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December 22, 2015

Gov. Shumlin to attend Paris climate change conference

Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz will accompany the governor

Gov. Peter Shumlin will travel to Paris this week to attend 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Shumlin joins governors Jay Inslee of Washington State and Jerry Brown of California at the summit, which brings together political leaders to develop a worldwide framework and agenda to combat climate change.

“I am proud to join leaders from around the world who are serious about climate action and working towards regional, national, and global agreements that will curb the devastating effects of global warming,” said Gov. Shumlin.

With political gridlock in Washington continuing to stand in the way of Congressional action on climate change, state and regional governments are taking more of a lead role and rising to the challenge to create meaningful approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Vermont has established itself as a leader when it comes to pursuing policies that make progress on climate change, and the governor will bring to Paris Vermont’s experience leading the development of  regional solutions to climate change.

In May Gov. Shumlin signed Under2 Memorandum of Understanding (Under2MOU), which brings together international leaders of 57 jurisdictions from 19 countries and five continents to work to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius–the warming threshold above which scientists say there will likely be catastrophic climate disruptions.

In June, Gov. Shumlin joined 21 other states and regional governments in signing the first-ever Pan-American action statement on climate change. The Climate Action Statement highlights the urgency of combatting climate change, affirms that state, provincial, and municipal governments are leaders in achieving impactful global climate action, and acknowledges the need to work together to continue reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

Last week, Vermont signed an agreement with five other Northeast and mid-Atlantic states–Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New York, and Rhode Island–to work together to develop market-based policies to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from the transportation sector. The agreement, through the Transportation and Climate Initiative at the Georgetown Climate Center, would be an extension of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. RGGI was championed by former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas.

On the state level, Vermont has also made significant progress.

The state completed a Comprehensive Energy Plan in 2011 that includes the goal of reaching 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. In the last four and half years, Vermont has worked towards that goal, increasing tenfold the amount of solar installed or on the way and increasing wind energy generation by 20 times. Additionally, the state has more than doubled the Standard Offer program, expanded net metering more than sevenfold, and helped bring down the cost of solar from 30 cents per kilowatt hour in 2010 to less than 12 cents today.

That activity has not only been good for the environment but also the economy and Vermonters’ pocketbooks. Vermont’s clean energy economy now supports over 16,200 jobs–one in every 20 jobs in the state. And the development of renewable energy has helped Vermont buck the trend of rising energy rates in the Northeast. The state’s largest utility, Green Mountain Power, has reduced electric rates in three of the past four years. Year-over-Year data comparing 2015 to 2014 shows Vermont’s electric rates for residential, commercial, and industrial customers have all come down, while every other state in the region experienced rate increases. Vermont’s electric rates are now the second lowest overall in the Northeast.

In Paris, Gov. Shumlin will meet with leaders from across the world to discuss opportunities created by low-carbon economies and the development of climate-resilient infrastructure. The governor is scheduled to participate in the following discussions:

“States and Regions Alliance General Assembly”

The annual General Assembly of the States and Regions Alliance will bring together sub-national government leaders from around the world to set an ambition level and frame priorities for the next five years to ensure non-national government actors are working to ensure the peak of global emissions by 2020. Organized by the international nonprofit The Climate Group, the meeting will be attended by premiers, governors, presidents, secretaries and ministers from member states and regions.

“Driving Climate Action through Compact and Under2 MOU”

Hosted by the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development and the Climate Group, governors and premiers will discuss state and regional climate commitments and low-carbon economy opportunities for meaningful climate action through the Compact of States and Regions and the Under2 MOU commitment.

“U.S. State Leadership on Climate Change: California, New York, Vermont and Washington”

Hosted by the French Embassy to the United States and the REIL Network, an official UNFCCC side event and signing ceremony to present and discuss key actions by four U.S. states to address climate change and boost clean energy markets.

“Zero-Emission Vehicle Event”

The International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance, along with the International Council on Clean Transpiration and several global organizations, are hosting a conversation on using zero-emission vehicles to reduce emissions, and as part of strategies in transport and clean energy will discuss the commitments of governments and private sectors to increase usage of zero-emission vehicles.

“Subnational (State and Provincial) Foundation for Action”

State and provincial leaders will speak about their commitments to reduce GHG emissions and how they are preparing for climate change. Sponsored by the Georgetown Climate Center, leaders will speak on the role of subnational actions and programs, how states are innovating and collaborating to make these programs successful, and the benefits–environmental, economic, and social–such programs achieve.

“Climate Registry Panel: The Big Energy Debate on Critical Issues in Energy and Climate”

Governor Peter Shumlin will be give opening remarks and open a panel of U.S. state energy and climate leaders who will explore state initiatives associated with the U.S. Clean Power Plan, regional collaborations such as RGGI and the Pacific Coast Collaborative, and state action through complementary measures spanning energy efficiency, transportation and renewable energy.

Gov. Shumlin will be in Paris Dec. 6 to 10 and will be available to the media during that time. He will return Friday, Dec. 11 and will attend Windsor County Driver Restoration Day in White River Junction.

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