This week, the Addison Independent’s series of issue statements from senate candidates continues with a discussion of climate change and carbon reduction. Here is the prompt and my response:
Vermont is currently on track to get 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050 and reduce its carbon footprint. Is that a goal you support, or would you advocate backing away from that goal? What measures do you see as appropriate to encourage Vermonters to reduce their carbon consumption? If you do not support the need to reduce carbon consumption, explain why.
I support the goal of reducing Vermont’s carbon footprint and obtaining 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. The effects of climate change are already negatively impacting Vermont, with extreme weather damaging our infrastructure, heat waves straining energy supplies and impacting public health, and pollution endangering natural resources. Further, the prospect of long-term climate change is stressful for Vermont’s young people, causing anxiety about their future.
The good news is that transitioning to a clean energy economy has a positive ripple effect, promoting the local economy, stronger communities, and healthier people. We can continue improving the energy efficiency of our homes, commercial buildings, and public facilities. Several state and local initiatives are already helping Vermonters reduce heating and cooling energy loss, and upgrading our housing stock can help address the shortage of affordable homes. Maintaining funding sources such as the Clean Energy Development Fund is important.
Vehicle exhaust is the largest source of carbon pollution, so reducing reliance on cars is vital for addressing climate change, but also for public health and economic opportunities. We should expand the use of public transportation options, including school and public buses, and support regional commuter rail opportunities. We can make our downtowns more vibrant and people-friendly by installing bike lanes, and support bike commuting by establishing safe bike routes between towns.
We should invest more in Vermont-grown renewable energy sources, reducing our dependence on imported oil and gas and creating good-paying local jobs. Vermont-sized wind, hydro, and solar projects, agriculture-based energy production, bioenergy, geothermal, and other clean-tech solutions will reduce our carbon impact while encouraging sustainable local economic growth.
For many Vermonters, climate change issues are less urgent than being able to afford daily essentials. We need to be sure solutions like efficiency upgrades, public transportation, electric vehicles, and renewable energy options are accessible to Vermonters with low incomes.
While other states may lose ground in the fight against climate change, Vermonters will continue to do our part, working with regional and national partners to make advancements, while also investing in Vermont by keeping green energy dollars local.