Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer Releases Her Whole-of-Government Climate Report

Background Context

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 innovation.”

Report Summary

Chief Hoffer’s report offers 39 recommendations to meet Massachusetts’ statutory climate commitments for emissions reductions, to invest in resilient infrastructure and communities, and to ensure an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. The report reviews trends, barriers, and gaps in our state climate policies, and suggests interventions across 8 topic areas: (1) funding; (2) state capital investment, asset management, grantmaking, procurement, and environmental justice; (3) emissions mitigation; (4) public health and resilience; (5) workforce; (6) economic development; (7) education; and (8) process for implementation.

While the report itself does not provide cost estimates for decarbonizing the Commonwealth’s economy and achieving our statutory climate commitments (to generate such cost estimates is the first report recommendation), it does provide some staggering numbers for decarbonizing the U.S. economy by 2050. It estimates that it will require at least $25-30 trillion of investment between now and 2050, which, if pursued evenly overtime, would require a national investment of at least $1T every year between now and 2050 (nationally). The report also references Rocky Mountain Institute’s numbers citing potential contributions of federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act, which could contribute anywhere from 8% of our needed investments, or $80B annually, up to 30% of our needed investments, or up to $170-300B annually. The range of 8-30% of potential investments coming from federal funding still leaves a possible funding and financing gap of 70-90% that will need to be financed by other means.

In addition to recommending a cost estimate for achieving the Commonwealth’s statutory commitments to emissions reduction and net zero by 2050, the report recommends estimating the total needed investment for statewide resilience as well, by estimating costs needed to achieve the recommendations of the 2022 Massachusetts Climate Change Assessment, the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (now re-branded as ResilientMass. Please see relevant blogpost for summary of the 2023 ResilientMass update). Across both mitigation and adaptation, the report recommends identifying costs alongside potential funding sources by December 2024. Related to financial gaps and liabilities, the report also suggests that the Department of Insurance (DOI) accelerate its efforts to promote a climate risk and resiliency framework for the regulation and governance of the MA insurance market. As part of this effort, all insurance companies operating in Massachusetts that write at least $100M premiums are required to respond to the June 2023 DOI survey, which will be used to shape policies that help to reduce insurer climate risks.

Regarding coastal resilience, the Chief recommends developing a Comprehensive Coastal Resilience Plan across the Commonwealth’s 1,500+ miles of coastline, to be administered within the Office of Coastal Zone Management, which will be responsible for implementing the Plan and securing funding for resilience over time. To ensure that the State acts based on the best available climate science, the Chief also created a new Office of Climate Science to promote coordination across Secretariats to establish uniform guidelines, standards, and use of statewide climate science and data. To help promote climate resilience within our transportation system, the report also recommends developing a Climate Program Management Office within the MBTA.

Within the Commonwealth’s state capital investments, asset management, procurement, and grantmaking, the report also seeks to formalize a protocol for climate accounting in the Capital Investment (CIP) process for state agencies, by developing a Mitigation Tool to evaluate all proposed capital projects in how they relate to existing climate mandates. The anticipated Mitigation Tool will be used alongside a complementary Environmental Justice (EJ) Tool to consider criteria that may include community benefit plans (distinguishing between direct/indirect benefits), analysis of cumulative impacts, and disproportionate impact. Finally, both the Mitigation Tool and EJ Tool are intended to be used alongside the existing Resilient Massachusetts Action Team’s (RMAT) Climate Resilient Design Standards Tool. Across all State capital investments, assets, procurement, and grantmaking processes, the Climate Chief intends to center climate change as a core factor in investment decision making.

The report also recommends expansion to equitable workforce development for climate and clean energy jobs, anticipating that the Commonwealth will need an additional 29,700 full-time equivalent workers to meet the 2030 statutory climate mandate of 50% emissions reduction economy wide. With the creation of a Climate Service Corps, the report recommends establishing career pathways consistent with the 2050 Clean Energy and Climate Plan for Massachusetts.

Finally, perhaps one of the most discussed sections of the report references the opportunity to analyze (and potentially restructure) the use of ratepayer funds and Mass Save for funding our transition to a decarbonized economy. A Better City is actively engaged in the Three-Year Plan process within the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council and is tracking emerging conversations regarding Mass Save reform.

A Better City will continue to track the governance, funding, and implementation of recommendations from Climate Chief Hoffer’s report overtime. For more information and detailed notes on the Climate Chief’s report, please contact Isabella Gambill.

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