Typically, the New Year is an opportunity for reflection and resolutions for healthier and happier lives. In times of COVID and a deep economic recession, resolutions can look different. Add in the climate crisis and it can feel overwhelming. The current triple crisis has exposed the need to reassess existing systems and build the resilient, just communities we want for our future. In some ways, dealing with the health, climate, and economic crisis is similar to New Year's resolutions – both depend on belief in the future and a fundamental belief in our ability to change and improve. This year, I hope that you will join me and many others in a New Years resolution that will create a healthier climate for our families, our community, and ourselves.
Making this kind of individual choice can be empowering. Personal climate resolution can reduce feelings of overwhelm and fear of the future. Sharing your climate resolution encourages friends, family, and colleagues to consider their climate decisions as well. Perhaps a small personal change has the power to remind us each day of the climate-focused work that we also need our elected leaders to do.
We know what happens when we do nothing. We are experiencing more frequent and violent storms that translate into property damage, power outages, and missed economic opportunities. The rate of tick-borne disease in Vermont is among the highest in the nation. The hazy skies over our beloved Green Mountains, caused by forest fires in the west and dried up wells due to extended drought last summer, brought home the reality that climate change disasters are not decades away and Vermont is not immune. Climate change is here now, earlier than expected, and we need to act urgently and measurably. Fortunately, solutions already exist when it comes to reducing climate pollution and boosting our local economy.
Last year, with the passing of the Global Warming Solutions Act, legislators again deliberately advocated reducing climate pollution. In the spirit of building a resilient future, here are some climate change decisions our elected officials should make to meet Vermont's climate commitments, reduce our energy footprint, and usher in a clean energy future.
Stop allowing government funds to purchase new fossil fuel heating systems, backup generators, vehicles, and other appliances when stable and reliable renewable or electrical solutions are available.
Increase income-sensitive point-of-purchase incentives for renewable heating and transportation solutions.
Help Vermonters save on electricity bills when they switch to renewable heating and driving by requiring every electricity company to offer lower-cost electrification rates, according to the leadership of the Burlington Electric Department.
Maintain free public transportation and expand the availability of on-demand transit to more communities.
Ensure that every Vermonter, regardless of income or utility company, has equitable access to local renewable energy, as generating your own electricity should be a right that is not restricted by outdated grid infrastructure.
Join 13 other countries to improve energy resilience and reduce long-term electricity costs through battery storage and local renewables.
Join 12 other states by creating low-income solar policies or programs.
Join four other eastern states in the regional traffic climate initiative.
Join 14 other countries (including our northern neighbor, Quebec) for daily transportation cost savings by stopping sales of new fossil-burning cars and trucks by 2030.
Join 170 other cities, states, and countries that need 100 percent renewable electricity, following our own Washington Electric Coop, Swanton, and Burlington Electric divisions by relying on more renewable renewable energies from Vermont.
Keep young adults in Vermont doing climate jobs by creating paid education and training opportunities for them and underemployed Vermonters through a new Climate Justice Corps.
While tackling the coronavirus health crisis and the resulting recession are immediate priorities, tackling climate change is not a distraction from it. Indeed, climate protection offers a way forward. The governor's recent budget proposal to help more Vermonters in low- and middle-income households, weather houses, buy electric vehicles, and cut energy bills with local solar power is a good start as it is recognized that we better demolish now and one Can catalyze climate recovery. We can't lose another year on climate change progress as Vermont is already falling short of its commitments.
Similar to a leaky roof, the longer you wait for the repair, the worse and more expensive the problem becomes. The climate clock now stands at less than seven years, which means we need to be emission-free in that short amount of time to keep the planet warming below the conservative United Nations' IPPC-recommended threshold. I urge you, along with Renewable Energy Vermont and dozens of other nonprofits and local businesses, to urge our elected officials to implement their climate change resolutions in 2021.
For my personal climate resolution, I am thrilled to be driving in the sunshine now when we replaced our 12 year old, well-used car with an electric vehicle. After just two weeks with an electric vehicle, we like to say goodbye to gas fumes while waiting in the school pick-up line or unpacking groceries or outdoor equipment from the trunk. No more filling up gas stations, tracking and paying for oil changes and practically no more maintenance. In addition, the pride in my little daughter's eyes and voice when she tells others that our car doesn't pollute the environment is priceless. Realizing the privilege my family has in bringing about one of our climate resolutions motivates me to work to establish the guidelines that will make this type of choice a reality for all Vermonters. At Renewable Energy Vermont, we are committed to ensuring that every family regardless of household income has equitable access to the opportunities and benefits of renewable transportation, heating and electricity.
Our individual resolutions can become powerful collective actions. Share your climate healing resolutions online using #ClimateResolution and #ActonClimateVT so we can learn from each other and remind our elected officials that Vermonters still want climate action.
Olivia Campbell Andersen is the executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont.