In climate economy, environmentalism can be good business

A fascinating conversation has been taking place in Vermont over the last several years - a conversation about whether “environmentalism” and “entrepreneurialism” can exist together. It is a conversation driven, in part, by the anticipated effects of climate change, and the challenge to do something about it.

Of course, in Vermont the economy and the environment are deeply intertwined. For most - if not all - of our history, we have relied a great deal on our unique and healthy environment to support a vibrant and evolving working landscape.

From tourism to the maple industry, from forest products to craft beer and more, Vermont has birthed livelihoods that both depend on and contribute to a healthy and sustainable environment.

I have participated in this conversation with thoughtful and diverse people who love Vermont and who are deeply motivated to think about how we can create value, affordability, and prosperity - and environmental sustainability - by approaching climate change and its related challenges with creativity, innovation, and thoughtfulness.

I serve as the chair of the Vermont Climate Economy Action Team (CEAT), a diverse group of Vermonters representing the business, economic development, tourism, finance, workforce development, low-income advocacy, solid waste, and energy communities. We want Vermont not only to lead in identifying solutions to climate change but grasp its economic opportunities.

These opportunities lie within advancing the climate economy - initiatives that expand distributed energy generation and efficiency, cultivate entrepreneurs and startup businesses in this sector, and ultimately reduce Vermont's carbon dependence while boosting economic development, creating jobs, and attracting youth and creative entrepreneurs to the state.

As we begin this new phase of Vermont's history, we are already seeing surprising opportunity in economic sectors such as solar and home efficiency, which boost local economies, increase state revenues, and employ electricians, contractors, plumbers, engineers, tech experts, farmers, and foresters.

This economy of the future is powered by Vermont's history of independence, frugality, resilience, and innovation.

With hard work, a vision for economic renewal, and the right policies, Vermont can become a national center of green innovation and entrepreneurship where electric vehicles are affordable and accessible to all individuals and businesses, where transportation networks can be reliable and inexpensive without increasing greenhouse-gas emissions, and where bike and pedestrian commuting can be a realistic and attractive option. We foresee comfortable, safe, and well-heated homes powered by reliable, clean, and affordable electricity.

CEAT's legislative platform for 2018 supports dramatically expanding weatherization, supporting built-environment solar, and facilitating a shift to electric vehicles.

It is an ambitious vision. And it's one that requires us to begin acting now.

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