New Plan Charts Burlington's Course Toward Becoming ‘Net Zero' City

The Vermont city aims to cut carbon and boost efficiency, with a goal of addressing climate change

City leaders in Burlington, Vermont, outlined a roadmap Monday they believe could make the community a stand-out nationally when it comes to community-based attempts to address climate change.

Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, described the city's Net Zero Energy Roadmap as "a new chapter in Burlington's environmental and economic history."

Weinberger insists bold action is needed now to lighten the city's footprint on the planet.

"In order to do our part to avoid the worst impacts from climate change in the decades ahead," the mayor said, describing the goal behind the roadmap. "And show the country that another future is possible."

Vermont's largest city — home to more than 42,000 — is still small by most standards, and Weinberger believes that scale will help Burlington become net zero across its ground transportation, electric and heating sectors by the year 2030.

Reaching that target means energy consumption will be offset by carbon-cutting and efficiency gains.

"My classmates and I are glad Burlington is trying to make changes before it is too late," said Kaya Rubin, a Burlington fourth grader.

"By making these changes, we would be healthier and our environment will be cleaner," predicted Graham McNeil, another Burlington fourth grader.

Weinberger acknowledged the city's net-zero road map does not apply to all sources of carbon emissions. For example, it doesn't cover the jet fuel consumed at the growing Burlington International Airport.

For the areas it is focusing on, the road map targets four main goals over the next decade to attack sources of climate change.

The plan calls for a dramatic shift to electric vehicles, making homes and businesses more efficient by winterizing and installing heat pumps, capturing heat from the city's wood-burning power plant and using it to warm buildings — saving lots of heating oil — and promoting alternative transportation like bikes and buses.

"People do look to Burlington as a leader," said Jennifer Green, the city's sustainability director, who described the roadmap as ambitious and the kind of step more communities will need to tackle if they want to make a difference.

Already, the city-owned Burlington Electric Department gets its power from renewable sources.

"I feel like this is going to be hard," Green said of achieving the goals set out in the net zero road map. "But I also know it's the right thing to try to do. And it's the right thing to go for. And even we are not 100% successful, we have to take the first step forward."

The city also announced a package of incentives Monday to make those investments more feasible for homeowners and businesses, including incentives to buy electric vehicles and heat pumps. Some incentives are even available for the purchase of pre-owned EVs, Burlington Electric announced.

To read more about the Burlington Net Zero Energy Roadmap, visit this Burlington Electric website.

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