On her first day as Governor of Massachusetts, Maura Healey signed Executive Order 604 (EO 604), which established the first-ever Climate Chief position in State government, a cabinet-level position tasked with implementing a whole-of-government approach to addressing climate change. Alongside appointing Melissa Hoffer to become Climate Chief of Massachusetts, Governor Healey also established a new Office of Climate Innovation & Resilience within the Office of the Governor (Climate Office). As a result of EO 604, Chief Hoffer and the Climate Office were tasked to collaborate with each of the 11 Secretariats of the Executive Branch, via their respective Secretariat Climate Officers (SCOs), to review respective organization, staffing, and policy-making practices, and produce a Climate Report from the Chief within her first 100 days. Chief Hoffer’s team unveiled the final report in October 2023. The report offers recommendations to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to build resilient infrastructure and communities, to expand climate workforce development, and to encourage the Commonwealth to become a hub for climate innovation. As Chief Hoffer said of the Climate Office’s work, “as an office, we are focused on driving collaboration, spurring different ways of defining problems and opportunities, lifting up innovative and successful models, interrogating conventional wisdom and always ensuring that policy choices are informed by the best available climate science. This report details how Massachusetts can play a key role in climate policy and implementation, while also advancing innovation in technology, climate finance, and resilience. These recommendations will set Massachusetts up as an example to other states on how to be a catalyst for climate . . .
In October 2023, the Healey-Driscoll Administration launched ResilientMass, a re-brand and 5-year update to the Massachusetts State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (SHMCAP). Initially released in 2018, the SHMCAP made Massachusetts one of the first states to combine hazard mitigation and emergency management planning with climate adaptation planning. In the 2023 ResilientMass Plan (Plan), the Commonwealth seeks to increase its ability to address natural and other hazards in partnership with local, regional, and community-based partners. A Better City has been actively engaged in providing comments to the 2022 Massachusetts Climate Change Assessment, which largely informed the 2023 Plan, and provided additional comments in spring 2023 to help inform the Plan’s final recommendations. In addition to its recommendations for climate and hazard mitigation, the Plan has 6 overarching goals: 1) collaboration, communications, funding, and engagement; 2) science-based and informed decision-making; 3) resilient state assets and services; 4) implementation of adaptation actions for communities and ecosystems; 5) climate mitigation and decarbonization; and 6) resilient and equitable infrastructure, ecosystems, and communities.
ResilientMass Key Takeaways
The Plan organizes Massachusetts’ most urgent priority impacts across 5 sectors: human, infrastructure, natural environment, governance, and economy. Within the Plan’s risk assessment findings, the key climate risks that Massachusetts is focusing on include: coastal erosion, coastal flooding and sea level rise, extreme storms, flooding from precipitation, high heat, invasive species, changes in groundwater, and wildfires. Of the most severe impacts, the Plan emphasizes:
On November 3rd, A Better City Energy and Environment (E&E) Unit’s Advisory Committee held a hybrid meeting featuring a presentation by Chris Osgood, Senior Advisor for Infrastructure at the City of Boston, and Rich McGuinness, Deputy Director for Climate Change and Environmental Planning at the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), on the City’s ongoing efforts to promote coastal and flooding resilience. The presentation included a recap of Boston’s near-term and long-term flood threats Downtown and along its waterfronts, as well as specific updates for projects in the design phase. Joining Chris and Rich’s presentation and Q&A were also Boston’s Environment Commissioner, Alison Brizius.
Background Context: Planning for Boston’s Coastal Flood Projections
According to Climate Ready Boston, by 2050 and as early as 2030, Boston is projected to see 9 inches in sea-level rise (SLR), accompanied by $137 million in annualized losses. By 2100, and as early as 2050, these numbers are expected to increase to 21 inches in SLR and $455 million in losses. By 2070, a 100-year flood event (a particularly devastating flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any single year) could result in 3 feet in SLR and nearly $1.4 billion in annualized losses. By any metric, the cost of inaction to protect Boston from coastal flooding and sea level rise will be extremely expensive, making potential solutions for climate resilience all the more necessary to implement.
Climate Ready Boston Resilient Infrastructure Updates
Local Park Updates
A Better City’s E&E Advisory Committee has been actively following climate resilience progress in Boston and was grateful to hear updates on many local climate . . .
