In Burlington, environmental advocates are applauding the City Council’s approval of a resolution that outlines new standards in a proposed climate-change partnership.
The city has been looking into a partnership with military contractor Lockheed-Martin, but the mayor and City Council are divided over the resolution.
The nonbinding standards are designed to prevent agreements with arms manufacturers and heavy polluters, by demanding greater scrutiny of the city’s climate-change partners.
Joe Solomon, an advocate with 350vt.org who helped draw them up, says partnering with big polluters won’t solve the climate crisis.
"I think in the face of the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, it’s good to have bold and audacious and courageous benchmarks," Solomon said. "But it’s an advisory; it isn’t a mandate; so it’s a framework and we can check in on it. And I think that’s a healthy thing."
The resolution passed by a narrow 8-to-6 margin.
Council member Joan Shannon voted against the policy because she’s worried it could make it difficult for the city to form relationships with other institutions.
Shortly before the vote, she listed some of them.
"IBM, MIT, The University of California, The University of Chicago. All of these have some research value to contribute to Burlington," Shannon said. "I think Burlington is setting a standard that nobody can meet. We can choose to not respect the standard but I don’ think that’s the intention in the room."
On the other side of the auditorium inside City Hall, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss shook his head after the council passed the resolution.
"I thought it was disproportionately set to address Lockheed Martin and isn’t very good public policy," he said. "We could have a filter that would help us guide our way through potential corporations that we work with, but it shouldn’t be as constipated as this resolution sets out."
In December, Kiss signed a letter of cooperation between the city and Lockheed Martin. The idea was to allow the company to use Burlington as a sort of incubator for solving climate challenges.
When it comes to climate change, Kiss acknowledges that partnering with a weapons manufacturer is uncharted territory.
But as cities and towns try to get by on shoestring budgets already cut to the bone, Kiss says the public should expect to see more of these kinds of proposals.
Let us know what you think of municipalities partnering with weapons makers to solve the climate crisis.