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Emissions Cuts, But No Carbon Tax: What Vermont's 'Climate Solutions Caucus' Is Proposing

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas outside the Vermont Statehouse.
Peter Hirschfeld
Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, said the "climate solutions caucus" will propose making Vermont's emissions reductions goals mandatory in the 2019 legislative session.

A group of Vermont lawmakers plan to push forward significant legislation in the next session aimed at reducing Vermont's carbon emissions. The so-called "climate solutions caucus" has been holding public forums around the state in recent weeks to speak with Vermonters about how they want to see climate change addressed at the Statehouse.

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, a Democrat from Bradford and a member of the caucus, said the group has heard a variety of opinions at its public gatherings.

"You hear a broad spectrum of responses, ranging from, 'we're fearful that what you're trying to do is too much,' to an ever-growing chorus of people who say 'even this isn't enough — we want you to move faster, move more boldly,'" Copeland Hanzas said.

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke to Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas. Listen to their conversation above.

Copeland Hanzas said the caucus' proposals to reduce Vermont's carbon emissions will fall under four categories: transportation, energy-efficient building practices, renewable energy and accountability. That final priority is aimed at making Vermont's emissions reduction goals legally binding.

"We have had aspirational goals in statute for many years, and unfortunately, those greenhouse gas reduction goals have been blown through time and time again, because there is really nothing in statute that requires that we sit down and do the hard work of figuring out how to do that," Copeland Hanzas said.

More from VPR — As Carbon Emissions Rise In Vermont, Lawmakers Consider Mandate To Reduce Them [Nov. 25]

However, a state-level carbon tax will not be one of the tools the caucus will pursue to reduce emissions, according to Copeland Hanzas. She said while she thinks a carbon tax could work, it would need to happen at a broader level.

"That's not something that we would look to do in Vermont on its own," she said. "That would have to be done on a national or on a regional scale."

Asked why Vermont should pursue emissions reductions at a state-level when carbon emissions are rising globally, Copeland Hanzas said "because we can, and because we care."

"And because it will set up the Vermont economy to thrive in the post-fossil fuel economy that we are rapidly driving towards," she continued.

Copeland Hanzas predicted that billions of dollars will be invested in carbon-free technologies in the next decade.

"If we can leverage any small part of that to be a part of the business and economic environment in our state, we will be creating jobs, we will be putting Vermonters to work and we'll be leading the nation," she said.

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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