By Laurie Caswell Burke, Wind Ridge columnist | As seen at Shelburne News:

Miss the Paris Climate Summit? Here’s an opportunity much closer to home. A second climate summit in Randolph takes place on Feb. 22.

Last February, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) hosted the first Vermont Climate Economy Summit at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. I attended this gathering along with many other Shelburne and Charlotte residents including Sue Dixon, Alec Webb and Kathy Blume. We joined hundreds of business leaders, non-profit and community leaders, elected officials, public policy advocates, students and residents.

The common bond shared by the attendees of this summit was an interest in climate change, specifically to participate in active discussions and workshops to come up with a series of steps and strategies that focused on reducing carbon emissions while stimulating economic development for Vermont.

One of the key outcomes of the 2015 summit was the formation of the VT Climate Change Economy Council (VCCEC) which was charged with developing a practical action plan. During the past year, this broad-based non-partisan group considered multiple policy options to produce recommendations. In addition to information gathered at the 2015 summit, input was gathered at three public forums. The plan, Progress for Vermont, will be center stage at the 2016 climate summit. It will highlight ways to grow jobs linked to adapting, mitigating and reversing the effects of climate change in order to assure Vermont remains a national leader in this expanding sector.

“There is an increasing demand in the global marketplace for low-carbon solutions,” said VCRD Executive Director Paul Costello. “Vermont is in position to be the friendliest place in the country for creating jobs to build from our values while addressing this enormous challenge. Let’s be the small, green Silicon Valley of the climate economy.”

A recent press release shared some of their strategies:

  • Setting up a Model Climate Economy Communities Program to help Vermont towns rapidly expand local energy generation and transportation options while attracting green businesses and younger residents.
  • Developing a first-in-the-nation Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Partnership to expand the scope of Efficiency Vermont and its partners to include home heating and transportation savings.
  • Establishing a network to attract, support and cultivate new entrepreneurs and help them grow their enterprises in Vermont.

As a community citizen who was motivated and energized at last year’s summit, I am heartened to see that our suggestions, input and ideas for how Vermont can be a leader in addressing climate change concerns were heard and acted upon.

Consider joining business leaders, youth, legislators, investors and community citizens to review strategies in the action plan for the best ways to move them forward at the summit on Feb. 22.

I have observed the spirit and passion of our community citizens during the past few weeks as we have come together on an important issue. The Climate Summit offers another important opportunity to be part of something that ultimately will impact all of us. I am proud that Vermont is proving to be a national leader in building a more sustainable and strong economic future.