Robust Climate Response.

Cambridge is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which include sea level rise, flooding, and extreme weather events. We need to take bold action to prepare for these changes. Cambridge can be a model in sustainability and a shining example for the rest of the state and country to follow. For years, I have worked tirelessly in the community and through non-profits to make progress on climate issues. As city councillor I will be able to do even more to shepherd these programs and achieve the safe and prosperous future we all wish to see.

I have been advocating for climate adaptation since 2008. The results of the climate vulnerability study are clear, but our community is not moving fast enough to prepare for the changes that are already happening. Buildings are being constructed in the Alewife floodplain, where future tenants will be exposed to serious flooding risks. Public housing tenants and seniors continue to go without air conditioning even as the risk of heat waves rises. We still have a lot of work to do to build a more resilient community in the face of climate change. As a long-time climate activist, I’m well prepared to represent those concerns on the city council.

In Cambridge, 80% of our climate destroying emissions come from building energy use. To reduce these emissions to zero, we created the Net Zero Action Plan in 2015. According to the plan, new municipal buildings will be net zero by 2020. Thankfully, the city has already begun to strive for net zero with the King School on Putnam Ave. and will achieve it with the King Open School on Cambridge Street. Any new construction undertaken by the city should strive for net zero.
Establishing a carbon fund is one way to reduce emissions from existing buildings in the city. Large property owners and big developers would pay into the fund to offset their emissions, and the money raised would be used to reduce energy consumption and improve comfort in public and low-income housing around the city. As a part of the Net Zero Action Plan, Harvard and MIT agreed to study the feasibility of this idea, but no progress has been made. It is time for our university partners to act on their promise! Having built strong working relationships with both Harvard and MIT (where I’m an alum), I’m well-positioned to make this happen.
Community solar is one way to bring the benefits of solar technology to the 80% of residents who cannot put solar on their roof for various reasons, including the many renters in Cambridge. Our municipal electricity consumption from things like streetlights and school buildings is considerable. That buying power can help finance community solar projects, which would, in turn, reduce our municipal costs by at least 10%. Offsetting our city’s electricity consumption with renewable energy from community solar projects would allow our community to actively participate in reducing our city’s total emissions.
Nature is our greatest ally in restoring a safe climate. Trees reduce atmospheric carbon by absorbing carbon dioxide (the primary driver of climate change) from the air through photosynthesis. The urban tree canopy also reduces the “urban heat island” effect by cooling the city. Through better stormwater management we can reduce fertilizer and pollutant runoff into the Charles and Mystic rivers, which drain into Boston Harbor where seagrass, a major carbon absorber, is dying from our current practices. These opportunities need to be prioritized by our city government if they are to happen fast enough to make a difference.
Urban agriculture is an important way to increase biodiversity in our city, and counteract climate change at the local level. Monoculture lawns and impermeable pavement can be turned into productive gardens and food forests. People can obtain healthy, nutritious foods at a reasonable cost, or even for free when they are in need. Children can learn about nature and farming in their neighborhood and community. And fewer resources will be wasted hauling raw materials in and transporting waste out of the city. We can make this vision a reality if we prioritize urban agriculture as a way to green our city and build our community.