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Hundreds of people gathered in Randolph, Vermont Monday to discuss the state’s “climate economy.” Attendees considered how to advance the state’s economy in the midst of climate change.

Last year the Vermont Council on Rural Development held a conference on how the state could create economic opportunities around climate change. As a result of that meeting the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council was formed. It reviewed the results of the conference and crafted the Progress for Vermont action plan. A year later a second conference was held on Monday — the Vermont Climate Economy Summit: Ideas to Action.

Vermont Council on Rural Development Executive Director Paul Costello coordinated both conferences. “There’s an aggregation of economic activity happening right now around efficiencies,  energy generation and distributed generation that’s all over the state of Vermont. And there’s a lot of small businesses developing but also every major manufacturer or business is really changing the way they do business to be more efficient and to consider ways they can contribute energy to the grid rather than take it. So when we look at answering the challenge of climate change we’re in an era of climate economic development and that if we think about steps to encourage small business development in this sector we can look at it as a powerful focus for Vermont’s economic renewal.”

Summit attendees reviewed the Progress for Vermont seven-point plan that Costello says outlines how to implement the ideas. “It describes supporting entrepreneurs with a network development and seed investment around the development of comprehensive efficiencies which would include really looking hard at more accessible transportation and opportunities. There’s a key element around communities and how they work together. And so we’re working with a large partnership that’s devising a set of strategies to help towns develop more energy, expand their efficiencies, and incubate and support new businesses. And we’re talking about the Vermont brand and how we market the state more effectively to attract small businesses and young people.”

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz is also chair of Governor Peter Shumlin’s Climate Cabinet. She says this summit brings together people in all sectors to assure Vermont’s future. “What’s great about the summit is it really is the kicking off of action. And part of this climate summit is bringing together folks in all the different sectors of Vermont to talk about what can we do together to make sure that we’re reducing our footprint and that we’re doing it in a way that protects us from future damage, climate damage, and insures that we’ve got a robust, prosperous future.”

Vermont Energy Investment Corporation Executive Director Scott Johnstone says the state cannot wait for perfect solutions to climate change.  He says all sectors must move forward with available tools to insure the state’s economy while at the same time reducing climate impacts. “This is only an evolution of our policies. None of this is radical new. It’s evolving the way we go about our business. There’s a lot of towns in Vermont that really want to get all of their energy use as close to zero as they can in terms of moving it to renewable. We need to take those leaders help them help show that it’s both a good economic choice for their town and it has great environmental consequence. That’s one I just love because no one has to wait to do anything today to make that happen.”

Johnstone adds that the Progress for Vermont plan could be one of the most robust growth plans for the state’s economy. “These are good paying jobs. These are the type of jobs that every politician of every stripe says they want in their state.  So for me this transformation is really motherhood and apple pie once people really understand what it is we’re trying to do.”

The Vermont Climate Economy Partnership was created during Monday’s summit.