This blog post was written by Harris Webster, Chair of the Unitarian Church of Montpelier’s VIA Local Organizing Committee. Harris helped 350 Vermont and the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club plan the Carbon Risk Forum by facilitating communication with the Church and by organizing a team of UCM volunteers during the event. It was 350VT’s pleasure to co-organize the event with Harris – thank you, Harris!
I believe the Carbon Risk Forum was an example of how the various groups interested in Climate Justice can partner to stimulate interest in and pressure our political institutions to take action for Climate Justice. As part of an active campaign to divest Vermont’s pensions from risky fossil fuel investments, the Carbon Risk Forum took place on Tuesday, April 28 at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier (UCM). Over 150 people attended, including a dozen legislators, state employees, Vermont Pension Investment Committee Members, and divestment supporters. 350VT and the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club organized experts to speak, who provided useful information concerning divesting Vermont’s pension funds from fossil fuels. Panelists included Bill McKibben of 350.org, Matthew Patsky of Trillium Asset Management, Eric Becker of Clean Yield Asset Management, and Beth Sawin of Climate Interactive.
UCM’s Vermont Interfaith Action (VIA) Committee provided the location and logistical and volunteer support before, during, and after the Carbon Risk Forum. The Forum was truly a team effort – neither 350VT, the Sierra Club, nor the UCM could have done it alone!
For the Unitarian Church of Montpelier, the Carbon Risk Forum has been helpful in keeping Climate Justice on the minds of our members. UCM members had been involved with 350 Vermont and divestment earlier this year, attending 350VT’s Divestment Strategy Retreat and their legislative breakfast. However, co-sponsoring this event catalyzed an expansion of and renewed interest in the UCM VIA Committee. Of the fifteen UCM members who attended the Carbon Risk Forum, ten were non-VIA members! Our outreach clearly worked. The Carbon Risk Forum also prompted two UCM members to attend the following Saturday’s Personal Divestment Seminar in Burlington. These two members plan to host an after-Church program on personal divestment using information gained at the Seminar.
In late May, the UCM VIA Committee will discuss future events and actions for divestment. Tentative plans are in the works for future collaborations with 350VT and with other churches looking to divest. We hope to also utilize our Montpelier location to become a stronger voice for Climate Justice in the state capital. Personally, I am planning to bring Climate Justice issues to the state-wide board of the Unitarian Church’s Vermont Interfaith Action Committee. In any case, this will not be the last time that 350 Vermont and the UCM VIA collaborate.
Thank you to the Carbon Risk Forum’s sponsors: Progressive Asset Management, Bob the Green Guy, The Skinny Pancake, & Aqua Vitea Kombucha
ORCA Media will be showing footage of the Carbon Risk Forum on local cable channels on May 18th for four weeks. The Forum will air on Tuesdays at 4pm, Wednesdays at 6:30am, and Sundays at 8:30pm. You can watch the Forum anytime on ORCA’s website: