Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility is a business association representing over 730 members in every industry and every county across the state, united in our shared mission to advance an ethic that protects the natural, human and economic environments of Vermont.

From global brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Burton to startups like Mamava and Bee’s Wrap, VBSR members are some of the most successful and iconic businesses in our state who, together, shape the Vermont brand. It comes as no surprise that these companies are deeply worried about the looming threat of climate change, but increasingly optimistic about the economic opportunities bold climate action presents.

That’s why we are urging the Vermont Legislature to pass the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA.)

Climate change is, without question, the single greatest threat to Vermont’s communities, ecosystems and shared way of life. Spring is arriving earlier, heavy rainstorms are becoming commonplace, and our summers are hotter and drier than ever. Meanwhile, more frequent and severe storms cause floods that cost us millions in damaged property and infrastructure.

From winter recreation and local food-driven tourism, to manufacturing and service industries, these changes disrupt nearly every facet of our state’s economy — we can no longer afford half measures.

Despite widespread, bipartisan support for Vermont’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and a stranding commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, Vermont’s lingering dependency on fossil fuels continues to keep our emissions on the rise and our economy stifled.

Currently, Vermont imports 100% of the fossil fuels we use, spending roughly $1.5 billion every year on energy resources that pollute our air and further the climate crisis. That means about 80% of the dollars Vermonters spend on transportation and heating fuels are leaving our state’s economy. Conversely, Vermont’s clean-energy sector employs roughly 18,900 people, or 6% of all workers, but unfortunately that number has declined in recent years.

By turning Vermont’s greenhouse gas reduction goals into requirements and setting deadlines for action to cut dangerous climate pollution, the Global Warming Solutions Act would advance renewable energy and efficiency solutions that will move us off of imported fossil fuels, curb emissions and reinvest those dollars into expanding our innovation workforce and clean affordable transit — ensuring a just transition into a clean-energy future for all Vermonters.

The GWSA embodies the bold action we need to tackle the climate crisis, and it’s time for Vermont to do our part. Failure to do so will not only put our communities at risk, but ignore one of the greatest-wealth generating opportunities in our state’s history. If the Legislature and governor are in need of inspiration, they should look no further than many of our leading businesses who are already taking steps to reduce their emissions and move toward energy independence.

VBSR has long advocated a triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity. We’re writing to make clear that none of these values are mutually exclusive. Let’s enact the Global Warming Solutions Act and together, through local investment, equity and accountability we can tackle climate change, build a thriving economy, and put the green back in the Green Mountain State.

Jordan Giaconia is Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility public policy manager.

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