almost 200 students of ages 11 to 25 in a statehouse to pass a complicated declaration on the climate emergency—participants had no idea what to expect from the Congress. The day opened with inspiring remarks from you young organizers, followed by a roll call of the schools, and a statement acknowledging the that the land upon which the Statehouse sits belongs to the Abenaki tribe.

Participants then broke into small committee sessions to discuss, consider and amend the language of the Declaration. The topics of the Committees were Transportation, Energy, Climate Justice, Just Transition to a Green Resilient Economy, and Agriculture. The expectation was for Committee Chairs to discuss the relevant solutions in the Declaration and to answer any questions that the younger delegates might have – what actually happened was incredible. Every single Committee discussed the content of the solutions and the issues Vermont needs to tackle, and every Committee amended the language of document with precision and attention to detail. For example, the Agriculture Committee payed specific attention to the economic struggle Vermont farmers face in tackling climate change, and thus amended the language to provide “economic incentives and educational support” for farmers as they respond to climate change. To see a sixth grader in heated debate with a college junior over the use of the term “regenerative agriculture” instead of “sustainability” was to find hope that the next generation of leaders is prepared for the issues they—we—face.

Co-Chairs of the Youth Climate Congress share opening remarks with the delegates and representatives from the Climate Solutions Caucus of the Vermont Legislature

Co-Chairs of the Youth Climate Congress share opening remarks with the delegates and representatives from the Climate Solutions Caucus of the Vermont Legislature

The day ended, unexpectedly, on the steps of the Statehouse after the building had to be evacuated. Students cried a resounding, unanimous “Aye!” to pass the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration as amended in committee.

The Congress was more than a cry for action; it was a celebration of empowerment. Young students acknowledged the impact that they can have upon a system that often labels them as too young or too inexperienced to participate. Students were angry, but hopeful; frustrated but inspired. This inspiration caught the attention of many Vermonters: Senator Bernie Sanders said of the event:

Young people understand all too well that they will be the generation most affected by the devastating consequences of climate change . . . . I am especially proud of young Vermonters for keeping up the fight . . . [and] I am enormously pleased to see the tremendous leadership from young people in Vermont and beyond.

The Youth Climate Congress marks the beginning of a new wave of youth organizing and action in response to climate change. The delegates will convene again in early January to present the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration to the Legislature and to demand action. Vermont’s youth are a model for the rest of the country. They are taking a stand and demanding action: the Declaration sets forth that “the people who have the power to make these decisions will not be around to face the consequences of inaction, and that is why we, the youth, demand to be heard.” These inspiring, intelligent, and resilient leaders will fight until our state and nation act. As the Declaration concludes: “we are facing an urgent and unprecedented global emergency. Vermont must play a role in the fight to end climate injustice, and as its youth we are demanding that our government do their part.”