By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square
Initiatives targeting a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be funded if the Vermont Office of Climate Action gets an additional $200,000 in the state’s upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget.
The office’s ongoing initiatives were discussed Thursday as members of the House Committee on Transportation continued digging through Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed executive budget for the new fiscal period, which will take effect in July.
The Office of Climate Action is designed to carry out the provisions outlined in Act 153, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act. The legislation includes a number of benchmarks, including net zero emissions across all sectors by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors.
“It’s nothing short of ambitious, and hard-to-reach goals,” Jane Lazorchak, director of the Office of Climate Action, said of the goals in her presentation before the House panel. The office is a division within the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
The office has about $650,000 in funding currently available, Lazorchak said, “to move this work forward.” The infusion of $200,000 in additional state dollars, she added, would be allocated in the proposed budget “to actually build on the tools.”
Throughout her presentation to the House panel, Lazorchak touched on some of the tangible ways the office carries out climate-related goals, including data tracking that could ultimately assist in further legislation.
The challenge, Lazorchak said, is the state’s reliance on some of its data, which includes a lag time of up to three years for the various sectors that use greenhouse gas emissions.
The most recent available data is from 2020 — which, on its face, indicates usage has been declining. It comes with a glaring caveat.
“This was specifically because Vermonters were home,” Lazorchak said, pointing to the onset of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns.
The committee-level discussion included the planned introduction of an electronic database that would measure and assess progress — oftentimes referred to as a MAP tool — in greenhouse gas emission reduction and the other climate-related goals in Act 153.
Lazorchak said a request for proposals is being assembled to prospective vendors who could assist the office with its planned rollout of the MAP tool.
Collin Smythe, climate change progress and data analyst with the Agency of Natural Resources, said the full implementation of the MAP tool will take two to three years for full functionality.
“We’re in the very early stages of putting out a contract,” Smythe said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
The MAP tool will be most effective, Smythe said, when all of the information from such sectors as fossil fuels, waste, electricity, and water have the most current information for true apples-to-apples comparisons.
“The challenge for us, with the industries, is we don’t want to put it out until all off the sectors are up-to-date,” Smythe said of the MAP tool.
To that end, the office reportedly is looking to use more of the state’s own resources to track sector data.