By Michael J. Caduto, Geoffrey Martin, Jenevra Wetmore
In April 2020—during the height of government shutdowns designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19—global CO2 emissions dropped by about 17% as compared to the same period of time during 2019, decreasing by 26% in some individual countries. Nearly half of the total drop in global carbon emissions was due to the decrease in ground travel. Emissions from aviation plunged by 75%. Carbon emissions from industry and governments dropped by some 34%. The global demand for electricity went down by 15%. Overall in 2020, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped by about 9% to a level not seen since 1983.
With Vermont becoming the first state in the nation in which 80% of eligible citizens (those 12 and over) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and with COVID-19 restrictions lifted statewide on June 15, 2021, Woodstock now has an opportunity to be proactive and build on recent decreases in greenhouse gas emissions by working in earnest to permanently decrease our carbon footprints. Sustainable Woodstock’s Vermont Standard column of December 24, 2020 addressed these issues and provided a list of things we can all do to continue to reduce carbon emissions in our daily lives. As a community, however, the only way we are going to make meaningful, substantive and long-lasting reductions in carbon emissions is to adopt a rigorous, comprehensive plan with a set of defined goals and dates by which we are committed to achieving them.
To this end, in a significant forward-looking decision, Woodstock’s Select Board recently voted unanimously to support the effort by Sustainable Woodstock and our Intermunicipal Regional Energy Coordinator to develop a Climate Action Plan. In making this milestone commitment, Woodstock is taking a significant step towards meeting our regional energy and climate goals. The regional plan, in line with the State’s energy goals (which became requirements under the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020), calls for a reduction in total energy use by nearly 50% and a shift to 90% renewable energy by 2050. These changes, if realized, could result in substantial monetary savings for residents and businesses, greater energy security, and, most significantly, contribute to the worldwide effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C. There are many different paths that we can take to realize these goals, but all of them will involve things like weatherizing homes and businesses, driving electric vehicles, carpooling, making our towns more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and investing in renewable energy generating sources like solar.
A Climate Action Plan can help determine where Woodstock’s greenhouse gas emissions are coming from, what paths are available for Woodstock to take to reduce and ultimately eliminate those emissions, and which path is most exciting for the Woodstock community. Woodstock’s neighbor, the Town of Hartford, is now finalizing its Climate Action Plan, which means the towns can work together to further their climate and energy goals and those of the region. There may be opportunities for the towns to share resources and collaborate on efforts in order to achieve success faster and more efficiently.
Beyond our immediate energy goals, we also have a responsibility to future generations to create and act on a Climate Action Plan. The Paris Agreement—a treaty developed at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference—recognizes climate change as a problem of intergenerational equity, meaning that climate change will impact future generations even more than it impacts us now. In other words, it is our children and children’s children who will have to manage the devastating consequences of rising global temperature. As an example, if global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius, summer in Vermont by the end of the century could feel like a present-day summer in Tennessee or Alabama. This is the legacy that we leave our children. Intergenerational justice refers to the idea that we, the present generation, have duties towards these future generations. Creating a Climate Action Plan will help us lay out the steps necessary to reach our climate goals. We will have met our responsibilities only when we have reached those goals.
A comprehensive Climate Action Plan can help to ensure that maple sugaring, and other climate-dependent traditions and economic activities, will continue to be experienced and enjoyed by future generations of Vermonters. (Shown: Maple syrup evaporator at Spring Brook Farm, Reading, VT.) Photo credit: Michael J Caduto.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
If you are interested in supporting Sustainable Woodstock’s Energy and Transportation Action Group, the Regional Energy Coordinator, and the Town with efforts to reach our energy and climate goals, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org