Co-chairs Evelyn Seidner and Lili Platt addressing the Youth Climate Congress in the State House chamber.

On November 17, 2019 more than 170 students from more than 30 schools from all over Vermont came together at the Vermont State House as the Vermont Youth Climate Congress.

Together they drafted and ratified the Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration (which you can read below).

Show your solidarity by adding your name as citizen co-signer to the declaration using the form below. No matter your age, you can show your support by signing the declaration.

Young Vermonters United Climate Declaration
November 17, 2019

In order to preserve and protect the natural systems upon which all living things depend, we must quickly come together to agree on a plan to combat the global climate crisis. Every person, corporation, organization, and government has a role to play. Our generation is the least responsible for the climate crisis, but we are the generation that will face the consequences. Today we assemble in our state capitol to express our frustration with Vermont’s insufficient action in the face of this climate emergency. We are here to offer concrete solutions that address this challenge and demand that our state’s government do everything in its power to protect our future.

We, the Vermont Youth Climate Congress, present the following evidence:

Whereas, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that, “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C [will] require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society;”

The IPCC states that the climate rising above 1.5 °C will be catastrophic because “The projected frequency and magnitude of floods and droughts in some regions are smaller under 1.5°C than under 2°C of warming.” This is not only about Vermont; the climate crisis will affect all aspects of society. The IPCC also states that “A loss of 7–10% of rangeland livestock globally is projected for approximately 2°C of warming, with considerable economic consequences for many communities and regions.” With 795 million people already malnourished, 2°C of warming will significantly increase poverty. These consequences will cause our society to collapse unless we make swift and comprehensive change.

Whereas, the United States Fourth National Climate Assessment forecasts that, “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century;” and

Whereas, the Vermont Climate Action Commission declares that, “Global climate change is a fundamental threat to Vermont, to our economy, environment, and way of life.”

Therefore, we find:

Vermont can no longer afford to delay climate action; and that

It is a cruel injustice that those who are least responsible for the climate crisis – namely low-income Vermonters, frontline communities, and the youngest generations – are the ones with the most to lose from rising pollution and temperature; and that

Those who are not old enough to cast a vote or run for office themselves will bear the burden of climate change if we as a community cannot come together and act on the climate crisis; and that

The people who have the power to make these decisions will not be around to face the consequences of inaction, and that is why we, the youth, demand to be heard.

We also find that:

There is still hope. As future policymakers, we are the ones with the most to gain if Vermont leads the transition to a cleaner, more equitable and prosperous future.

We are motivated to act and are inspired by Vermont’s history of leadership in social change; and that

Given the stakes, it is reasonable and rational to expect that Vermont’s governor and the General Assembly would move this state urgently towards carbon neutrality with care and attention to all people.

However, this has not happened yet. For decades, elected officials have been aware of the danger that greenhouse gasses pose to our climate and yet, collectively, have not taken the necessary action to eliminate this danger. Since 1990, carbon dioxide emissions have risen by 16% in Vermont. This is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, at the national level, the United States legislators have denied scientific consensus about climate change for short-term political gain and have deliberately delayed climate action.

Lawmakers must be held accountable.

This is unacceptable. We, therefore, urge Gov. Phil Scott and the General Assembly to:

Declare a climate emergency—take meaningful action to reduce the pollution causing it;

Turn Vermont’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals into mandates;

Authorize citizens to seek legal redress should the state fail to meet its greenhouse gas and other pollutant reduction requirements;

Require that Vermont achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2032 and decarbonization by 2040;

Speed the development of in-state renewable electricity generation by 2020; reduce obstructive regulatory barriers to renewable energy deployment; and consult the Vermont Council of Native American Affairs

Aggressively support and incentivize (i.e. subsidies and net metering) renewable energy, storage and transmission development and divest from fossil fuel industries;

Fund solutions to the climate crisis by charging fossil fuel companies for the pollution their products cause;

Phase out all subsidies and special advantages for the fossil fuel industry from the Vermont tax code, while reinvesting the benefits into zero carbon alternatives for heating and transportation with consideration for the diverse economic impacts to all Vermonters.

Expand Efficiency Vermont to assist in weatherizing and other tasks for all Vermont buildings in an equitable way;

Accelerate the deployment of low-carbon transportation and heating solutions; accelerate the development of electric vehicles to make them more affordable and accessible

Immediately invest in and create alternative transportation services such as public transportation, pedestrian connectivity, and biking infrastructure;

Join regional initiatives aimed at cutting transportation emissions and collecting revenue that could be used to invest in EV/renewable infrastructure;

Create a 10 year timeline stating that by 2030 we will have banned the sale of passenger vehicles powered by fossil fuels and have implemented extensive public transportation infrastructure

Incorporate Climate Justice into the existing Vermont public school curriculum related to climate change and require this to be enforced in grades K-12;

Ban the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure, and restrict the expansion or increase in capacity of preexisting fossil fuel infrastructure;

Integrate resiliency measures into local and state-wide planning and governance systems aiding them to absorb impacts and maintain function in the face of external stressors.

Direct Vermont agencies to create a new disaster preparedness and response plan; recognizing frontline communities, including people of color, rural and indigenous communities and low income Vermonters.

Prioritize low-income, rural, indigenous and frontline communities for critical services including but not limited to access to educational facilities, incentives, job training, and transition assistance

Implement effective forest and agricultural policies that regulate and restore water quality, soil health, ecosystem function and land resiliency;

Provide economic incentives and educational support to farmers in the transition to truly regenerative practices that sequester carbon, preserve soil health and water quality.

Beginning in 2020, mandate that the Agency of Natural Resources release a Vermont Decarbonization Progress Report every two years, to be released at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Actively work to serve the needs of marginalized communities who are socioeconomically and geographically vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Work towards the creation of People’s Assemblies at the appropriate scale to inform government policy on the climate.

We are facing an urgent and unprecedented global emergency. Vermont must play a role in the fight to end climate injustice, and as its youth we are demanding that our government do their part.