EAST DORSET — What should the Vermont Climate Council’s priorities be as it works to formulate an action plan for the state’s response to climate change?
Area residents will have several opportunities to express their concerns and ideas, starting with a public hearing at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Emerald Lake State Park. Attendees are asked to wear masks.
“The action plan aims to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades, prepare and protect Vermont communities and landscapes from the greatest risks of climate change and create new jobs to enable this transformation,” Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said in a statement announcing the hearings.
“While climate change affects everyone, some people face greater risks due to where they live, their race, ethnicity, income, disability, health, age and/or occupation. Advancing solutions that address the needs of Vermonters facing the greatest risk is a key aspect of the plan,” Moore said.
The hearing is one of four being held in person, with three more on the Zoom online platform. It’s also the only such in-person hearing taking place in Southern Vermont; the others are scheduled for tonight in Elmore, Thursday in Island Pond and Sunday in Colchester.
Created by an act of the Legislature and passed into law over Gov. Phil Scott’s veto, the Global Warming Solutions Act created an appointed Vermont Climate Council, with the responsibility to draft a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The law calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas levels to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Failure to meet that target or subsequent emissions targets would result in citizens being allowed to sue the state.
The council has been meeting for nearly a year, and the plan is due to be submitted on Dec. 1. From there, the responsibility for enacting the findings in rules and laws falls to Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Legislature, respectively.
At each hearing, in person and online, attendees will see and hear a presentation on the council’s progress so far, said Jane Lazorchak, the Global Warming Solutions Act project director under the agency.
“We have a clearer picture around what is needed for climate change solutions,” Lazorchak said “We’re at a critical moment thinking about … what are implementable actions. We’re interested in hearing from Vermonters, ‘Do we have this right?’ and ‘What are the barriers to climate solutions?’”
Each of the components of the climate plan will be reviewed in a public process, Lazorchak said, and a comprehensive draft should be ready by mid-to-late November.
“If we’ve done our job well there won’t be any surprises, because we’ve been vetting each of the components along the way,” Lazorchak said.
While the bulk of the council’s work has been focused on emissions, the effects of climate change seen in weather the past few months, here and around the world, have underscored the importance of resilience to changes in climate, such as changes in weather patterns and more destructive storms, Lazorchak said.
“The focus of the Global Warming Solutions Act is very much around emissions reduction. That said, there are objectives across the law that also speak to recognition that even if we cut emissions, climate is changing. We have to invest in resilience and adaptation, and sequester and store carbon in working lands,” she said.
Virtual hearings on the plan will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 30, Oct. 5 (for BIPOC communities) and Oct. 6.