How is addressing climate change a potential business opportunity? This was the question considered at a September 12 public forum in Brattleboro, sponsored by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Speakers talked about the growth of the clean energy sector, and the jobs that have been created through making homes and businesses more energy efficient and/or pursuing alternative energy sources. SEVCA Executive Director Steve Geller broadened the discussion to include a consideration of the impact on people with low incomes.
While agreeing that new policies to address climate change would have long-term positive effects for us all, Geller provided some cautionary comments on proposals that would mean that people with lower incomes might face increasing costs in the short-term that they are in no position to afford. For example, the Carbon Pollution Tax proposal introduced in Vermont by State Rep. David Deen (also presenting at the forum) would significantly increase fuel costs for home heating and transportation. Geller pointed out that each year, low-income households pay over $2,000 more than they can afford on home heating costs, with those earning less than 50% of the poverty level forced to pay about 46% of their income for home utility costs (heating, cooling, electricity). Policies aimed at reducing emissions should not result in even more excessive cost burdens for people who can’t even afford to meet their basic needs, and incentives for introducing energy efficient technology need to be structured so that people with lower incomes can utilize them.