Can Vermont’s economy benefit from a marketplace that rewards innovative climate solutions?

By Joe Fusco

I’m not here to argue with you about climate change. I’m not here to convince you that it’s real, or that it’s not.

I am here to convince you, politics aside, that there is a cascade of genuine economic and business development opportunities that will flow from confronting and solving global and regional resource constraints — of which climate change is one.

I’d also like to convince you that Vermont could benefit deeply by having a conversation about these opportunities. It’s not an argument about what we should tax, punish, or shame, but how we can create value and prosperity by approaching climate change and related challenges with creativity, innovation, and thoughtfulness.

In other words, how can Vermont benefit from deliberately leading in an emerging marketplace where the world will reward those who break new ground in the conservation, renewal, and creation of resources, particularly those resources that have an impact on our climate?

That conversation is here. The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) is hosting the state’s first Summit on Creating Prosperity and Opportunity Confronting Climate Change on Feb. 18 at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. Over 400 business, non-profit, and community leaders, as well as scientists, public policy advocates, students, and interested citizens will consider specific ways to confront climate change while creating jobs and strengthening our economy through those solutions.

The Summit will kick off a high profile Climate Change Economy Council that will explore and propose ways to create and encourage economic opportunity by asking three direct questions:

How can we leverage the challenge of confronting climate change to strengthen — rather than dampen — our local economy?

How can Vermont encourage the formation, attraction, and growth of diverse new businesses to solve problems locally and globally — in energy, clean water, efficiency, transportation and other sectors?

How can we make it easier for Vermont businesses across all sectors to strengthen their competitiveness and profitability by creatively changing the way they manage energy and other resources?

The Council hopes to answer these questions thoughtfully through a thorough and inclusive conversation with Vermonters, and will present its recommended strategic actions to the public, the Legislature, and the governor in January 2016.

While climate change is often breathlessly spoken about as an inescapable future of doom and gloom, Vermont can, and should, look at it differently. Approached sensibly and creatively, we can leverage this opportunity to create and ignite prosperity in Vermont, rather than weaken it.

At Casella we embrace these opportunities, and these realities. Our growth, and especially our sustainability as a company, increasingly depends on our willingness and ability to help solve this problem, and the problem of the world’s limited resources. That we come to these challenges from Vermont, and with Vermont values, strengthens us and excites us.

Let’s have this conversation in a way that strengthens and energizes all of us. Join us, and register for the Summit on Creating Prosperity and Opportunity Confronting Climate Change at vtrural.org

Joe Fusco is a vice president of Casella Waste Systems, Inc. He is also a member of the Board of Advisors for the University of Vermont’s MBA program in Sustainable Entrepreneurship (SEMBA).

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