County Climate Plan Swings Into Action
From the Addison Independent
April 20, 2023
By Marin Howell
ADDISON COUNTY — Amid the sunny days of midsummer this past July, the Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County (CEAC) published a list of steps community members could take to fight the climate crisis and curb the rapid warming of the planet.
The nonprofit organization is now working to formally put that Climate Action Plan in motion, expanding its work with individuals and entities throughout the community to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Climate Action Plan itself is something we spearheaded but we go to some lengths to encourage people in Addison County to see this as their plan, not CEAC’s plan,” said Steve Maier, chair of CEAC’s board of directors. “Ultimately, the success we have as a community in addressing climate change will be related almost exclusively to whether and how and when people in our community make the changes that are necessary.”
CEAC began compiling its Climate Action Plan for Addison County in 2021. In the plan, the organization identifies the three main contributors of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Addison County for 2017: agriculture and forestry, transportation, and buildings and energy.
The plan, in alignment with the goals of the state’s Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act (2020) and Vermont Climate Action Plan (2021), sets a goal for Addison County to reduce local GHG emissions by 50% below 2017 levels by 2030. To achieve that goal, CEAC proposes strategies for reducing emissions in each of the three identified contributors of local GHG emissions.
The Climate Action Plan details practical steps that town governments, businesses and individuals can take to address GHG emissions in those sectors, such as increasing the number of existing buildings that are 100% electrified and decreasing the amount of gasoline and diesel fuel consumed for equipment and vehicles.
In the months ahead, CEAC is hoping to work with community members to begin implementing some of those recommendations, particularly those that relate to electrification initiatives.
“We’re moving and more aggressively toward action, to implementation,” Maier said. “Given our resources and the importance of the situation, we decided to prioritize and focus on electrification efforts.”
CLIMATE ACTION TEAMS
To kick off this work, CEAC is forming two “Climate Action Teams.” These teams, made up of interested community members, will help carry out electrification initiatives identified in the Climate Action Plan. One team will be focused on larger, commercial and institutional buildings and the other will focus on residential buildings.
Both teams will conduct general outreach, distributing information about electrification opportunities and how people can get information and financing.
Maier said the teams will help communicate with community members what needs to be done to address the climate crisis and will be a resource when individuals decide to take those steps.
“We’ll look at extending our ability, the community’s ability to be of service, to be helpful to people who are getting ready to make a change,” he said.
Maier noted that CEAC hopes to be a resource that helps individuals and larger organizations throughout the county navigate all of the information and steps that come with transitioning to electrification.
Bruce Macintire, director of facilities for the Addison Central School District, said such a resource could be helpful for an entity like the ACSD in navigating opportunities for electrification and other energy-efficiency changes.
“I think a resource like that would be good. I know as a district, our school board has asked that as we look at improvements and make changes that we keep in mind energy efficiency and our carbon footprint. So, it’s something the district is aware of and a resource like that would certainly help,” he said.
Macintire noted a lot of those decisions would arise as the district takes on larger renovation projects, as its existing systems can’t be easily modified toward electrification for heating and cooling.
“As far as the bigger steps it would have to go into some of the decision making when we look at a greater renovation or a bond, and that is something that has been talked about at the school board and something that would be discussed in depth with the public, I’m sure,” he said. “Many of our schools are in disrepair and may need major renovations and that is the point where we need to make the conscious decision whether it’s feasible for us to electrify a building for HVAC or lighting.”
CEAC is still looking to recruit community members to fill these Climate Action Teams and hopes to get programming off the ground by late spring or early summer.
The nonprofit organization is also working with Middlebury College students to further support implementation of the Climate Action Plan.
Students in the college’s Environmental Studies Community-Engaged Practicum are interviewing local contractors and creating a database of those builders, as well as assessing where the residential Climate Action Team should prioritize its outreach efforts to make sure benefits are realized by individuals in most need.
CEAC is also collaborating on two projects with students in Middlebury College professor Molly Anderson’s Food, Power & Justice class.
One group of students is supporting CEAC’s ongoing work to engage with Black, Indigenous People of Color, low-income individuals and other underrepresented groups in Addison County. The other cohort of students is working with the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition, talking with local farmers about conservation practices and gauging their interest in learning more about those practices and accessing support to help implement them.
The nonprofit organization is also exploring the development of a Climate Action Coalition, comprised of community partners working to address the climate crisis.
“We’re still in an exploration stage because the idea about the coalition is that it might be something that CEAC would facilitate or convene, but we wouldn’t see it as something specifically related to CEAC,” Maier explained.
Such a coalition could help connect individuals, businesses and organizations working to tackle the climate crisis throughout Addison County. Maier said CEAC is looking to gauge interest in forming a Climate Action Coalition from those parties.
“I think Addison County has a rich tradition of these kinds of networks or coalitions and we don’t really see one that has formed yet around climate or energy,” he said. “We think that’s a good idea but it’s only a good idea if others in the community see the interest and the value in it.”
To support its ongoing outreach work and implementation of the Climate Action Plan, CEAC has hired its first community climate program manager.
Rebecca Dalgin was picked to fill the part-time position in March and has been working with CEAC to develop the Climate Action Teams and assist them.
CEAC is also looking to connect with community members that are interested in helping carry out the steps outlined in the nonprofit’s Climate Action Plan.
Maier said there are a few different ways for prospective volunteers to support CEAC’s work.
“One is just to let us know if you’re considering making some of these changes and you’d like some help in figuring out where to go, what to know, how to finance it,” he said. “One of the things we’ll be doing is being a way for people to access information.”
Addison County residents can also get involved with CEAC’s Climate Action Teams and other outreach work, or financially support the organization’s work through donations.
Those interested in getting involved can contact Dalgin at email@example.com.
Maier stressed the importance of acting swiftly to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the climate crisis, particularly in light of the most recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month.
In its sixth Synthesis Report, the panel emphasized the need to take more ambitious climate action in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“(The report) just added to the urgency that world-wide, country-wide, state-wide, community-wide, everyone really needs to be increasing their attention to the issues and doing what we can to make a difference. The good news is that there are things we can do,” Maier said.