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Climate action achievements in 2020

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Environment

As 2020 comes to a close, we look back on Boston's climate action this year.

As Boston continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more clear how important it is to listen to the science and plan for the future. The same goes for climate change. It is the defining challenge of our time. Boston is a coastal city, so we understand what’s at stake. And that’s why we’ve been taking bold action to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change.

This year, Boston has faced unprecedented hardship and loss, but our commitment to climate action has not wavered. We remain committed to reducing our emissions and preparing Boston for the effects of climate change. As the City continues to work to protect Boston and its communities from climate change, Boston becomes a healthier, more equitable, and more resilient city.

Mayor Walsh was named Chair of Climate Mayors, a bipartisan, peer-to-peer network of United States mayors coming together to take action on climate change through meaningful actions in their communities. His commitment to local climate action in Boston will continue with his leadership in Climate Mayors, as local leaders work towards a sustainable and equitable economic recovery from COVID-19.

More information

For more details on Boston’s climate action progress, check out the 2020 Fiscal Year climate action progress report.

Working towards carbon neutrality by 2050

Mayor Walsh committed to carbon neutrality by 2050 in Boston, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create better air quality, and mitigate the effects of climate change. The 2019 Climate Action Plan (CAP) update outlined 18 strategies to reduce carbon emissions in buildings and transportation.

Decarbonizing Buildings

Aligning with Step 1 of the CAP, Mayor Walsh signed an executive order that all municipal buildings target carbon neutrality. In August, Mayor Walsh announced $30 million in funding for new zero emission and accessible affordable housing announced in August 2020, an important aspect of Step 2 that supports Boston's homeless and/or Age-Strong population. 

Renew Boston Trust is an initiative that taps into creative financing to make City buildings energy efficient to save money on energy bills and reduce carbon pollution. This year, Renew Boston Trust invested 11 million dollars in over 14 buildings, including neighborhood libraries, police and fire stations, and community centers.

In addition to reducing municipal emissions, in 2020 we focused on a plan to decarbonize large existing buildings by building off the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). In partnership with Eversource we launched the Building Energy Retrofit Resource Hub, a one-stop-shop for large building owners to connect with energy efficiency experts about retrofit opportunities. 

As outlined in step 5 of the CAP, we have launched the development of a Building Emissions Performance standard. We have begun the technical analysis to develop a performance standard for substantive emissions reductions, accompanied by guidance from the Technical Advisory Group, the Resident Advisory Group, and the virtual Open Houses.

Community Choice Electricity

In November, Mayor Walsh announced the Community Choice Electricity (CCE) program that harnesses the City’s collective buying power to provide residents with reliable prices and clean energy options.  It officially launches February 1, 2021 and residents can learn more about how to opt-out of the program or opt-in to more renewables here.

Transportation

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Walsh announced several the completion of Healthy Streets projects in Downtown, Mattapan, and Roslindale, to support transportation safety, reliability, and sustainability. These projects originate in Go Boston 2030, the City's long-term transportation action plan, and were accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Boston Transportation Department announced the electric vehicle roadmap, a long-term strategy to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and other zero-emission transportation, with specific actions to be taken by the City. In tandem, the Boston Transportation Department is installing publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in its neighborhood municipal lots.

In addition to the Healthy Streets initiatives, the City of Boston received a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to pilot the City's first income-tiered electric vehicle car sharing program. The program will run out of Roxbury, providing Roxbury residents, businesses and beyond with a clean and convenient, personal, and affordable transportation option.

Preparing for the impacts of climate change

While reducing emissions to lessen the impacts of climate change, the City is also preparing for the effects that Boston residents already experience: extreme heat and flooding due to sea-level rise and increased storms. 

Climate Ready Boston is Mayor Walsh’s initiative to prepare for and adapt the near and long term impacts of climate change. It focuses on neighborhood-level adapted buildings, resilient infrastructure, and the incorporation of green and open space to create prepared and connected communities.

Coastal resilience

This year, we announced Coastal Resilience Solutions for Downtown/ North End and Dorchester. These reports outline solutions to protect from coastal flooding, increase access and open space along the waterfront, and enhance the public-private collaboration necessary for stakeholders in each neighborhood required for successful transformation and protection. To date, the City has released five neighborhood-focused coastal resilience solutions reports for neighborhoods most vulnerable.

We also recognize that the increased impacts of climate changes not only threaten the safety of residents and our community, but the materials and structure of our historic buildings. This fall, the Boston Landmarks Commission approved deployable flood barriers for Boston City Hall, a pending historic landmark.

In partnership with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Phase I of Climate Ready East Boston and Charlestown has been completed, and the City of Boston is beginning Phase II of East Boston and Charlestown of the resilience planning process. We are implementing two Community Advisory Boards, a compensated resilience planning strategy, a first for the City of Boston.

Coastal Resilience

Mayor Walsh announced Coastal Resilience Solutions for Downtown/ North End and Dorchester. These reports outline a roadmap for near- and long-term solutions to protect these neighborhoods from coastal flooding.

Heat resilience

The City of Boston is moving forward with a heat resilience planning study. The City was awarded a grant to focus on “hot spots” throughout Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Chinatown, and East Boston. Climate Ready Boston will develop heat mitigation scenarios in partnership with communities facing disproportionate effects of urban heat risk and compounding social inequity.

Trees in Boston are vital to reducing air pollution, cooling neighborhoods in the face of heat, and flooding resilience. In partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department, Mayor Walsh announced the 2014-2019 Tree Canopy Assessment. Boston’s tree canopy has remained stable at 27% of all city land area and the investments in planting, care, and maintenance of street trees are paying off.

Mayor Walsh released an RFP seeking a partner to design the City’s first Urban Forest Plan. The 20-year plan will be designed to set citywide goals for protecting tree canopy, responding to climate change, and enhancing the quality of life for all Bostonians