Two years after the Vermont Legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, the “how” of reaching the stringent carbon emissions goals remains unclear, a June 3 report by the Vermont Joint Fiscal Office says. Also, required spending will outweigh economic benefits until at least 2030.
The report’s high points are republished below.
Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2020 (Act 153) established rigorous requirements for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years and laid out objectives for building resilience, promoting adaptation, and sequestering and storing carbon.
In accordance with the Act, in December 2021 the Climate Action Plan (CAP) put forth a broad suite of actions needed to meet the objectives of the GWSA. However, the specifics of those actions remain unclear.
The lack of specifics in the CAP limits what analysis can be done. Nevertheless, the Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) was charged with producing a report for legislators that analyzes the “economic, budgetary, and fiscal costs and benefits of the Plan” (see JFO’s charge in Appendix 1). In partial fulfillment of that charge, this report offers a brief overview of the CAP, with a focus on emission reduction requirements, and raises key points for legislators to consider. They include:
• The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020 requires that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced and that Vermont adapt to climate change. The State can meet the greenhouse gas reductions required in statute only if an ambitious suite of actions, such as the illustrative actions presented in the CAP, is implemented.
• If emissions are reduced as outlined in the CAP, Vermont’s economy and people are expected to reap net benefits of approximately $6.4 billion over 30 years, primarily in avoided costs, relative to the business-as-usual case. However, through 2030, additional annual spending is estimated to outweigh annual savings.
• Policy design will heavily influence how different types of people will be affected by changes that achieve statewide emission reductions as well as resilience and adaptation.
• For making the switch to new technologies and investments, relying on voluntary public participation introduces challenges and uncertainty.
• The CAP identifies actions in specific sectors of the economy—transportation, buildings, electricity, agriculture, and other non-energy sectors—and may miss overarching elements of Change.
• The transportation and building (thermal) sectors require adoption of extensive, unformulated initiatives.
• The scope and size of necessary incentives and subsidies to ensure broad public participation are yet to be determined.
• Future sustainable funding sources and their allocations will have to be identified.