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Boston’s climate plan update targets major source of emissions – buildings

The City of Boston has released an update to its Climate Action Plan, focused on buildings – the single greatest source of emissions city-wide.


Boston has pledged to take immediate action to require all new City-owned buildings to be zero net carbon.


Boston’s buildings account for approximately 70 per cent of city-wide emissions. The updated Climate Action Plan aims to accelerate action to decarbonise the city’s largest buildings, as well as working to improve incentives and programmes to help small buildings.


In Boston, City-owned buildings account for nearly three-quarters of carbon emissions from local municipal operations. With this in mind, Boston has been working to reduce the carbon footprint of its buildings. It reports that emissions from local municipal operations in 2017 were 41 per cent less than in 2005, exceeding Boston’s goal set for 2020.


Boston’s buildings account for approximately 70 per cent of city-wide emissions


The Renew Boston Trust programme implements energy-saving projects and retrofits in existing City-owned buildings. Projects are already underway at 14 municipal buildings across Boston, including libraries and community centres as well as police and fire stations.


The latest announcement also begins a process to develop carbon emissions performance standards to decarbonise large buildings over time. This measure could cut emissions nearly 40 per cent by 2050 compared to intervention-free projections, the City says.


Boston reports that its carbon emissions are currently down 21 per cent – a four per cent decrease from the previous year – and are on track to meet the 2020 target of a 25 per cent greenhouse gas reduction.


Towards 2050


A statement said that the City is committed to addressing climate change despite “federal inaction,” referencing the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017.


Mayor Martin J. Walsh commented: "Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. As a coastal city, Boston is at the frontlines of this global crisis, and we understand the urgency. While national action is at a standstill, cities like Boston are leading with plans, solutions and results.


"The 2019 update to our Climate Action Plan is our roadmap to carbon neutrality, and together we will ensure all of Boston’s residents will benefit from our work to protect against climate change, and create an equitable, resilient city for all."


Additional immediate steps outlined in the plan include the development of new zoning requirements for a zero net carbon new construction in new large projects and guidelines for zero net carbon City-funded affordable housing.


The updated plan sets Boston’s priorities for the next five years on carbon neutrality, with a goal of making Boston carbon-neutral by 2050. It also includes recommendations relating to transport infrastructure, zero-emission vehicle deployments and a municipal fleet transition to zero and low-emission vehicles. Further, it offers recommendations to encourage efforts to decarbonise Boston’s energy supply.


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