On November 4, 2019, the U.S. submitted to the United Nations a 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 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 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 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, 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 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
– 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.
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.
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.