On Oct. 8, Mayor Martin J. Walsh released an update to Boston’s Climate Action Plan, accelerating action towards carbon neutrality and putting Boston on track to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement, which the Trump Administration withdrew from in 2017. Despite federal inaction, Boston continues to lead on addressing climate change. The updates to Boston’s Climate Action Plan will significantly cut carbon emissions from Boston’s buildings — the single greatest source of emissions citywide — and Boston will take immediate action to require new City-owned buildings to lead by example and be zero net carbon. This updated plan sets Boston’s priorities for the next five years on carbon neutrality, with a goal of making Boston carbon neutral by 2050.
As Mayor Walsh releases an update to Boston’s Climate Action Plan, he will also attend the international C40 Mayors Climate Summit tomorrow in Copenhagen, discussing climate solutions with other leading cities committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement. As North American Co-Chair for C40’s Steering Committee, Mayor Walsh will participate in a panel to share Boston’s global leadership on preparing for rising sea levels and climate change. The panel and Summit events will be live-streamed at http://bit.ly/c40summit_livestream.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” said Mayor Walsh. “As a coastal city, Boston is at the frontlines of this global crisis, and we understand the urgency. While national action is at a standstill, cities like Boston are leading with plans, solutions and results. The 2019 update to our Climate Action Plan is our roadmap to carbon neutrality, and together we will ensure all of Boston’s residents will benefit from our work to protect against climate change, and create an equitable, resilient city for all.”
Boston’s Climate Action Plan update will take immediate action to continue reducing carbon emissions in Boston, supporting the Walsh Administration’s work to combat climate change. Boston’s buildings account for approximately 70 percent of citywide emissions and represent the greatest opportunity for reductions. With buildings as the main contributor to Boston’s emissions, the updated Climate Action Plan accelerates action to decarbonize the city’s largest buildings, while working to improve incentives and programs to help small buildings and to strengthen workforce development programs.
In Boston, city-owned buildings account for nearly three-quarters of carbon emissions from local municipal operations. With this in mind, Boston has worked to reduce its buildings’ footprints: emissions from local municipal operations in fiscal year 2017 were already 41 percent less than 2005 levels, far exceeding Boston’s goal set for 2020. Boston’s continued progress towards its goals can be attributed to such programs as Renew Boston Trust, which currently implements energy-saving projects and retrofits in existing City-owned buildings. Projects are already underway at 14 municipal buildings across Boston, including libraries, community centers, and police and fire stations.
The announcement today also begins a process to develop carbon emissions performance standards to decarbonize large buildings over time. This measure, when implemented, could cut citywide emissions nearly 40 percent by 2050 from business-as-usual projections. Citywide carbon emissions are currently down 21 percent — a 4 percent decrease from the previous year — and are on track to meet Boston’s carbon target for 2020, a 25 percent greenhouse gas reduction.
“With the release of today’s Climate Action Plan update, Mayor Walsh is continuing to take bold action to combat climate change and to ensure that Boston continues to grow and thrive in the face of unprecedented challenges,” said Richard A. Dimino, President & CEO of A Better City. “I applaud the Mayor’s commitment to reduce emissions from municipal buildings and look forward to working collaboratively with the City to develop smart strategies to reduce emissions across the buildings and transportation sectors.”
Additional immediate steps outlined in the plan include the development of new zoning requirements for a zero net carbon new construction in new large projects and guidelines for zero net carbon City-funded affordable housing. The updated plan also includes recommendations to continue advocacy for priority transit programs; continues Boston’s focus on active transportation infrastructure; supports zero-emission vehicle deployments and municipal fleet transition to zero and low-emission vehicles. Finally, the plan includes recommendations to encourage efforts to decarbonize Boston’s energy supply, and help communities decarbonize throughout Boston.
“At the Boston Society of Architects, we know the impact that a well-designed building can have, not only for the climate but also for the health and well-being of the people who work, live, learn, and play within them. Net-zero buildings are something we know how to do–our members are designing them every day. We’re excited to work with the City of Boston on the equitable development of better buildings in Boston,” said Jean Carroon FAIA, 2019 Boston Society of Architects/AIA president.
Under Mayor Walsh’s leadership, in 2017 the City strengthened Boston’s emissions reduction goal to achieving carbon neutrality in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. The 2019 Climate Action Plan Update sets the stage for Boston’s transition to carbon neutrality and is available on the City’s website. Carbon neutrality means releasing no net carbon emissions on an annual basis. For Boston, this means reducing carbon emissions from Boston’s buildings, transportation, waste, and energy supply as much as possible, and supporting activities that remove carbon from the atmosphere to compensate for any remaining emissions.
“The strategies detailed in the updated Climate Action Plan will be transformative for building a sustainable and resilient city,” said City Councilor Matt O’Malley and Chairman of the Council’s Environment, Sustainability and Parks Committee. “I am proud to have led the Council’s efforts and advocated for a pathway to a carbon-neutral future. It is evident that the greatest contributor to carbon emissions is our buildings. I look forward to working with Mayor Walsh and his administration to promote the construction of zero net carbon buildings in Boston and continue to work to reduce the impacts of climate change.”
“This new roadmap reflects a steadfast commitment to slashing fossil fuels and making Boston a leader on bold climate action,” said Christina Angelides, NRDC’s Director, American Cities Climate Challenge. “These are the sort of ambitious efforts that the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge winners are helping spearhead across the country. With this plan, Boston is truly tackling climate change in its own backyard and setting a strong example for others to follow.”
Boston continues to be one of the world’s leading cities committed to urgently pursuing high-ambition climate action. As a leading city on climate action, Boston is already driving down emissions and preparing for sea level rise, extreme temperatures and storms. At the same time, Boston continues to be ranked the most energy efficient city in the country. The top ranking highlights the success of programs such as Renew Boston Trust, Community Choice Energy, and Boston’s long-standing building energy benchmarking program.
By reducing carbon emissions, Boston can ensure that it’s not worsening the impacts of climate change. To prepare for those impacts, Mayor Walsh created a climate-ready vision to enhance Boston’s waterfront. Announced during Mayor Walsh’s 2018 Chamber of Commerce speech, Resilient Boston Harbor shows how a network of accessible open spaces and climate-ready buildings and infrastructure will increase resilience to major flooding events, while also increasing access and open space area along the waterfront. Like all the City’s current planning, it prepares the City for 40 inches of sea-level rise. Furthering the Mayor’s vision are a series of detailed neighborhood plans for coastal resilience. Coastal resilience plans are complete for parts of East Boston and Charlestown, for South Boston, and are underway for Downtown, the North End, and Dorchester.
In addition, earlier this year, Mayor Walsh released the Zero Waste Boston plan, which would divert at least 80 percent of the City’s waste from landfills and municipal solid waste combustors by 2035. The City has begun implementing strategies, including expanding education and outreach campaigns around recycling in partnership with institutions like the New England Aquarium, and is currently developing curbside composting and textile recycling programs for residents.
In his fiscal year 2020 budget, Mayor Walsh nearly tripled the City’s investment in Greenovate Boston to expand outreach to Boston residents and support community-level climate action. Since the investment, Greenovate launched a climate action guide for Boston residents to reduce their carbon footprint at home, at work, in school and around town, and starting this month will host a series of trainings and dialogues throughout the community on climate change.
“As the voice of students across the Boston Public Schools, we have been calling for more ambitious action on climate change. It’s great to see a plan that takes our call for action seriously with real, actionable strategies to reduce carbon emissions in our city,” said Simon Chernow, Boston Public Schools student and Boston Student Advisory Council member. The Student Advisory Council was active in the Climate Action Plan working group.