The Vermont Climate Council and Critical Race Theory

The debate over Critical Race Theory in Vermont has largely focused on education, policing, and with Covid, healthcare. But, in case you missed it (and judging by the very small number of YouTube views, you have) it is the dominant lens through which the Vermont Climate Council is approaching its mission of greenhouse gas reduction.

The Vermont legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act a year ago (June, 2020), and the Climate Council it created was tasked with coming up with a plan to reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 in December of this year. The first milestone in the ambitions (dare we venture impossible) plan of being 26% below 2005 levels by 2025 is just three and a half years away. So, you’d think these folks would be in deep discussions about where emissions are coming from, what we have to do to reduce them, what it will cost, etc. Not so much.

Most of the discussion thus far has been about “Just Transitions,” along the lines of:

“Recommendations must acknowledge that the status quo of climate change continues to perpetuate ingrained systems of discrimination, inequality, and racism. Recommendations must examine existing practices and redress historical injustices through concrete actions that will lead to a more equitable future.” And, “A Just Transition acknowledges the Earth is a living, female organism.” Because... science?

At the May 28 meeting of the Just Transition Subcommittee, moderator David Plumb assured members, “Every [full Climate Council] meeting will have a touchpoint on equity and justice.”

Indeed, at the June 28 meeting of the full Council, the featured speaker was Amy Laura Cahn from the Environmental Justice Clinic of Vermont Law School for an hour of testimony like:

“Can we think about solutions that are not just about aggregate [GHG] reductions, but about actually about redressing the past harms, and also shifting power…. We know that race is the greatest predictor of environmental risks and harms across a whole set of sectors, but we also know that if folks are multiply marginalized, they’re more at risk. So, people with disabilities, LGBTQ folks, poor people, and people with disabilities who are also people of color, etc., like where you layer marginalization you also have the potential for compounding risks and harms…. And, finally, I just want to come back to this question of self-determination, and how do with bring back that principle that has been front-line in the movement, but has never really made it into policy so that we’re shifting and sharing power and resources.”   

It’s pretty clear at this point that the Global Warming Solutions Act isn’t about the environment. It never was and never could be as Vermont’s greenhouse gas contributions are a non-factor in impacting global climate trends. It’s about restructuring our government policy and our economy along the lines of Critical Race Theory using environmental concerns as a convenient façade.  

-- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.


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