July 15, 2022
On Thursday, July 30th, 2022, the Baker Administration released the final 2025 and 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plans (2025/2030 CECP) for Massachusetts. As you may recall, the publishing of these plans was mandated by the Climate Act of 2021, which requires the Secretary of EEA to establish economy-wide emissions limits as well as sector-specific sublimits for both 2025 and 2030. A draft of the CECP was released in spring 2022; we provided comments to the Baker Administration on April 30th, 2022 in response to this draft.
In addition to the statutory limits and sublimits, the majority of the final 2025/2030 CECP contains strategies to meet these targets, by sector. These strategies will need to be codified with the help of the Legislature and government agencies in order to be implemented. Some sectors are still awaiting strategies, like those that will come from the upcoming Clean Heat Commission report that will impact the building sector.
Final 2025/2030 CECP Key Takeaways
The Climate Act of 2021 established statutory climate commitments for Massachusetts of net zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, and at least 50% emissions reduction from a 1990 baseline by 2030. In the 2025/2030 CECP, Secretary Beth Card established an economy-wide emission limit of 33% by 2025, and kept the 2030 target at the statutory minimum requirement of 50% emissions reductions. Further detail on sector-specific emissions sublimits and policy recommendations are included below.
Currently, transportation emissions account for 37% of our statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the 2025/2030 CECP, the transportation sector has established sublimits of 18% emissions reductions from a 1990 baseline by 2025 and 34% reduction by 2030. As we saw in the draft CECP, a core transportation emissions reduction strategy continues to be electric vehicles. By 2025, the State estimates that we need 200,000 passenger electric vehicles (EVs) on the road and 15,000 public charging stations. By 2030 they believe, we will need 900,000 EVs and 75,000 public charging stations. For context, we currently have about 51,000 EVs on the road, with considerable equity challenges in terms of charging infrastructure and low distribution across low-income and environmental communities. Beyond passenger EVs, the state also recommends focusing on the electrification of public buses and school buses, particularly those that operate in environmental justice neighborhoods with poor air quality.
Notably, there is a new focus in the final 2025/2030 CECP that includes strategies for encouraging mode shift to support alternatives to driving. These strategies reflect several of the recommendations from A Better City’s comments, including: the need to invest in public transit; making more walkable and bikeable streets; supporting e-bike and other micro-mobility options, and; prioritizing the installation of fast-chargers throughout the state that will be easily accessible for folks who do not have driveways for charging at home. The transportation recommendations also suggest offering EV rebates at the point of sale to help lower income residents buy new and used EVs, as well as requiring municipalities to build more housing near public transportation. Unfortunately, the final Plan remains silent on the MBTA’s financial challenges and how they will impact its ability to support robust transit service. Further, the plan does not address decarbonization of the region’s Commuter Rail system, with no reference to funding or timetables for this mode.
Heating existing buildings in Massachusetts with gas and oil currently accounts for about 30% of statewide emissions. Within the 2025/2030 CECP, the building sector is now obligated to reduce building emissions by 28% from a 1990 baseline by 2025 and 47% by 2030. The main strategies referenced focus on: 1) improving the energy efficiency of buildings and 2) replacing fossil fuel heating systems with electric heat pumps. Within energy efficiency, Massachusetts residents will need to retrofit 10% of all homes by 2025 (which could include better insulation, sealing off air leaks, replacing windows, and installing electric heating and cooling systems). To help incentivize energy efficiency upgrades in homes, the State proposes expanding Mass Save incentive programs to create new opportunities for lower-income residents. The 2025/2030 CECP also calls for the widespread deployment of heat pumps to warm and cool buildings, and for an associated public awareness campaign to teach residents about heat pumps. However, a target for the number of units that will need to be installed has not yet been set.
Consistent with many of A Better City’s recommendations, additional interventions to help decarbonize the building sector include: 1) establishing a building reporting standard at the state-level that would be consistent and aligned with BERDO 2.0 in Boston; 2) supporting technological innovation and job training programs; 3) exploring financing options to help implement decarbonization strategies in buildings, and; 4) and encouraging the decarbonization of utilities – in this case, by exploring opportunities around a Clean Heat Standard that would apply to heating energy providers, as indicated in the 2025/2030 CECP Appendices. Many of the more detailed recommendations for the building sector will be clarified in the forthcoming Clean Heat Commission report, anticipated later in 2022.
