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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

As Carbon Emissions Rise In Vermont, Lawmakers Consider Mandate To Reduce Them

Two young men hold a banner ahead of a crowd during a rally by climate activists last year.
Elodie Reed
VPR File
Students march in a climate strike in Montpelier on Sept. 20, 2019. Vermont lawmakers next year will consider legislation that would institute new mandates for statewide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Vermont lawmakers have begun working on a bill that would institute legally binding mandates for statewide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2008, Vermont passed a law that set out some lofty goals for reducing carbon emissions, but there’s no legal requirement for the state to meet them.

Thetford Rep. Tim Briglin, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Technology, said it’s time for Vermont to adopt an emissions-reduction mandate.

“We’ve got to pick up the pace,” Briglin said. “We’ve got to find the policy solutions, and we’ve got to frankly find the accountability that’s going to move us down the path of reduction.”

Briglin noted state legislatures in Maine, Massachusetts and New York have all passed laws that mandate a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

“And the results in those states have been pretty impressive, in contrast to the pathway that Vermont has been on in the past decade, where our greenhouse gas emissions have actually gone up,” he said.

Briglin said he’s begun working with fellow lawmakers on legislation called the Global Warming Solutions Act.

More from VPR:Youth Activists To Convene 'Congress' To Push For Climate Change Action In Montpelier [Nov. 15]

Maine and New York each passed legislation in the last six months that mandates a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“I can’t speak with precision to what those targets will be (in Vermont),” Briglin said. “That’s something I’m guessing we’ll debate with a good deal of energy.”

While the legislation may create a new emissions reduction mandate, he said it’s unlikely the bill will prescribe specific policy reforms to meet the targets.

“I think that is very difficult for a legislative body that meets for four months and is composed of citizen legislators to do,” Briglin said.

Briglin added that Vermont will likely use the same strategy employed by some other states with emissions reduction mandates: A centralized council that includes state agencies and climate experts.

That council, according to Briglin, would develop the rules and regulations by which Vermont would meet its new emission targets.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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