Boston Joins International Climate Leadership Group

BOSTON, Mass.— Mayor Martin Walsh recently announced that Boston will join the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), an invitation-only global network of cities working to prepare for and prevent climate change. He also announced the creation of the 2014 Climate Action Plan Steering Committee, which will direct and update Boston’s 2007 Climate Action Plan, which the city will release later this year.

“The City of Boston is proud to join the C40 and be recognized as a global leader on climate action,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in a press release. “Boston must take a proactive position on the global stage on a variety of issues, and climate change is chief among them. Through the 2014 Climate Action Plan Update, Boston will continue its leadership tradition, ensuring that Boston stays on track to meeting its aggressive climate goals.”

C40 invited cities to join based on population size, economic output and commitment and leadership in taking action on climate change. Boston has had many major “green” and climate- related initiatives, including biking programs, greenhouse gas reduction goals … and community programs for residents to become involved in the conversation. Boston’s Climate Action Plan is the city’s strategic plan to reach its carbon reduction goals of 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

The 2014 climate update will create a comprehensive preparedness plan, evaluate successes and failures since the 2011 update, and lay out a plan for engaging 10,000 Bostonians in climate preparedness.

To begin with, Boston has started a Complete Streets program to expand bike infrastructure and get more bikes safely on the road.

“The key to really reducing GHGs from transportation is reducing the number and length of single-occupancy vehicle trips (SOVs), and we’ll need more than just bike lanes to do this … Getting more people to take public transportation, bike and walk, carpool, etc. will all be very important to reaching our transportation reduction goal,” said the office of Brian Swett, chief of environment and energy for the City of Boston. “Our development and land-use patterns are critical to these factors. In order to reduce SOVs, development should be focused in existing transit nodes and in mixed-used neighborhoods so that people can more easily walk and bike to work and for running errands.”

Boston now has twice as many bike commuters as it did in 2000, with 50,000 less vehicles registered in the city than in 2009.

Other projects include an energy reporting and disclosure ordinance, building energy-positive homes on vacant lots and solar projects started with private-public partnership magnet Renew Boston.

Renew Boston assists residents and business owners with energy advisors who assess home energy use. Since its introduction, Renew Boston has installed 11 megawatts of solar energy and weatherized 5,700 residential and small-business units. Weatherizing includes updating heating units that may be using unnecessarily high amounts of energy, zero-interest heat loans to improve heating units, installing water-saving devices and promoting the use of high-efficiency light bulbs.

But Boston is not yet ready for climate change. A presentation by the City of Boston released last fall shows deficits in plans to mitigate flooding, a lack of infrastructure for local food production and few plans for creating affordable energy.

Credit City of Boston

The city is encouraging residents to get involved in creating the update. On the Greenovate Boston community engagement page, one resident suggested a design competition for improved building codes in response to rising sea levels. A representative from Greenovate said they are considering the idea. Neither Welsh nor Swett’s offices responded to questions from Spare Change News on this development and implementation of this idea by press time.

C40 has 67 affiliated cities whose economies account for 18 percent of global GDP. Other cities in the partnership have reported significant successes. Vancouver has reduced solid waste going to landfills by 11 percent in five years and reduced overall water consumption by 16 percent. Local food production and green transportation are its next focuses. San Francisco boasts a recycling and composting rate of 77 percent.

Looking at Boston’s carbon emissions statistics, it is apparent that commercial buildings and on- the-road transportation create the majority of our carbon footprint. Identifying more specific steps to reduce this will be a big part of the new steering committee’s job.

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