An Equitable Climate Response.
Over the last decade, I’ve had the privilege of being at the forefront of every major climate initiative in our city. Together we have turned Cambridge into a national leader on the issue, but it isn’t nearly enough. The science tells us we need to cut our collective greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and these next 11 years are critical to keeping the impacts of climate change from overwhelming our cities. The city’s own study (which I advocated for as chair of the city’s Climate Protection Action Committee) shows that flooding and heatwaves, in particular, are going to get much worse in the future. Our most vulnerable neighborhoods like the Port already regularly experience these effects, a reality worsened by their acute lack of tree canopy and the significant overall canopy decline of the last decade. We need to live up to our reputation as an innovation hub and accelerate our climate action plan to do what it takes to end the fossil fuel era in Cambridge and become the first net-zero city in the world. And we need to make that transition in an equitable way, ensuring environmental justice for all our neighborhoods. We also need to equitably end our addiction to single-use plastics, which is destroying our oceans.
Next steps: I will chair a meeting of the council’s Health & Environment Committee this fall to discuss our emissions goals and the need to adjust them, and based on that discussion (and in consultation with CDD and CPAC) will propose appropriate climate goals for the city to adopt as official policy via a policy order directing the administration to implement them.
Next steps: I will chair a meeting of the council’s Health & Environment Committee this fall to to get an update on the status of the report that was supposed to be published last year, to get a better understanding of what, if anything, stands in the way of an annual GHG Inventory, and to determine what key indicators we can measure annually going forward in order to better track our progress if full annual inventories are not possible in the short term. If that turns out to be the case, we need to build whatever capacity it will take to do full annual inventories, as indicated in the Climate Action Protection Committee (CPAC) goals.
- This change would only apply to new construction, so nobody is giving up anything
- Air-source heat pumps, which can be thought of as air conditioners in reverse, are much more efficient than traditional induction heating
- Induction stoves are far safer than their gas counterparts, and most who make the switch end up very satisfied
- Natural gas combustion causes significant indoor air quality concerns
In addition to all that, our aging gas infrastructure is an immediate and omnipresent safety hazard. Explosions caused by gas leaks happen routinely: we all remember last year’s tragedy in Merrimack Valley and recently a major gas leak on Beacon Hill caused folks to have to evacuate so quickly that they couldn’t even put their shoes on before they left the house. According to HEET there were 280 unrepaired gas leaks in Cambridge in 2018, and there is no reason to continue living in fear of gas explosions when we have much safer and cleaner technology at our fingertips.
I also appreciate those who point out that a building isn’t truly net-zero emissions if the electricity is sourced from non-renewable sources; currently, only 14% of grid electricity in Massachusetts is renewable, and that number is going up very slowly. But retrofitting an existing building is very expensive, and building energy efficiency can only be improved so much after design and construction are complete. Bringing our existing building stock to net-zero emissions as soon as possible will take enormous effort and investment; adding more buildings in the present that are not net-zero ready makes no sense at all. Furthermore, anyone can get 100% renewable electricity through Cambridge’s Community Choice Aggregation for a very comparable price to Eversource. That means in Cambridge, a net-zero ready building can be converted to a true net-zero emissions building with the stroke of a pen (have you signed up for 100% renewable electricity yet?)
Next steps: I will introduce an ordinance to ban fracked gas infrastructure in new construction this fall. In addition, we have been expecting amendments to the Green Building Requirements Ordinance (Article 22) for quite a while. I have asked draft language to be presented immediately, and I will shepherd these amendments through the Council as they are introduced.
- Passed a new permitting requirement for cutting a tree on private property wider than 8” in diameter, as well as a one-year moratorium on issuing such permits, with exemptions for dead or dangerous trees. This has had an immediate cooling effect on the destruction of healthy trees, as anticipated.
- Tripled the tree planting and maintenance budget, successfully pushed for hiring an additional arborist at DPW, and pushed for even larger budget increases in the years to come.
- Successfully requested new tree planting in public parks around known urban heat islands and areas where the canopy is thinnest, including 14 new trees in Greene-Rose Heritage Park in The Port.
- Helped the council be more intentional about prioritizing the preservation of our canopy by scrutinizing curb cut applications and other proposals that would lead to further canopy destruction.
Next steps: The Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force deliberated for more than a year, ending in June of 2019. We are still waiting on the final report, but I will be introducing amendments this fall based on the working documents of the task force, any interim reports released between now and then, and conversation with staff, colleagues and the community, to strengthen our tree protection ordinance and begin to rebuild our canopy.
- I have filed a zoning petition along with Councillor Carlone that would amend the special permit criteria to require the Planning Board to consider a project’s impact on our public utilities, including the electrical grid and its capacity.
- I will not vote for any upzonings that add to our grid electricity consumption.
- I will continue to object to the new infrastructure and will escalate the issue to a full moratorium on development if Eversource continues to pursue these misguided investments.
- I will continue to push for more aggressive investments in energy use reductions in existing buildings , and in increasing local renewable energy deployments for existing buildings.
- I will continue to push for net-zero ready and net-zero standards for new construction in order to reduce our emissions while adding new buildings. We have built several net-zero ready municipal buildings now, and it is past time to do the same in private development through energy efficiency, and local renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal and air-source heating.
- I will continue to advocate at the state level to increase the RPS and for other ways to accelerate the timeline to a 100% renewable electricity grid and the elimination of natural (fracked!) gas.
*A more comprehensive transit platform is coming soon!*
Next steps: As co-chair of the Health & Environment Committee, I will continue holding joint hearings with the city-appointed task force to monitor progress and accelerate any resulting proposals. Unlike the current council majority, I will never prioritize short-term developer profits over long term residential safety.
Next steps: I’ve already submitted a policy order (which passed unanimously!) that asks the City Manager to work with stakeholders and deliver draft language on a single-use plastic ban by the end of the year. I’ve already met with advocates from the community of people with disabilities, and I will continue listening to and working with stakeholders to advance the conversation.
Next steps: I will continue supporting grassroots efforts to pass H.3662/S.636 as well as the campus divestment movements.