A push for climate action in South Burlington

By Aidan Scanlon | Community News Service

South Burlington city leaders are pushing forward on a climate action plan that will identify ways to make the city more energy efficient — and are looking seriously at new electric vehicle charging, adding electric bikes to the bikeshare fleet and are considering buying electric mowers.

In the summer of 2017, the city council joined the Vermont Climate Pledge Alliance and promised to meet or exceed the obligations for the United States set forth by the Paris Agreement.

This plan would outline the steps South Burlington should take to reduce its carbon footprint, and make the city more energy efficient.

Photo by Bruce Parker

The city of South Burlington is already planning to install car chargers at city hall which should be completed and open to the public in July,

According to Paul Conner, director of planning and zoning, the city council reaffirmed its decision during the winter and are starting to take the first steps, including a funding request to the Regional Planning Commission.

That funding will go towards improving public transportation, since transportation is the largest energy user both in South Burlington and statewide.

“Things like making progress on identifying the sites and moving forward with one or more park and ride locations,” Conner said.

Another strategy to improve transportation would include more car charging stations, and installing them in less obvious places, like apartment buildings and condos.

The city is already planning to install car chargers at city hall which should be completed and open to the public in July, according to project manager Ilona Blanchard.

“The city passed a pay per pass two years ago, which is one cent on the city tax rate over the next 10 years to be able to build out bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, that’s clearly a specific action that can help meet our transportation climate action goals,” Conner said.

The climate action plan would also upgrade the bikeshare program to have electric-assist bikes.

Keith Epstein, who has been a member of the energy committee since its start in 2008, said there needs to be a communal effort behind the climate action plan in order to make it work.

“It’s something that needs to be done on a community basis. It’s not something the energy committee can create by themselves, or city staff can create by themselves. It needs to be created with a lot of public input and the energy committee is trying to facilitate that process with the city,” Epstein said.

There are tentative plans to create a task force that includes a broad cross-section of community members including residents, business owners, volunteers, and city employees. This task force would provide input to the city and energy committee on the climate action plan.

“We like to outreach to the public as much as possible to help people understand the benefits of efficiency and renewables and to help answer their questions, for residents or businesses,” said Epstein.

Conner and the planning commission agree.

“For a Climate Action Plan to really be meaningful, it needs a number of key people involved in it, in order for it to really take effect. Writing a plan and then just putting it on a shelf doesn’t necessarily accomplish everything we’re looking for,” said Conner.

The plan is still in the developmental stages and what exactly community input and feedback will look like is uncertain. But, Conner says that there will likely be groups focusing on each individual sector, such as the transportation sector, or the housing sector, and those groups will work on ways to make each sector more energy efficient.

The energy committee has a few other projects in mind to make South Burlington more energy efficient, including replacing some of the city’s gas lawn mowers with electric ones that will reduce carbon emissions, cut fuel and maintenance costs, and have the added benefit of being quieter.

The city hasn’t made any commitments to buy electric mowers yet because there were some concerns with the model that public works employees tried, including the speed and handling of the mowers.

They worked fine for smaller areas but the speed wasn’t as efficient for mowing large areas like Veterans Memorial Park.

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR

5 thoughts on “A push for climate action in South Burlington


    German Study Shows Added CO2 Has Led To 14% More Vegetation Over Past 100 Years!

    Almost everyone, with a fraction of a science education, knows CO2 is fertilizer to vegetation.
    The added 100 or so ppm in our atmosphere, over the past decades, have been beneficial to plant growth and thus led to more greening of the continents.

    Yet, some alarmists still sniff at this fact, or deny it.

    More trees (+7%) and vegetation (+14%), all due to fertilizer CO2.

    In the 34th climate video, “Die kalte Sonne”, reports on a recent German study by Merbach et al, that looks at the question of just how beneficial the added CO2 has been to plant growth globally.

    The authors’ findings:

    Over the past 100 years, there has been increased global vegetation growth.

    “The global vegetation cover increased approximately 11- 14%, of which 70% can be attributed to the increased CO2 in the atmosphere,” reports Die kalte Sonne reports

    Another result: “Since 1982, the inventory of trees has increased more than 7%”.

    Crop yields will rise by up to 15% by 2050

    The news gets even better, the scientists show.

    Food production is expected to surge due to the increased amounts of CO2:

    Crops such as soy bean, wheat, rice, and corn will surge as CO2 concentration rises to 550 ppm by 2050, thus lending a huge hand in feeding the planet’s growing population, which could reach 10 billion by mid century.

    Germany: more than 30% higher crop yields since 1990

    Another example cited is Germany:

    “From 1990 to 2015 in Germany, crop yields for wheat, barley, corn and potatoes rose more than 30%, which the researchers attribute in part to the higher CO2 concentrations,” Die kalte Sonne reports.

    “The authors hope that the CO2-related crop yield increase will secure the food and feedstuffs production and contribute to feeding the world’s growing population.”

    The study appeared in the Journal of Land Management, Food and Environment at the end of 2020.

  2. A Climate Action Plan? Yes, everybody should have one. I have one: As long as my carbon footprint is smaller than that of John Kerry, Al Gore, or even Bernie the Socialist, I’m fine and I’m not changing a thing; except to start working harder to help vote out of office the raging morons who say I need pay big tax dollars for them to make one for me…

  3. Lets just say for the sake of a discussion point that on a given day TBA, everyone will have an electric vehicle. This will hold true all across the country.
    So where is the electricity coming from to power these charging stations? It also is -20 degrees for a few days in January and February, will these new mechanisms function?
    Is closing the nuclear power plants, when they have a life span of another 20 years left a good idea?
    This happened in VT BTW; VT Yankee. How does freezing to death in a dark room sound?
    With current thinking that is where we are headed.

  4. Let’s see a cost/benefit analysis. Will this lower taxes? Will citizens see lower energy bills? I suggest climate improvement not be included as “benefit” because nothing Burlington does is going to have any impact on the climate. Biden proposes creating half a million charging stations. Did the taxpayers build half a million gas stations? Or were they built by the people who profited from selling energy – in the form of liquid motor fuel? In the early years of the automobile, private businesses like general stores that already had a considerable business selling widely used kerosene and distillate started selling gasoline, too. Private businesses can set up charging stations and profit from them, especially businesses where people customarily spend some time like casinos, bowling alleys, cinemas, bars and restaurants. Competition controls prices. The powers of government in competition with private enterprise is anathema!

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