UPDATE: Protecting Public Health Means Protecting Our Climate | Conservation Law Foundation

UPDATE: Protecting Public Health Means Protecting Our Climate

A robust Global Warming Solutions Act will help all Vermonters thrive.

Jen Duggan

UPDATE: The Senate has voted overwhelmingly to pass the Global Warming Solutions Act – which would bolster our State’s clean energy economy and help us build resilient, climate-ready communities — with a final vote of 23-5.

This critical legislation will now go back to the House, which passed a version of this bill earlier this year, for a final vote before it lands on the Governor’s desk.

 

Since March, our legislators have been focused on meeting the acute needs of Vermont communities impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Legislators have worked to direct hazard pay to essential workers, stop evictions and foreclosures, and make sure voting is safe for Vermonters during the pandemic.

But other public health crises that pose a risk to our communities have not disappeared. In fact, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted these significant challenges. The communities most impacted by the virus, both physically and financially, are also the most at risk from climate change – from toxic air pollution to excessive summer heat to rivers overflowing their banks.

That’s why our recovery from the coronavirus must be more than just a return to the status quo. Along with helping us rebuild our local economies and communities, recovery must also lead to a more resilient, healthier state for all Vermonters. That means making long-term investments in sustainable, climate-resilient communities and infrastructure through the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Vermont can recover from COVID-19 while preparing for climate change

By centering our COVID-19 recovery plans on climate action and community resilience, we will see economic, public health, and environmental benefits. Strategic investment of recovery dollars can spur a just transition from our dependence on fossil fuels to a strong, clean, and sustainable economy.

The Global Warming Solutions Act will create a framework for this transition. The law requires coordinated, thoughtful planning to both cut climate pollution to net-zero by 2050 and build climate-resilient communities. By creating a diverse Climate Council to guide the State on how to implement the law, the Act will direct new investments that put people back to work, strengthen our health, and help protect and restore Vermont’s unique natural resources.

The Global Warming Solutions Act provides economic, public health, and environmental benefits

On the economic side, investments in clean, renewable energy will create jobs in the trades sectors and help address the high unemployment created by the pandemic. Weatherizing homes and switching to renewable heating options also reduces energy burdens for families. That will keep more money in Vermonters’ pockets and put millions of energy dollars currently sent out of state back into our local economy.

In terms of public health, meeting our goals to cut harmful emissions from transportation could save 2,000 lives and $1.1 billion dollars in healthcare costs by 2050. In addition, weatherizing our homes and businesses can boost general, social, and mental health, reduce financial stress, and even improve cardiovascular health. And, making our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure climate resilient can help protect communities from dangerous contaminants.

Finally, natural climate solutions – like restoring wetlands – capture and store carbon while improving water quality. They also buffer communities from destructive weather events, such as the disastrous floods we saw during Tropical Storm Irene. Implementing regenerative farming practices that improve soil health has similar benefits.

Kicking the can down the road on climate will just make it more expensive and more devastating for our communities. Instead, we can invest now in a recovery that makes Vermont stronger, more equitable, and self-reliant.

The importance of a Global Warming Solutions Act for Vermont

The pandemic has exposed extreme inequalities in safeguards for our communities. It has also shown that we’re both intimately connected with the global community and heavily dependent on our local leadership. The same holds true for the climate crisis.

The Global Warming Solutions Act being considered right now by our legislators ensures we prioritize Vermont’s most vulnerable by reducing energy burdens for rural and marginalized communities. It also lays the framework for building rural resilience, putting people to work in the local clean energy economy, and promoting the use of natural and working lands.

This will all be important to ensure that Vermont makes smart, strategic investments as we rebuild our economy and work towards a sustainable future.

To help move this bill forward, contact your senators and ask them to support the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act. You can learn who they are here, and they can be contacted by calling 802.828.2228 or emailing sgtatarms@leg.state.vt.us.

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