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Last updated: 2/26/18

Carbon Free Boston

We’re analyzing our options in the City’s efforts to go carbon neutral by 2050.

The City is working to reduce pollution that adds to climate change. Solving this issue will spur economic growth and improve life in Boston. It will also enhance everyone’s health and safety. In this project, we’re working with:

  • Fall 2017 – Project Launch  
  • Winter/Spring 2018 – Policy-driven GHG emissions modeling
  • Summer 2018 - Project Completion

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What we're doing

Carbon Free Boston will review the benefits and costs of technologies and policies. Our goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the City.

The project will focus on these key sectors to reduce emissions:

  1. electric power
  2. buildings
  3. transportation, and
  4. waste.

Our analysis will help inform the City’s next update of its Climate Action Plan. We expect that work to begin in 2018.

In February 2018, the City hosted Let's Talk Carbon Neutrality. The presentation and Q&A session was held by the project team and City staff at Boston University. Watch the event.

Focus on the future

Our work will create the foundation for Boston’s long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Carbon Free Boston will:

  • develop a shared, positive vision of our carbon-free future
  • form an understanding of the options for achieving that future, including the trade-offs
  • find key stakeholders who have a deep understanding for the issues and strategy, and
  • create a sense of urgency and willingness to make tough short-term decisions for the future.

We’ll need to work with state and regional players who control energy, transportation, and building decision-making. It’s true, 2050 is more than 30 years away. But, it’s important to start this work now. We’ll be making choices in the short-term that will affect our ability to achieve the 2050 target.

News and updates

News and updates
Default News image
Feb 8

Our progress toward carbon neutrality


“We are America’s climate champion, with a target date of 2050 for going 100% carbon-neutral.” – Mayor Martin J. Walsh, State of the City 2017



Current and future carbon emissions will depend on the emissions intensity of New England’s electrical grid.

The team will evaluate the impacts of:
  • regional electricity grid forecasts, and
  • projected demand from buildings, transportation, and waste sectors.
We’ll also be exploring options for:
  • distributed and district energy sources within the city to identify the potential for renewable generation within the city’s boundary
  • and other factors that could drive grid de-carbonization.

Energy use in buildings accounts for nearly three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions in Boston. 

The team will analyze how policies can support the design of buildings that conserve energy. To do this, we're developing a database of building models that represent Boston’s buildings and their uses. This includes single-family and multi-family homes, offices, schools, and more. Energy conservation measures such as:

  • additional insulation
  • efficient lighting
  • heat pumps, and
  • onsite renewables

 will be identified for each building type, along with the emissions reductions and benefits of the measures.

The transportation sector accounts for nearly one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Boston.

Transportation forecasting tool

Our researchers will develop a transportation forecasting tool.  This tool will be used to study the impact of policies on reducing transportation emissions. This includes:

  • increasing the use of low or no carbon fuels
  • reducing vehicle miles traveled, and
  • increasing the use of public transportation, biking, and walking.

We will study policies create through the Zero Waste Boston planning process. We plan to evaluate their costs, benefits, and potential to reduce emissions.

Zero Waste Boston

Zero Waste Boston is an initiative to transition the City towards zero waste. The City would do this through:

  • infrastructure and policy development
  • community engagement, and
  • putting in place projects as part of the city’s Climate Action Plan.