Republican Gov. Phil Scott and several state lawmakers want Vermont to join the Paris climate treaty regardless of President Donald Trump’s rejection of the deal at the national level.
The treaty sets goals for participating nations to limit carbon dioxide output through taxes, caps or other measures. Proponents say it’s necessary to limit the effects of climate change, while critics say it won’t change global temperatures but will damage the economy.
Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, told True North he stands with efforts to commit.
“I think Donald Trump is really out of step with the rest of the country,” Pollina said. “I think that the further out of touch he gets, the more important it is that states take steps to do the work that he should be doing.”
Pollina denies that additional costs on carbon would slow the economy.
“It’s just not true,” he said. “Basically, you are talking about a bunch of nations making voluntary commitments to reduce their carbon footprint. It’s hard enough to get them all to the table, and the fact that they all agreed to do what they are beginning to do is really important. There’s no way to put a price on climate change — you are talking about the future of the planet.”
Ethan Allen Institute Vice President John McClaughry says the Paris accord’s goals are unrealistic for Vermont.
“How does the state go about making that happen?” he said. “I know it subsidizes wind towers, solar farms and stuff like that, but overall you’d probably have to double the gas tax to drag people off the highway. And the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan is not made with carbon dioxide reductions in mind so much as the 90 percent renewables by 2050.”
To support his skepticism, McClaughry points to Act 168 of 2006, which set a 50 percent reduction target for carbon emissions from 1990 levels, to be achieved by 2028. As of 2015, McClaughry said, records don’t indicate any decline in carbon output, with levels remaining stagnant at about 8 megatons per year since 2006.
“Somebody needs to ask Phil Scott, if you are going to be the enforcer for the Paris climate agreement, what are you going to do to make us cut down on emissions? Are you going to do a carbon tax?”
Scott hasn’t said what Vermonters will need to do in order to achieve these goals. Furthermore, he continues to call for a moratorium on any new industrial wind turbines, a pledge from his 2016 campaign.
Scott’s position on the Paris accord runs counter to the Republican Party platform, which calls for the U.S. to reject “the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.”
As noted by analysts for the Daily Signal, the treaty is costly.
“If carried out, the energy regulations agreed to in Paris by the Obama administration would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, harm American manufacturing, and destroy $2.5 trillion in gross domestic product by the year 2035.”
Trump in a recent speech echoed these concerns.
“America is $20 trillion in debt. Cash-strapped cities cannot hire enough police officers or fix vital infrastructure. Millions of our citizens are out of work. And yet, under the Paris Accord, billions of dollars that ought to be invested right here in America will be sent to the very countries that have taken our factories and our jobs away from us.”
Robb Kidd, manager of the Conservation Program for the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club, told True North that he thinks the nation is trending towards supporting the treaty.
“The thing is, when you see statements from ExxonMobil addressing climate change, you’ve got to realize that it is a problem. Those serious companies, serious businesses, want to see action on this.”
Kidd added that executives from Tesla and Walt Disney have dropped off the president’s economic advisory council after Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the pact.
“This is the way the actual market is changing now, so why would we go back to an antiquated system that is completely demonstrated is a problem?” he said.
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group executive director Paul Burns said in a press release that he supports the treaty: “A U.S. retreat from the climate agreement would not only represent a colossal abdication of leadership and a triumph of ignorance over science, it would also jeopardize America’s economy and the health of our people.”
New York, Washington and California were the first states to form an alliance for keeping the climate agreement, but other states are now seeking to join that effort.