The recently released, non-partisan “Decarbonization Study” offers key ways to both assist Vermont’s income-vulnerable populations and achieve our state’s commitments to the U.S. Climate Alliance. The study, released by the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office, was completed by Resources for the Future, a premier, non-biased, academic research firm based in Washington, D.C.

Low-income Vermonters usually suffer the greatest consequences from violent climate events just because they live in the most risk-prone locations; they also have the highest energy-use burdens and are the most negatively impacted by health risks from carbon-related emissions. The study shows ways of reducing harmful emissions that will address income inequality and improve the lives of the most vulnerable Vermonters, for whom housing and transportation are two of the biggest challenges. These challenges just happen to be the biggest contributors to climate pollution, as well. Incentives for weatherization and electric vehicle purchases, combined with higher carbon-pricing rebates, could result in these Vermont households receiving more in rebates than they pay in costs, with the added benefit of drastically reducing our carbon emissions.

Climate-damaging emissions are the biggest threat to Vermont’s wildlife and the places they need to thrive, and the negative consequences of burning fossil fuels also impact our economy and public health. Failure to enact carbon pricing ignores the powerful job-creating, economy-stimulating opportunities made available by sustainable energy sources. The study found that the combined climate and health benefits of the carbon pricing policies would, in every scenario considered, exceed the economic costs for their implementation.

According to the “Decarbonization Study,” combining moderate carbon pricing and policy approaches, such as incentives for weatherization and electric vehicles, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet Vermont’s U.S. Climate Alliance target. It provides an excellent framework for a much-needed conversation about the benefits of carbon pricing for Vermont’s climate future.

Anne Jameson is a Marshfield resident.

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