The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation annually reports on the amount and sources of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. In the most recent report, Vermont’s 2012 greenhouse gas emissions totaled 8.27 million metric tons, or about 9 million US tons. Transportation (primarily cars and trucks) accounted for almost 45% of the state's total emissions. Residential/commercial fuel use made up 21% of the total.
Source: Vermont Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update 1990-2012 (June 2015)
Vermonters Greenhouse Gas Footprint
While our emissions of over 8 million metric tons may sound like a lot (and it is), it is a small fraction of total U.S. emissions of 6,666 million metric tons produced in 2012. Another perspective is to compare Vermont’s per-person emissions to the country as a whole and to other places around the world. These per capita emissions rates vary widely from a low of 0.4 metric tons (about 880 pounds) in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, to over 62 tons in the middle eastern emirate of Kuwait. Vermont’s per capita emissions of 13 metric tons per year is about two-thirds of the U.S. average of 19.9. The figure below shows per capita emission rates for selected countries around the world:
Sources: Vermont - Vermont Greenhouse Gas Inventory Update 1990-2012; Rest of world - World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicators Tool
The state's GHG inventory tracks emissions by production. These are emissions that occur inside the state from activities such as driving, space heating, farming, and electricity generation. Another way to measure our greenhouse gas impact is to measure total emissions based on consumption, which counts emissions generated elsewhere for goods bought and used here. Our consumption-based emissions could be from 10-15% greater than the production emissions measured by the inventory.
State goals and programs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
In 2005, Vermont established GHG reduction goals in the law (10. V.S.A. §578) that call for a 50% reduction in emissions from the 1990 level of 8.1 million tons by 2028 and a 75% reduction by 2050. Vermont’s emissions in 2012 were approximately 8.3 million tons.
In May 2015, Vermont was one of the initial 12 signatories of the Under2 MOU, committing to limit emissions to less than 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050. That's a limit of less than two metric tons per capita, which is also the level of emission reduction believed necessary to limit global warming to less than 2°C by the end of this century. As of early 2016, over 120 jurisdictions around the world had signed on to this agreement.
In August 2015 Vermont joined the conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in adopting a resolution that sets a target of decreasing carbon pollution in the region by between 35 and 45 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
In December 2015, the Public Service Department released the latest edition of the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan. The CEP establishes the following goals:
- reduce total energy consumption per capita by 15% by 2025, and by more than one third by 2050;
- meet 25% of the remaining energy need from renewable sources by 2025, 40% by 2035, and 90% by 2050; and
- meet three end-use sector goals for 2025: 10% renewable transportation, 30% renewable buildings, and 67% renewable electric power.
While Vermont's direct emissions are a small fraction of the country's total, we can and are taking important actions to reduce our emissions footprint. These include:
Energy efficiency: In 1999, the Vermont legislature established Efficiency Vermont, the first-in-the-nation utility devoted to delivering energy efficiency. Originally focused on electricity, Efficiency Vermont added thermal energy services in 2008.
Renewable energy: From 2006 to 2014, Vermont’s consumption of renewably generated electricity grew by more than 20%, from a little over 3 million MWh to around 3.7 million MWh [source: Vermont Department of Public Service]. With the passage of Act 56 in 2015, Vermont established a Renewable Energy Standard that requires utilities to:
- meet a 75% total renewable energy requirement by 2032 (55% in 2017);
- meet 10% of sales with distributed generation by 2032 (1% in 2017); and
- meet 12% of sales with "energy transformation projects" by 2032 (2% in 2017).
Town energy committees: Over 120 Vermont communities have established volunteer energy committees to help their neighbors reduce energy use and emissions and save money. The Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network coordinates these organizations.
Transit alternatives: While driving remains an inescapable part of many Vermonters' days, there are an increasing number of options for other ways to travel. Bus routes in several cities and towns also connect to other cities, bike lanes and paths are growing in popularity, and planned walking communities are keeping commuting distances short and manageable. GoVermont is the portal to all of the state’s alternatives to solo driving.