By Jenna Whitson, Community and Policy Senior Associate, Vermont Council on Rural Development
1) What are Vermont businesses doing today that make them leaders in the climate economy?
2) What are some ideas to promote business, economic development, and job creation in Vermont as we work to reduce carbon impacts and develop new energy resources?
More than 125 Vermonters weighed in on these questions this fall in three forums aimed at stimulating a conversation about Vermont’s Climate Change Economy. The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) organized forums in Rutland, Brattleboro, and Burlington to help people think critically about how we can create a stronger economy in the midst of a changing climate.
These forums were the next stage for public input in the Vermont Climate Change Economy Initiative, a program VCRD launched in early 2015. The Initiative is designed to develop a structured plan with practical actions that will reduce carbon emissions and stimulate green economic development in Vermont. The independent Vermont Climate Change Economy Council will develop policy recommendations in support of this goal, and report them to the Governor and Legislature in February.
At each forum, we heard from a panel of innovative business leaders who shared their strategies and visions for Vermont’s Climate Economy future. They spurred participants to share far-reaching, creative and inventive ideas; strong consideration for and pride in Vermont’s landscape, businesses, and farms; and a compelling vision around how Vermont can move forward and lead the way in the face of a changing climate.
The ideas ranged from economic development strategies such as creating “ecodevelopment districts” for green business incubation in Vermont communities, to marketing Vermont as a “Climate Economy Destination.” Participants touched on the importance of justice and equality as our economy grows and spoke of the importance of local community participation in renewable energy siting and development.
Participants also highlighted the importance of resilience in the face of a changing climate. We heard suggestions for Vermont communities to conduct resiliency audits and to develop local microgrids that would protect us from the impact of regional power outages. Transportation was a hot topic at all three forums, with strong support for the development of bike and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and rail transit across Vermont. People also suggested policy changes, such as lifting the net metering cap to allow for further development of renewables and divesting from fossil fuels.
Key ideas from the forums are now online in this list of 40 Ideas to Advance Vermont’s Climate Economy. This summary will be shared with the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council as it develops the platform of recommendations. VCRD also highlights the stories of climate innovators online.
This will be the starting point for VCRD’s second Vermont Climate Change Economy Summit: Ideas to Action at Vermont Technical College on February 22. The Summit will bring together scientists, business, nonprofit, and community leaders, elected officials, public policy advocates, students, and interested residents to review the platform of action and work together to move ideas to action to create jobs, build national reputation, and attract young people to our rural communities. Please save the date. Registration will open after January 1, 2016.
Continue to share your ideas with us and stay in touch by visiting our website, emailing info[@]vtrural.org, or by calling us at 223-6091.
The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a nonprofit organization charged by the federal farm bill to act as a neutral convener at both the local and policy level supporting the progress of Vermont communities.