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Shumlin to Speak at Paris Climate Conference

Wednesday, December 02, 2015
Gov. Peter Shumlin is scheduled to speak at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris next week, where he will discuss Vermont’s ambitious plans for renewable energy.

“The White House had reached out to us to talk about what states are doing to make a difference,” Shumlin said. “Vermont’s got a great story to tell.”

“We are building our renewables like mad,” he said.

The two-week international conference, which began Monday, includes nearly 150 world leaders attempting to craft a deal that will mitigate the impacts of climate change. The overarching goal of the summit is to prevent a rise in global temperature of two degrees celsius, a goal determined by climate experts who say any rise above that would be catastrophic for Earth’s population.

Shumlin will participate in a panel next Wednesday hosted by the Georgetown Climate Center called “The Subnational (State and Provincial) Foundation for Action.” The panel includes representatives from throughout North America that are pushing for cleaner energy policies, including Quebec, California and Washington.

The event announcement describes the discussion as one where “state and provincial leaders will speak about their commitments to reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions and preparing for climate change.”

Secretary of Natural Resources Deb Markowitz also will be attending. She is on a panel talking about transporation issues, specifically how to convert cars on the road to ones that emit zero or near zero emissions, the use of cleaner fuels and how to encourage non-motorized travel.

In Vermont, Shumlin has pushed aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through major wind and solar projects. The state has set a goal of reaching 90 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Shumlin said he would share the story of the state’s plan to counter climate change, including the concerns in some communities that Vermont has rushed too quickly into renewable projects without proper consultation from residents.

“There’s always obstacles and some resistance,” Shumlin said. “How you deal with that resistance is also important.”

While the state is generally supportive of comprehensive environmental policies, a number of candidates running for statewide office in 2016 have questioned the state’s approach to the issue.

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Lisman called for a two-year moratorium on renewable energy projects in his campaign kickoff in October, saying they often damaged the well-being of those living close to the projects.

He suggested a law for energy projects similar to Act 250, which created a stringent review process for development in the state in order to preserve community and aesthetic characteristics.

In addition, a number of candidates for governor and lieutenant governor from both parties have come out against a proposed carbon tax that could raise gas prices by as much as 88 cents over 10 years.

The opponents of the carbon tax include Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram, who is running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor. She reversed her support for the bill after originally signing on as a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Shumlin defended the state’s to push for altenative energy projects, noting Vermont was seen as a global leader on the environment.

In July, Shumlin attended the Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto to discuss the state’s model, and famed environmentalist Al Gore praised the Green Mountain State’s leadership on renewable energy during a presentation given at the University of Vermont in October.

“This is a huge transformation of our economy, it’s a huge transformation in the way we do energy,” Shumlin said. “And hopefully, if we can move fast enough, it’s going to save the planet from extraordinary destruction.”

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