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Boston taking critical actions to achieving carbon neutrality

The City of Boston is developing roadmaps to reduce carbon pollution in buildings and transportation, and updating its Climate Action Plan in line with the Paris Agreement.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the City of Boston's next steps in updating Boston's Climate Action Plan to further strengthen the City's ongoing initiatives to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The update includes a project beginning early next month to develop implementation roadmaps to significantly reduce Boston's carbon emissions. The roadmaps will identify critical action pathways for Boston's public and private building and transportation sectors, strengthening the strategies needed to achieve the City's long-term goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, a priority underscored through the newly released Carbon Free Boston report by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission.

The update to the City's Climate Action Plan is set to be completed this year. The completion will signify Boston's full compliance with the Paris Agreement.

"As we enter a new era of our City's history, we're planning for storms, climate change, and the environmental threats the next generation will face," said Mayor Walsh. "We and our partners must be resilient and carbon neutral, from creating a Resilient Boston Harbor vision plan to moving forward with Community Choice Energy. I'm grateful for the partnership of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission and the experts at Boston University's Institute for Sustainable Energy. Their work will help us continue to lead, addressing the challenge of climate change."

"Moving to carbon neutrality is an opportunity to advance Boston's status as a national climate leader and global hub of innovation while creating a cleaner, healthier, more equitable Boston for all," said John Cleveland, Executive Director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. "This analysis demonstrates that we can reach our goal by 2050, but only through a coordinated and concerted effort among the public and private sectors - and we have to start now."

According to the Carbon Free Boston report, Boston will achieve its climate goals if it pursues three strategies simultaneously: reduce demand for energy by increasing efficiency, convert most fossil fuel use to run on electricity, and buy 100 percent clean energy. The City will convene key partners and stakeholders to identify how Boston can continue to equitably act on these strategies over the next several years. The group will specifically look at accelerating the following actions:

  • Deep-energy retrofits and electrification programming, requirements, and incentives in Boston's existing buildings;
  • Zero Net Carbon (ZNC) construction in Boston's new buildings;
  • Electric vehicle adoption and installation of charging infrastructure, including for Boston's municipal fleet; and
  • Integrating "new mobility" modes with Boston's legacy public transportation system including travel demand management. 

Boston is one of the world's leading cities committed to urgently pursuing high-ambition climate action, according to the C40 Climate Leadership Group.

"Boston is setting the global standard for bold climate action. The science of climate change is clear, and there is no time to waste in delivering on the necessary ambition of the Paris Climate Agreement," said David Miller, North America Director, C40 Cities. "Cities across America and around the world will be inspired by the leadership of Mayor Walsh, the Green Ribbon Commission and the people of Boston."

As a leading city on climate action, Boston was recently named a winner of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. The challenge will assist the City in strengthening and accelerating its progress toward reducing carbon pollution in Boston's building and transportation sectors. The City will receive a support package, valued at up to $2.5 million, and will apply that support to help advance the strategies in Boston's updated Climate Action Plan.

The two new climate-ready planning projects will deliver on strategies laid out in Mayor Walsh's Resilient Boston Harbor plan, which he announced at his annual Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce speech last year. It calls for investing in Boston's waterfront to protect against the impacts of rising sea level and climate change, and lays out strategies along Boston's 47-mile shoreline that will increase access and open space while better protecting the city during a major flooding event.

Last year, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) adopted a Smart Utilities Policy that will ensure that new large developments are taking steps to create a more resilient city. The new policy, launched as a two-year pilot program, incorporates five Smart Utility Technologies into Article 80 Development Review, and BPDA Development Review Guidelines. The pilot calls for the adoption of technologies aimed at preparing Boston's utility infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, including increased flood risks, heat waves and stronger storms, reducing costs for end users, and reducing traffic congestion and roadway construction. The BPDA also has an E+ (Energy Positive) Green Building Program, which uses City-owned land to build high performance affordable housing.

In addition, the City currently requires that all new municipal buildings are built to a LEED Silver Standard, and that all new large buildings are built to a LEED-certifiable standard. The City is coordinating training for municipal building operators, through the Building Operator Certification program, to ensure buildings are running as efficiently as possible. 

The Carbon Free Boston report underscores the importance of the 58 projects laid out in Go Boston 2030, the City's plan to create a safer, more equitable, and low-carbon transportation future. The recently completed bus-only lane in Roslindale is the first of many more to come. The City has adjusted parking fines and is piloting performance pricing at parking meters to improve curbside parking. Boston's Transportation Department is installing safe bike lanes in strategic corridors to enable low-stress bike rides. The City has also issued Public Realm Guidelines to reclaim surplus roadway space as people-friendly gathering spaces. The Neighborhood Slow Streets Program is designing more inviting streets for walking and biking for all, furthering our progress towards Boston's Vision Zero goals. The Boston Transportation Department is hiring 20 new staff to implement active and public transportation projects in Go Boston 2030, to develop a roadmap for mass-scale electric vehicle adoption in Boston and to reduce demand for car travel through commuter incentives and innovative new mobility.

This work moves forward on the climate goals outlined in Imagine Boston 2030 and builds on Mayor Walsh's recently announced legislative agenda. The legislative agenda, announced earlier this month, proposed two environmental bills that seek to create a statewide vehicle to work on climate resiliency projects and explore market incentives to reduce pollution caused by natural gas leaks. Soon, the City will receive recommendations from its advisory committee on how to move toward zero waste and will begin two new district-level planning projects in Downtown and Dorchester to create solutions to protect from coastal flooding due to sea level rise.

You can find more information about the City's 2019 Climate Action Plan Update online.

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