By Guy Page
All that talking, Zooming and planning, and results-measuring to transition Vermont’s lifestyle and economy away from fossil fuels to electricity ain’t cheap. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources plans to request a Vermont Climate Office spending of $1.9 million – and possibly more – in next year’s budget.
According to a Sept. 12 memo from Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore to the Vermont Climate Council titled “Climate Action Office, Budget Overview,” in FY 2021 the Climate Action Office spent $101,000 on staff, contracting and Climate Council per diems. In FY 2022 spending rose to $1.295 million with those expenses plus ‘one-time spending.’ The FY 2023 budget of $1.86 million is still being spent so the actual spending is undetermined.
For FY 2024, Moore wants $1.93 million in base budget and one-time spending – and possibly more if more staff is needed.
The work isn’t just about staffing Climate Council meetings anymore, Moore said. Neither is it physical implementation of weatherization, bike paths, chargers etc. – that’s all included elsewhere in the state budget. The Climate Office spending is about bureaucratic assistance and oversight for a growing number of carbon-reduction initiatives.
“Obviously, the funding profile for what is now the Climate Action Office evolved significantly over the last three fiscal years as the Agency’s focus transitioned from the work needed to support development of the initial Climate Action Plan to the current role and responsibilities of the Climate Action Office (CAO) which move beyond administrative support to the Council.”
Specifically, the Climate Office will spending its $1.1 million base budget to coordinate and provide expertise and capacity on state-led climate initiatives, and monitor, assess and track climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience activities to evaluate progress achieving the requirements of the GWSA.
The office also needs one-time funding for these projects: “Approach for addressing RCI GHG emissions, $400,000; Initial implementation of the MVI, $150,000, and Phase 2 of the measuring and assessing progress tool, $250,000.”
How to pay for it all? Moore casts a hopeful eye at the ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ approved this summer by Congress: “Federal funding for climate action will be augmented through the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act that includes further investments in natural and working lands, energy efficiency and renewables, and EV charging infrastructure and purchase incentives.”