Thursday night was a night that few who were in attendance will forget anytime soon. The atmosphere was electric as Vermonters from all over Bennington County shuffled into the amphitheater at the Burr and Burton Academy library, patiently waiting their turn to speak up before a packed crowd at the Governor’s Climate Action Committee public hearing. Five of the 21 commissioners sitting on Governor Scott’s Climate Action Commission were present to hear policy recommendations from the public. The commission is tasked with reducing the state’s carbon emissions in a way that benefits the economy and doesn’t disproportionately affect any group or individual more than others. Thursday’s public hearing was the third stop in a statewide listening tour currently being put on by the Climate Action Commission.
Out of the 46 people to make public comments at the event, 35 Vermonters from of all walks of life stood tall behind the podium and offered the commission the same simple recommendation: fund the solutions with a price on carbon pollution. Among them were Green Mountain College President Bob Allen speaking at the behest of dozens of his students. Others who spoke included farmers, economists, students, retirees and other concerned citizens; a few of whom referred to carbon pricing as “low hanging fruit” at this moment in time. Manchester teacher Stephanie Moffett-Hynds points to her Eighth grade students, when faced with the same questions; they too, recommend waging a fee on pollution.
Vermont is not on the path to hitting its statutory goals of 75% reduction by 2036; in fact, carbon emissions have only risen since 1990 base levels. Attendees brought forth a sense of urgency, reminding the commission that we have no time for half-measure. Many speakers offered very personal stories, bringing back memories of the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont less than ten years ago. Some brought up much more recent events.
“I still don’t know if my family is OK” said Sabrina Melendez, a student at Bennington College, of her relatives in Puerto Rico currently facing the aftermath of Hurricane Maria without cell phone service, power, or running water. Maria is just the latest in a string of the most intense consecutive super storms in known history to wreak havoc on the Caribbean, Southern U.S., and Mexico. As a young person, Sabrina suggests it’s the most vulnerable populations, along with future generations, who are disproportionately affected by climate change and thus should have more say in policies intended to mitigate its future effects. “One hundred percent renewable energy is realistic” and we need to “price carbon now” if we are going to get there, Sabrina demanded.
Vermonters like these are standing up and demanding action all around the state, now.
Have you spoken out for carbon pricing at a CAC hearing yet?
The final two listening sessions are located at St. Albans city hall on 9/28 (Need a ride from Burlington?)
and Brattleboro on 10/5.