Commission on Climate Change releases detailed plan

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(Host) After almost two years of work, the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change has laid out a detailed plan for how Vermont can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in five years.

The commission met today for the final time and handed its report to Governor Jim Douglas. The panel’s recommendations range from expanding energy conservation programs to creating a center for climate change within state government.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Chittenden County businessman Ernie Pomerleau chaired the commission. He said the panel quickly learned that reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont would have to involve a very comprehensive approach.

(Pomerleau) "The irony about this topic is that everybody thought, `Well, this is about coal-fired things happening out in the Midwest.’ Well, it’s about education, it’s about dealing not only with cars, it’s dealing with our forests, it’s dealing with our agriculture.”

(Dillon) Pomerleau said the report was a planning document, not a road map for specific policy changes.

But some recommendations are familiar. For example, the commission supports expanding the state’s landmark efficiency programs to include heating fuels.

The legislature proposed a similar plan, and lawmakers endorsed a tax on the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to pay for it. But Governor Douglas opposed the tax and vetoed the bill.

The governor’s climate change commission did not address the funding issue.

(Pomerleau) "There’s strong agreement on concept, but disagreement on funding and implementation.”

(Host) James Moore is an energy specialist with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. He says the technical data in the report shows that the most cost-effective way to cut greenhouse gas pollution is by reducing energy demand.

(Moore) "Where the rubber is going to meet the road is clearly if the governor is going to take the commission’s recommendations to heart, he needs to change his tune, support more energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies here in Vermont.”

(Dillon) The commission’s report also addressed the economic opportunities in fighting global warming. Ernie Pomerleau says the state’s businesses could gain a competitive edge.

(Pomerleau) "This is about Vermont, how we create a sustainable economy, a green economy, how do we work in collaborations with businesses that are all stepping up, and doing this stuff, and creating jobs while reducing carbon. They are not incompatible; they are not exclusive.”

(Dillon) The panel said the state needs to collaborate with the private sector and the University of Vermont in order to boost the "green economy."

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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