A Better City hosted a working session with members on November 8th to discuss draft recommendations for the 2025-2027 Three Year Energy Efficiency Plans that included an analysis of progress to date on the 2022-2024 Three Year Energy Efficiency Plan. As a result of listening to monthly Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC) meetings, attending C&I dedicated stakeholder sessions, reviewing the recommendations of the EEAC consultants, and most importantly through the working session input and conversations with members, A Better City sent preliminary comments and recommendations for the 2025-2027 Three Year Energy Efficiency Plan to the EEAC on November 14th. These comments were also provided on behalf of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Estate and Health Care Working Groups.
For those less familiar with the 3-year energy efficiency planning process, in 2008, as part of the Green Communities Act, the EEAC was established to oversee the development, implementation and evaluation of the 3-Year Energy Efficiency Plans for MA investor-owned utilities and municipal aggregators (referred to as program administrators). The energy efficiency plans are required every 3 years and must maximize the economic benefits for residents and businesses through energy efficiency programs that we know as Mass Save. Also, the plans must achieve the Commonwealth’s energy, climate, and environmental goals. The Commercial and Industrial (C&I) sector has a representative sitting on the EEAC to be the C&I voice within the Council.
In summary, A Better City’s preliminary recommendations were to:
"Today’s news is confirmation of what was already clear to T riders and supporters—the MBTA is suffering from a legacy of underinvestment and needs more funding to get the system back on track. Now, the Administration, elected officials, and advocates must come together to develop an actionable plan to identify new sources of revenue to address this critical backlog, as well as the investments needed modernize, decarbonize, and fortify our system from the worsening impacts of climate change," said A Better City President & CEO Kate Dineen. "We are grateful for the MBTA's analysis and for their transparency, and A Better City and its members stand ready to help advance a comprehensive plan to deliver the transportation system our region needs to compete and to thrive."
"We are thrilled, yet not surprised, by today’s announcement. Secretary Tibbits-Nutt has quickly established herself as a collaborative and solution-oriented leader with the vision and pragmatism to make meaningful progress toward improving our infrastructure and uplifting our communities. She also brings invaluable experience on public transit issues from her time as the Vice-Chair of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board. We look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Tibbits-Nutt to build the safe, reliable, equitable transportation system our region needs to compete and to thrive."
"Today’s announcement is a critical step toward delivering the safe, reliable, and equitable transportation system riders and our region deserve. Under General Manager Eng’s leadership, the MBTA is taking decisive action to get the system back on track after decades of underinvestment. The successful implementation of this program has the potential to restore rider trust, bolster our region’s economic competitiveness, and promote more climate-friendly commuting options. We thank the MBTA and will continue to work with leadership to minimize impacts to riders and to maximize communications and transparency during this period of crucial rebuilding."
"It is extremely concerning that MBTA staff were aware of the GLX track problems as early as November 2021—and failed to take action to expeditiously address the apparent fabrication errors prior to the ribbon cutting. We welcome General Manager Eng's transparency and commitment to developing a permanent fix within the current project scope and cost. We look forward to continuing to support the General Manager and his team as they work to catalyze a culture shift within the agency to ensure that both problems and solutions are swiftly . . .
On September 20th, 2023, the City of Boston held its first Boston Tree Alliance (Alliance) meeting, co-led by the Environment Department and by Mass Audubon at the Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan. Dozens of Boston residents, advocate groups, business representatives, and community-based organizations, including A Better City, gathered to learn about the new program launched in May 2023. The Alliance’s September kickoff meeting was intended to begin a conversation regarding the qualities of a successful Alliance, barriers and challenges to tree planting, care, and long-term maintenance, and how the Alliance might support tree canopy on private land 20 years into the future.
Background Context: Establishing a Boston Tree Alliance
As clarified in the 20-Year Urban Forest Plan released a year ago, roughly 60% of Boston’s existing urban tree canopy sits on privately owned land. Recognizing the limitations of city agencies and trees on public land, the Boston Tree Alliance was launched in May 2023 to work collaboratively with private property owners and community-based organizations in Boston on voluntary tree planting, maintenance, and long-term care through grants and other capacity building opportunities. Modeled after a successful tree alliance in Montreal, Quebec, The Boston Tree Alliance, which is managed by the Environment Department, Parks and Recreation, and the Office of Green Infrastructure, and co-led by Mass Audubon, plans to use its mission to uplift the objectives of the 20-year Urban Forest Plan: