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  • New State report shows slight decline in greenhouse gas emissions from 2015 to 2016, but VT still far off track to meeting climate commitments

Montpelier, VT – Earlier this week, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) released the Vermont Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Forecast: Brief 1990 – 2016. In addition to providing updated statewide emissions data for Vermont through 2016, the report also provides preliminary analysis for 2017 and 2018 as well as an emissions forecast through 2026.

The Energy Action Network (EAN), a diverse, non-partisan membership organization which works to facilitate reaching Vermont’s renewable energy and emissions reduction goals, recognizes this report as a key guidepost to understanding where we are relative to our shared goals and what action is needed to meet them.

“This report contains both encouraging and troubling information,” said Jared Duval, Executive Director of EAN. “The good news is that Vermont finally posted a reduction in our statewide climate pollution between 2015 and 2016, after many years of emissions increases. However, the report also shows that, absent new and significant action to address our biggest sources of climate pollution—fossil fuels used for transportation and heating—Vermont is off track to meeting our climate commitments and will likely continue to be responsible for having the highest per capita emissions in New England.”

The report shows that Vermont bent the curve on its GHG pollution trajectory between 2015 and 2016, reducing emissions by 4 percent. This is the first time in the last five years of reporting that Vermont’s emissions posted a decline, after increasing each year from 2012 to 2015. Vermont’s 2016 GHG emissions are still 13% above 1990 levels.

The reduction in statewide GHG pollution between 2015 and 2016 was primarily caused by a decrease in the use of fuel oil and propane for home and building heating, which, in turn, was partly due to a warmer winter. Vermont’s increasingly clean electricity sector also played an important role in the decline and was responsible for 40% of the reduction in statewide emissions from 2015-2016. Unlike the more weather related decline experienced in the thermal fuel sector, forecasts for 2017 and 2018 show that electricity sector emissions will continue to experience a durable and precipitous decline—to 83 percent below 1990 levels by 2018—primarily due to Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard, which went into effect in 2017 and requires an increasingly clean and renewable electricity supply through 2032.

Despite the emissions decline from 2015 to 2016, Vermont is still far from achieving its emissions reduction goals. Governor Scott committed Vermont to the U.S. Climate Alliance, a collection of states that vowed to meet the pollution reduction targets required by the Paris Climate Agreement (a 26-28% reduction below 2005 levels by 2025). However, as of 2016, Vermont is only 5% below its 2005 emissions levels. The forecast provided by ANR of future statewide emissions levels does not show Vermont meeting its Paris Climate commitment by 2025, nor does it project the state to meet any of its statutory or administrative goals for emissions reductions.

Vermont’s biggest climate pollution challenge and opportunity, as underscored by this report, is reducing emissions in the transportation and thermal energy sectors. While Vermont has made important progress in cleaning up its electricity sector—having already reduced electricity related emissions 26% since 1990 as of 2016—emissions from electricity consumption have always been only a small portion of the climate pollution we generate and have never been higher than 12% of our statewide emissions total since 1990. In contrast, in 2016, transportation made up 44% of Vermont’s climate pollution and residential, commercial, and industrial thermal fuel use accounted for 27% of our emissions.

Additionally, because of our high fossil fuel use for transportation and heating, the report shows that Vermont has the highest per-capita GHG emissions (15.6 tons per person) of any state in the region—producing more climate pollution per person than residents of any other New England state or New York or Quebec. Compared nationally, however, Vermont’s emissions are below the U.S. average of 20.1 tons per person.

“What this report makes clear,” said Duval, “is that for Vermont to make significant and lasting progress toward our emissions reduction commitment, we must tackle our biggest sources of climate pollution: fossil fuels used for transportation and heating. To do this, the state will need policies, regulatory approaches, and personal actions aimed at changing how we get around and heat our homes and buildings—just as we have done in the electric sector. The good news is that the solutions to reduce emissions from transportation and heating are readily available, from home weatherization and advanced wood heating to EVs and alternative transportation. These actions can save Vermonters money and improve the local economy starting today.”

The full report can be found at https://dec.vermont.gov/air-quality/climate-change.

EAN will provide additional in-depth analysis of the latest VT GHG Emissions Inventory, including comparisons to the emissions of our regional neighbors, in its upcoming Annual Progress Report for Vermont, to be released in March of this year.

About Energy Action Network (EAN):

Energy Action Network (EAN) is a diverse network of over two-hundred non-profits, businesses, and public partners, all working together to achieve Vermont’s 90% renewable by 2050 total energy commitment and to significantly reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions in ways that create a more just, thriving, and sustainable future for Vermonters.

The core staff of EAN’s non-profit organization supports the work of Network members by presenting and analyzing official data; serving as an objective tracker of progress; acting as a neutral convener which refrains from policy advocacy; and facilitating communication across the Network. www.eanvt.org

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