Dear Mayor Walsh:
We appeal to you to do everything in your power to accelerate the transition of the city of Boston away from an economy based on fossil fuels toward a new economy that creates green jobs, promotes sustainable development, shifts our communities toward a more democratic and equitable power grid, and elevates renewable systems of energy generation and use.
As a community we understand that in the age of Trump our Federal government is lurching in the wrong direction, and that state and local governments must lead in undertaking the transition to a green economy. We applaud the fact that you have committed our capital city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. You know that climate change is real, human made, and requires urgent action. You know that we are not on course to meet the city’s 2020 emissions goals. We understand that your administration is working on a Carbon Free Boston initiative that will define policy options, with associated benefits and costs, leading to a detailed plan for the city to achieve its 2050 goals. We commend this effort. We need you to be a climate hero, to act boldly on the issues related to climate change, to make climate justice a central topic of public discourse. Today we urge you to adopt the following agenda points.
1. Accelerate the development and use of renewable energy.
The city of Boston passed the Community Choice Energy (CCE) ordinance to create a program of aggregated purchase of electricity with the specific intent of increasing the usage of renewable sources. We ask that you make rapid implementation of this program a major priority, and set a high default level for the percentage of renewable energy, i.e. at least 5% on top of the existing 13% RPS requirement. Additionally, we ask that you commit the city to reaching 100% renewably sourced electricity by 2050 and incorporate this into the city’s Climate Action Plan update.
2. Address barriers to access and equity in clean energy.
The city is a powerful broker with utilities, state regulators and the legislature, but has not used its clout to date to empower neighborhoods often frustrated by state policy or by utility opposition. This has had concrete consequences for low-income residents of Boston who have sought to advance solar projects that would further city climate goals and combat income inequality. To really support neighborhoods in driving sustainability efforts forward, Boston should advance inclusive energy policies that shift power from utilities or state regulators to community members who have been left out of the green economy. It is not enough to simply praise sustainability when the legislature and utility companies craft policies that exclude renters and low-income residents. Simultaneously, the city’s workforce development arm can promote diversity in training and hiring for clean energy industries, which employ thousands of Massachusetts residents but few people of color or residents of low-income communities.
3. Stop all expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure, including fracked gas.
We ask that you publicly reject the notion, promulgated by the fossil-fuel industry, that gas is either clean or a “bridge fuel.” While gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal when burned, the extraction, transportation, and distribution processes entail significant leakage of methane, which is estimated to be 85 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. When methane leaks are taken into account, natural gas is equivalent or worse for climate change than coal. In addition the process of hydraulic fracturing is poisoning the water of our neighbors in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other midwestern states. We ask that you convene a task force to study how we can reduce demand for this dirty source of energy and begin to prune the network of gas pipelines, compressor stations, LNG tanks, etc.
4. Champion the construction of net-zero-carbon buildings.
Under your leadership, the City of Boston has embarked upon a significant building boom. We ask that all new construction in Boston meet Net-Zero-Carbon and/or passive house standards and that the administration explore a range of incentives and other mechanisms to ensure rapid progress towards meeting this goal. These measures would ensure that Boston’s new buildings would be state-of-the-art in terms of energy efficiency, and save the city’s resources from being spent on future retrofits. We ask further that the City develop a program for retrofitting the existing building stock to meet high performance standards, starting with a system for identifying and prioritizing buildings that rate the worst in terms of energy consumption.
5. Direct the Boston Retirement Board to divest of fossil-fuel stocks.
It makes no sense to invest in companies that profit from the destruction of the planet. Divestment is a proven tool for catalyzing social change, e.g., South African apartheid, tobacco, etc. Boston should join the city of New York in making a loud and clear statement of values.
Once again, we applaud your effort to analyze pathways and policies for the city of Boston to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We ask that you include these requests in the planning and implementation process. We look forward to collaborating with you to move our beloved city to a more just, sustainable future.
The Boston Clean Energy Coalition