350 Vermont launched a Fossil Fuel Freedom Campaign at the statehouse on January 25. The campaign is a statewide grassroots initiative to encourage Vermonters to mount a full-scale urgent response to global climate change. Partners in the campaign are the Vermont Workers’ Center, the Vermont Sierra Club, the Vermont chapter of the AFL-CIO, the Vermont Energy Education Program, and the Vermont Institute for Social Ecology.
David Stember, staff organizer for 350 Vermont, explained that in the same year that weather disaster struck forty-nine states, Vermont saw the harsh face of climate change up close and personal as well. We can’t wait for more storms like Irene to rouse us to real action. The heroic way in which Vermonters responded to Irene’s devastation is the same way we must meet the crisis of climate change. The time has come to initiate a full-scale heroic response by ending our dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as we can.
Thus far, no state in the country has had the courage, vision, and leadership necessary to craft this kind of response, but history has shown repeatedly that Vermont has the requisite foresight to lead the nation on pivotal social issues of the day. Although tiny Vermont’s CO2 reductions will never be significant on a global scale, our example and our spirit, our models and our solutions can, once again, be a powerful clarion call to action for the nation and for the world.
Because global warming is nearing a number of dangerous tipping points much more quickly than anyone predicted, preventing runaway global climate change may largely depend on the actions the world takes during the next ten years. Therefore, the goals we set today in Vermont may be the most important goals we have ever set. This is why the campaign also focuses on achieving 90 percent renewable energy by 2025.
Any campaign worthy of hope today must also take on the politics of business-as-usual. It must build “people power” outside of the system in order to transform the political process, so that we can change quickly enough to meet this crisis in a timeframe that is meaningful. Only by combining the call for climate action with a demand for human rights, social justice, and true solutions will we be able to move beyond incremental progress to achieve transformational change. This is why citizens must be full, participatory partners of any plan to transition Vermont to renewable energy and end our dependence on fossil fuels.
At the heart of the campaign is this knowledge: a society free from fossil fuels will also be more spiritually fulfilling, more economically just, more environmentally sustainable, and more healthy and resilient.
Beginning in March of this year, the Fossil Fuel Freedom Campaign will convene a people’s energy planning process centered around citizen-based “Innovation Forums.” These forums will be designed to be boldly innovative and intensely democratic. They will continue through the summer and focus on goals that include:
Make Vermont’s transportation systems fossil fuel free by 2025
Put Solar panels on every rooftop in 10 years
Develop a shared plan to maximize Vermont’s wind resources
Weatherize all Vermont’s buildings and end fossil fuel heating by 2025
Working both with the statehouse and with citizens outside of the political process, the campaign hopes to inspire and catalyze citizen leadership. As we know, historically when Vermonters have decided to act with a shared sense of focus and urgency, we have achieved radical progressive change. If this campaign succeeds as envisioned, Vermont will once again be making national history with bold solutions to the epic challenge of climate change.