Ben Edgerly Walsh: Is Gov. Scott serious about his climate pledge?

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On Nov. 4, President Trump formally moved to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. This decision leaves the United States alone in the world as literally the only nation not participating in that landmark agreement, signaling to fossil fuel executives that the Trump Administration will continue to prop up their dying industry at virtually any cost, no matter the ill effects such action will have on the health of people, ecosystems, and economies across America and the world.

When Trump first announced his intention to withdraw back in 2017, Governor Scott was quick to denounce the move, saying, "The President's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is disappointing and concerning," and that "the State of Vermont will continue to do its share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Since then, however, Gov. Scott's actions have fallen far short of what's necessary to actually put Vermont on track to cut our climate pollution in line with the Accord. In fact, his administration has thrown its support behind actions that would increase Vermont's climate pollution more often than it has supported action to reduce that pollution. Which raises the question — is he serious about that pledge?

The climate crisis is here, and it is already affecting the quality of life and pocketbooks of Vermonters. More severe storms (like that of Halloween night, last Thursday, which caused over $4 million and counting in damages just to public property), deadly heat waves, and growing tick populations are just a few of the impacts. And while the governor may be talking the talk when it comes to tackling the climate crisis, his is not yet walking the walk.

Since 2006, Vermont has had statutory goals to cut climate pollution and do our part to combat this global crisis - goals that Governor Scott, then a state senator, voted to support. Unfortunately, we have missed those goals by miles and our greenhouse gas pollution continues to trend radically skyward. In fact, among its neighboring states and the province of Quebec, Vermont is the only jurisdiction to increase climate pollution since 1990, which we've done by a whopping 16 percent.

Clearly the goals we have set for ourselves are not resulting in the concrete action needed to adequately address Vermont's contribution to the climate crisis. That's why our leaders must enact a Global Warming Solutions Act in 2020, finally turning our climate goals into legal requirements state government must take action on. Similar legislation was passed in Massachusetts in 2008 and the results have been extremely positive, with their climate pollution declining 21 percent from 1990 levels.

As Vermont's highest-ranking elected leader, Gov. Scott has a responsibility to take his commitments seriously. On climate, he can do just that by supporting the actions necessary to put Vermont on track to meet our carbon pollution targets - targets that he has pledged to uphold. The Global Warming Solutions Act is a critical piece of that puzzle.

Gov. Scott has an opportunity to show his constituents - all Vermonters - he was serious when he promised Vermont would do its part in fighting this global crisis. We're counting on him to rise to that challenge.

Ben Edgerly Walsh is Climate & Energy Program director for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

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