A necessary step

Vermont has an opportunity to demonstrate its political will by leading the way with a carbon tax, under consideration in the Legislature

BRATTLEBORO — Unprecedented drought in California, widespread flooding in South America, staggering snow in Mexico, the need to ship in snow for Alaska's Iditarod dog sled race, sap running unexpectedly in Vermont in January. Although these are strange weather patterns, they're becoming the new normal in an era of human-caused climate change.

It's easy to feel powerless and think that nothing we do makes any difference. But as the mother of a young child, I must believe that we can mitigate the worst effects of climate change, that the world we give her is one of promise and possibility.

There's no simple solution or easy fix. But one important step in the right direction is to put a price on carbon pollution.

In Vermont's current legislative session, the House Natural Resources Committee will continue to review carbon tax proposals. I hope the committee moves these bills forward.

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The Carbon Pollution Tax is supported by Energy Independent Vermont, a growing coalition of diverse organizations, including Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation and, recently, the Vermont Council on Rural Development.

Their bill consists of a three-part plan.

1. Put a price on carbon pollution.

2. Help Vermonters save energy and save money by increasing funding for programs such as weatherization for low-income people.

3. Cut taxes for Vermonters and Vermont businesses.

The proposed changes would not only deincentivize consumption, but also incentivize efficiency and public transportation.

Even more notably, under one proposal, 90 percent of the revenue would be returned to Vermonters in the forms of rebates and other tax relief. This measure will help ensure that low- and middle-income people don't unfairly carry the tax burden.

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As activist and author Bill McKibben recently stated: “When it comes to climate change, the essential problem is not one group's preferences against another's. It's not - at bottom - industry versus environmentalists or Republicans against Democrats. It's people against physics, which means that compromise and trade-off don't work.”

McKibben was speaking of the need to keep 80 percent of fossil fuels in the ground. But the same logic applies to Vermont's proposed Carbon Pollution Tax.

Putting a price on carbon would begin to account for the damage that burning fossil fuels is doing to both people and the planet. It isn't the sole solution or silver bullet to our climate woes. But it's a necessary step that's proven to decrease consumption, and Vermont has an opportunity to demonstrate political will by leading the way.

After all, our future - yours, mine, and our children's - depends on it.

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