Op/Ed

Editorial: More reasons for YOU to take action on climate

ANGELO LYNN

Important news on the local climate front this week came when Vermont State Treasurer Mike Pieciak spoke in favor of proposed legislation that would divest the state’s pension fund from investments in fossil fuel companies. The bill Pieciak referred to was introduced this past session and would phase out such current investments by the end of the decade.

Pieciak signaled his support of the legislation at a conference on Vermont climate policy last week.

“The first thing as treasurer is to do no harm to the pension system — and I don’t believe this bill does that,” Pieciak said, as reported by Vermont Public. “Then you also need to look at the financial risk of investing in fossil fuels over the short, medium and long term. And I think this bill creates a framework to do just that and to reduce our risk over time.”

The statement is important because Pieciak, who was elected State Treasurer in November 2022 and assumed the position at the start of 2023, departs from the previous state treasurer who had opposed divestment because of what it might do to the pension funds. The bill, S.42, originated in the Senate and passed last April on a third reading, 22-8. It currently sits in the House Government Operations and Military Affairs committee and will be taken up there in January.

The legislation was introduced by the climate action group, Third Act, which was started by Ripton environmentalist Bill McKibben. The organization specifically encourages Americans over 60 to get involved because of their large numbers and political strength. In a recent report on Vermont Edition, McKibben praised the leadership and energy from young people throughout the world on climate-related issues, but said getting involved with the climate movement isn’t just for young people.

“It’s neither fair nor practical to demand that high school (or college) students solve the biggest problems that we’ve ever faced,” he said. “They don’t have the structural power to do it. If you look around for who does have structural power, well, it’s people with hairlines like mine. There are 70 million people over the age of 60 in America, we punch way above our weight.”

With the effects of climate change all around us, now’s a good time to join the fight and while this divestment issue in Vermont seems like a sure bet to pass the Legislature, it’s also likely that Gov. Phil Scott could oppose it — as he has on several other climate-related issues. And that’s where older voices and sheer numbers matter: when politicians see more and more people, across all ages, advocating for rational changes in climate policy, it’s that much more difficult to ignore.

Angelo Lynn

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