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Last updated: 7/13/18

Carbon Free Boston

Carbon Free Boston is an initiative to analyze our options in the City’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The City of Boston is working to reduce carbon pollution that causes climate change. Solving this issue will enhance everyone’s health and safety, as well as spur economic growth and improve life in Boston. Carbon Free Boston is the City's long-term initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

We're currently analyzing how different policy and technology options can help us reach our climate goals. To do so, the City is partnering with the Green Ribbon Commission and Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy. Their researchers are working on a data-based report. This analysis will help the City make smart choices as we update our Climate Action Plan. The Green Ribbon Commission will release the final Carbon Free Boston report in the fall of 2018.

PROJECT TIMELINE
  • Fall 2017: Project launch  
  • Winter 2017: Data collection and model development
  • Spring/summer 2018: Policy-driven greenhouse gas emissions modeling
  • Fall 2018: Project completion

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Any questions?

We have answers to common questions about Carbon Free Boston. You can also ask us a question, leave a comment, or suggest an option:

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What we're doing

Carbon Free Boston is reviewing 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
Boston celebrates National Energy Efficiency Day by encouraging all residents to participate in Renew Boston
Oct 2

We're updating our Climate Action Plan

Environment
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Aug 22

Next step taken toward implementation of Community Choice Aggregation

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Jul 31

Mayor Walsh calls on renewable energy developers for multi-city, large-scale projects

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Boston Skyline
Jun 12

Carbon Free Boston project update

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Carbon Free Boston launched

“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

Sectors

Sectors

Current and future carbon emissions will depend on how much fossil fuel is used to power New England’s electrical grid.

The team is evaluating the impacts of:
  • a cleaner New England electricity grid,
  • changing energy demand from buildings, transportation, and waste sectors.
We’re also be exploring options for:
  • developing distributed and district energy systems,
  • generating renewable energy within the city’s boundary,
  • and other measures that could make the grid even cleaner.

You can learn more about the energy policy options the team is modeling at this page. The list of policy options is not exhaustive. Carbon Free Boston is an ongoing initiative, and the team may look into other policies and technologies as they get deeper into modeling.

Do you see something missing? We’re always listening for more ideas to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. If you have any suggestions or questions on the Carbon Free Boston initiative, please email us at greenovate@boston.gov.

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

The team is analyzing how different policies can reduce carbon emissions from new and existing buildings. To do this, we have developed a database of building models that represent Boston’s buildings and their uses. This includes single- and multi-family homes, offices, schools, and more. For each building type, we are identifying energy conservation measures, like extra insulation. We will be assessing the emissions reductions, costs and benefits of the measures.

You can learn more about the building policy options the team is modeling at this page. The list of policy options is not exhaustive. Carbon Free Boston is an ongoing initiative, and the team may look into other policies and technologies as they get deeper into modeling.

Do you see something missing? We’re always listening for more ideas to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. If you have any suggestions or questions on the Carbon Free Boston initiative, please email us at greenovate@boston.gov.

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

Transportation forecasting tool
Our researchers are developing a tool to forecast how transportation patterns will change from now through 2050. The tool will be used to study the impact of different policies on Boston’s carbon emissions due to transportation. These include:
  • increasing the use of low or no carbon fuels,
  • reducing the total number of miles traveled by vehicles in Boston, and
  • increasing the use of public transportation, biking, and walking.

You can learn more about the transportation policy options the team is modeling at this page. The list of policy options is not exhaustive. Carbon Free Boston is an ongoing initiative, and the team may look into other policies and technologies as they get deeper into modeling.

Do you see something missing? We’re always listening for more ideas to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. If you have any suggestions or questions on the Carbon Free Boston initiative, please email us at greenovate@boston.gov.

We are studying policy options 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 our initiative to transition the City towards zero waste. The City will do this through::
  • infrastructure and policy development
  • community engagement, and
  • putting in place projects as part of the city’s Climate Action Plan.

You can review the waste policy options the team is modeling on the Zero Waste Boston page. The list of policy options is not exhaustive. Zero Waste Boston and Carbon Free Boston are ongoing initiatives, and the team may look into other policies and technologies.

Do you see something missing? We’re always listening for more ideas to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and go zero waste. If you have any suggestions or questions on the Carbon Free Boston or Zero Waste Boston initiatives, please email us at greenovate@boston.gov.

Meet the research team

The City of Boston is working with a team of business, institutional and civic leaders, and sector-specific experts, to study different ways for Boston to decarbonize. This team will be studying how to reduce emissions from our energy, building, transportation and waste sectors. Their final report will provide the City with a better understanding of how to reach our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Boston University's Institute for Sustainable Energy

Boston University's Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) is modeling policies and technologies to meet the City’s emissions reductions targets. The ISE is also coordinating the work of consultants, staff working with the City and the Commonwealth, academics, and others with expertise in specific sectors. 

The ISE is a university-wide center dedicated to facilitating the transition to a sustainable, climate-safe global energy system.

Boston Green Ribbon Commission

The Boston Green Ribbon Commission is facilitating collaboration with local, state and regional players to advise Boston University's Institute for Sustainable Energy and other experts working on Carbon Free Boston. 

The Green Ribbon Commission is a group of business, institutional, and civic leaders in Boston working to develop shared strategies for fighting climate change in coordination with the City's Climate Action Plan.