GHG emissions from our electric power system account for about 20% of statewide emissions. The 2025/2030 CECP establishes sublimits for the electricity sector of 53% reduction from a 1990 baseline by 2025 and 70% reduction by 2030. In order to achieve these commitments, electricity sector strategies focus on both decarbonizing the grid while also increasing our electric capacity to meet future demand. While the added focus on capacity was a partial win thanks to our comments, more needs to be done in order to also prioritize grid reliability, affordability, and resilience. The electricity sector will also need to scale up transmission and distribution infrastructure, which may prove challenging regionally as we have seen in the Quebec-Hydro project being stalled from crossing through Maine. In order to comply with electricity emissions reductions, the State will need to also address interconnection issues that continue to stall deployment of solar energy.
Industrial Sources, Gas Pipelines, & Other Non-Energy Sources
Greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources, gas pipelines, and other non-energy sources account for about 10% of statewide emissions. The 2025/2030 CECP establishes emissions sublimits for this sector of 34% reduction from a 1990 baseline by 2025 and a 48% reduction by 2030. Strategies for this sector include: tighter regulations around hydrofluorocarbon gases, which are used in many cooling processes, and to address methane leaks in natural gas infrastructure (much of this will depend on the ongoing work at the Department of Public Utilities on their Future of Natural Gas docket 20-80). Finally, the State also recommends setting tighter emissions standards for solid waste incinerators while also working to reduce the amount of garbage generated in state.
Natural & Working Lands
A relatively new area of focus is the natural and working lands (NWL) sector, comprised of farm and ranch lands, forests, grasslands, freshwater and riparian systems, wetlands, coastal and estuarine areas, watersheds, parks, urban and community forests, trails, and other open spaces. The 2025/2030 CECP asserts that we need to trap and store as much carbon dioxide as possible in order to meet the Commonwealth’s climate commitments; until carbon capture technology is commercially viable in Massachusetts, this sector’s strategy will rely on carbon sequestration through nature-based solutions. Thus far, NWL have been a net carbon sink in Massachusetts, and the 2025/2030 CECP goes further to state that this sector will further reduce emissions from a 1990 baseline by 19% come 2025 and 25% by 2030. Strategies will include: permanently conserving 63,400 acres of undeveloped land and water by 2025 and 167,000 additional acres by 2030; helping farmers to manage soil for peak carbon sequestration potential; finding ways to help incentivize private landowners to adopt climate smart management practices for working lands, which could include preserving forested land and promoting sustainable timber harvests (this could in turn lead to establishing potential local offset programs); plant at least 5,000 acres of new trees by 2025 and 16,000 additional acres by 2030, with an emphasis on urban areas and land near rivers, lakes, and other waterbodies; make it easier for wetlands restoration projects to gain permits, and; relevant to A Better City’s offset report, strategy L5 recommends developing by 2025 an accounting framework for achieving net zero emissions statewide, as well as the necessary elements for a viable carbon sequestration market (ex. eligibility, registry, measurement, crediting, monitoring, and enforcement).
Additional Takeaways & Next Steps
Since there is no cost attached to the 2025/2030 CECP, nor the sufficient funding and financing mechanisms identified to implement its strategies, a lot of work remains regarding how we will pay to implement these decarbonization strategies across sectors, including who will pay, and who benefits. A Better City will continue to explore innovative and equitable climate funding opportunities, like the establishment of a Climate or Green Bank to scale up decarbonization of the built environment. Additionally, since the majority of the 2025/2030 CECP consists of non-legally binding recommendations, we will continue to work with the Legislature, Baker Administration, and the next gubernatorial administration to codify and implement 2025/2030 CECP recommendations. In particular, we will emphasize the importance of consistency in climate policy across jurisdictions in Massachusetts – a core role that the State can provide – as well as equitable approaches to regional financing and governance.
For any questions on the 2025/2030 CECP, please contact Isabella Gambill.