Vermont has fallen well short of its goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the Agency of Natural Resources announced Thursday.
The state’s lawmakers set the goals in 2006 with optimistic legislation that laid out a timeline for the state’s greenhouse gas reductions. The legislature used 1990 emissions levels as a benchmark, calling for a 25 percent reduction from those levels by 2012, a 50 percent reduction by 2028 and a 75 percent reduction by 2050.
But reality isn’t measuring up to lawmakers’ expectations. The Agency of Natural Resources said that 2012’s emissions were approximately 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – almost exactly the same as Vermont’s emissions in 1990.
“We have missed the 2012 goal,” said Deb Markowitz, the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. “So now the focus is on 2050.”
According to the Agency of Natural Resources, carbon dioxide emissions haven’t fallen below 8 million tons since 1990. 2012’s numbers, however, were significantly lower than Vermont’s 2004 emissions of more than 9.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Markowitz said it is possible for the state to meet the goals it set in 2006, but Vermont will need to redouble its efforts.
A big part of the solution, Markowitz said, is to cut down in the sectors causing the most pollution in Vermont: transportation and home heating. Transportation is the state’s leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Markowitz said the introduction of zero-emissions electric vehicles is key to reducing that pollution.
“We’re working very closely, for example, with the Agency of Transportation to put out the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging,” Markowitz said. Her agency has been working with California to learn from that state’s extensive efforts to reduce emissions.
Adoption of electric vehicles, Markowitz said, is “the way of the future, and it’ll solve our problem here in Vermont.”
Energy efficiency is the main way to reduce emissions related to home heating, Markowitz said.
“The home heating is a little trickier, and that’s because it requires many individuals to make choices to retrofit their homes,” she said. “Particularly with buildings that are rented, there’s not necessarily the right incentives in place.”
Markowitz said efforts by organizations such as Efficiency Vermont are helping improve weatherization across the state, leading to reductions in the amount of fuel used.