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Vermont teens call on lawmakers to act on climate change and pass the Affordable Heat Act - VTDigger

Vermont teens call on lawmakers to act on climate change and pass the Affordable Heat Act – VTDigger

As legislators scrambled to meet crossover deadlines for policy bills at the Statehouse on Friday, youth climate activists spent the day calling on lawmakers to prioritize climate justice.

“I should be at school today,” said Miriam Serota-Winston, a 14-year-old member of the activist group Youth Lobby and first-year student at Montpelier High School. “But instead I’m here alongside my fellow students continuing to demand real, impactful climate action.” 

Activists from Youth Lobby, Sunrise Chittenden and the Sierra Club attended the Statehouse as part of Youth Lobby Day, speaking at a press conference and meeting with representatives, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and the Climate Solutions Caucus to express climate concerns and advocate for climate legislation. 

“We are on a path to our own demise,” said Kallen Fenster, a Youth Lobby member from Manchester who spoke at the press conference. “Humankind has a responsibility to preserve our planet for our future generations … but right now we are rapidly failing.” 

“We have the data and the science,” Serota-Winston said. “We know that the earth is warmer, that the sea is rising. We know that climate change disproportionately affects people of color, people in poverty, marginalized communities. We’ve said it so many times before and we will keep saying it until politicians stop putting profit and political maneuvering before our lives.”

Among youth activists’ priorities was the passage of S.5, a bill also known as the “Affordable Heat Act,” which would establish a clean heat standard in Vermont, using a credit system to incentivize and subsidize Vermonters’ transitions to heating and cooling systems with reduced carbon emissions. 

Although a similar bill was vetoed last session by Gov. Phil Scott, S.5 advanced in the Senate this week and is projected to do well on the Senate floor, given the unprecedented supermajority of Democrats and Progressives in the Legislature this session.

A top recommendation of Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, which was adopted in 2021, the Affordable Heat Act would serve as an important legislative step for Vermont in meeting the legally binding emissions reductions requirements outlined in the Global Warming Solutions Act.

“The Affordable Heat Act is a big step toward (a safe) future. We needed this bill passed last year when our governor vetoed it, and we need it now, even more,” said Jenna Hirschman, a Youth Lobby activist and Essex High School junior. 

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