How Massachusetts can blaze a trail for climate action


CLIMATE CHANGE IS the most urgent challenge facing the world today. Its impact is universal, from more severe droughts in sub-Saharan Africa to devastating hurricanes across the Caribbean and the United States.

For Massachusetts, this is not only a threat but an opportunity to show leadership on a national and international level, and to position the state economy to take advantage of jobs and opportunities in the low-carbon and renewable energy sectors.

Fifty years ago, I was inspired by Boston’s energy and intellectual creativity when I studied for my master’s degree in law at Harvard University. I remain inspired as I return this week to learn from local climate activists about their efforts to drive forward ambitious new approaches.

The city of Boston released a study in 2016 warning that without substantial falls in carbon emissions, Bostonians will suffer from more extreme and frequent heat waves, higher sea levels, and associated flooding in the coming decades.

Boston and the state both have a strong track record on climate action. Boston is a signatory to the Global Covenant of Mayors, a group of over 8,000 global mayors who pledged in 2017 to continue to work to honor the Paris Agreement.

Massachusetts was a founding member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to cap and reduce carbon emissions in 2009, and in September 2016, an executive order directed all arms of the state government to plan for the ongoing impacts of climate change.

But in the words of the great literary Bostonian Henry James, “a tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.” This is why I believe the Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future bill currently being debated in the Legislature is a vital step forward and another opportunity for the people of Massachusetts to show leadership on this global issue.

This bill would divest the state’s pension fund from fossil fuels, institute a state-wide carbon price, and set binding carbon pollution limits for the years 2030 and 2040, among other measures.


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