A Better City Hosts Third Extreme Heat Working Group with EEA Assistant Secretary of Resilience: Mia Mansfield & Boston Tree Alliance/Mass Audubon's: Amara Chittenden

In December 2023, A Better City hosted our third meeting of the Extreme Heat Working Group, an informal coalition of ABC members, member representatives, and staff exploring opportunities for the business community to support heat resilience initiatives in Boston. With about 35 members in the Working Group across a range of sectors and expertise, members are exploring opportunities to support short-term heat relief and emergency response efforts, as well as longer-term community heat resilience interventions that enable cooler neighborhoods, commutes, and business districts.

Presentation #1:ResilientMass: Assistant Secretary for Resilience Mia Mansfield, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA)

At our December meeting Mia Mansfield, gave a presentation on the October 2023 release of the ResilientMass Plan (Plan), which is a federally mandated update to the 2018 State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (SHMCAP). Of note, the impacts of rising temperatures in Massachusetts could mean 23-29 high heat days over 95 degrees per year to be expected by 2050, with annual temperature increases of 5.9-7.9 degrees. Asst. Sec. Mansfield said there are 80 actions included in the Plan to address extreme temperatures, including plans to: develop a Heat Flag warning system in the next 5+ years with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); develop outreach materials for climate change and health with the Department of Public Health (DPH); provide municipal and local health climate equity training and technical support with DPH; identify and assess opportunities to promote cooling in residential buildings with HHS; and develop a framework for statewide resilience progress tracking within EEA. The State also intends to expand its successful Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program to fund more extreme heat and urban forestry initiatives. For more information on the ResilientMass Plan implementation and additional resources, you can visit the ResilientMass Plan Action Tracker, the ResilientMass Maps and Data Center, and explore the Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool.

Presentation #2: Amara Chittenden, Program Coordinator for the Boston Tree Alliance and Community Engagement Coordinator (Boston), Mass Audubon

Amara Chittenden presented information on the recently formed Boston Tree Alliance Program (Alliance), a new partnership co-led by the City of Boston and Mass Audubon to expand tree planting on privately owned land and enhance tree equity across neighborhoods. Launched in May 2023, the Alliance is funded by a combination of support from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and an Urban and Community Forestry Grant, which combined should support the Alliance for its first 5 years. Modeled after a program in Montreal, Quebec in Canada, the Alliance will serve several roles, including: distributing funding to organizations to plant and care for trees on privately owned land, focusing on historically marginalized communities; developing educational materials and providing training on tree planting techniques and best practices for care; and tracking the location, survival, and maintenance efforts for trees planted using Alliance funds. While the City of Boston provides project oversight as the final decisionmaker for the Alliance, Mass Audubon serves as the key convener and fiscal agent, alongside a Governing Body that ABC and others sit on, and anticipated Grantees for the program. Grant applications and disbursements are anticipated as early as spring 2024.

Presentation #3: Amir Wilson, Extreme Heat Data Visualization & Communications Intern, A Better City

Amir Wilson worked on extreme heat data visualization during his fall 2023 internship. He worked in ArcGIS to map and compare the impact of extreme heat, urban tree canopy, air quality, and social vulnerability across neighborhoods in Boston using a combination of city-level (Climate Ready Boston), regional (MAPC), and state-level (ResilientMass) datasets. In summary, Amir’s mapping efforts can help the City and its partners to prioritize first-phase investments in heat resilience and urban canopy in Boston’s hottest, lowest canopied, worst air quality, and most socially vulnerable environmental justice neighborhoods, to ensure that we are maximizing co-benefits and prioritizing our most vulnerable communities. Until we can significantly scale-up funding and other resources for heat resilience, having maps that identify priority neighborhoods for first-phase investments will be critical in protecting communities and critical infrastructure across Boston’s neighborhoods. We are in the process of finalizing a short white paper that summarizes Amir’s methodology and key findings, but in the interim, please see a summary comparison slide with two maps that Amir created, below:

Source: Amir Wilson, Extreme Heat Working Group Presentation, 12/6/23

Next Steps

In addition to writing a second round of extreme heat case studies, A Better City is exploring extreme heat pilot projects for summer 2024. If you are interested in becoming involved in our extreme heat work, then please do not hesitate to reach out to Isabella Gambill.

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