Senator Barrett, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, and Vice Chair of the Senate Oversight Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, was welcomed by Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy & Resilience at A Better City. As co-author of the Senate’s climate policy package released in January 2020: An Act Setting Next Generation Climate Policy; An Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks, and Buses to Carbon-Free Power; and An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency, Senator Barrett presented key details that included data that helped determine the sectoral focus of this policy package: transportation and buildings.
For An Act Setting Next-Generation Climate Policy, key points included setting a statewide “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions limit for 2050, a directive that the executive branch set interim emissions targets with sector-specific sublimits, a pathway forward for each sector, and a way to certify progress. A “net zero stretch energy code” for new buildings is also included with responsibility falling to DOER and not the BBRS. And to ensure independent oversight of the Commonwealth’s progress, a Massachusetts Climate Policy Commission of energy economics, public health, and statistics experts would ensure independent oversight of the Commonwealth’s progress in reducing emissions.
For An Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks, and Buses to Carbon-Free Power, key points included: electric vehicle readiness for commercial and residential buildings, and parking facilities over 10 spaces; MBTA bus purchases and leases limited to zero emissions vehicles by 2030 and an all-zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040; and state government purchases and leases of vehicles limited to zero emissions vehicles by 2024.
The key point for An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency was to offset current federal efforts to weaken federal energy and water conservation standards such that any federal standard that is withdrawn or repealed would become the new Massachusetts state standard.
Answers to questions, facilitated by Isabella Gambill, Senior Policy Advisor of Climate, Energy, and Resilience, kept returning to important themes: COVID 19 has shown us that threats become crises, that they are messy and details in determining the best path forward really matter; our thinking about and oversight for both a pandemic and climate change has been too small and we need to scale up; the policy has to follow the science; the world has changed a lot since COVID 19 and we may need to be more flexible with some sectors e.g. health care; and specifically on carbon pricing, Governors should use their rising approval ratings to sign on to TCI and put their political capital to work on climate.
The Senator expressed his appreciation for ABC’s work with buildings and transportation and said this added weight to the development of sector specific sublimits. In terms of next steps for ABC members, he encouraged engagement in advisory groups that will be created by executive administration to develop sector pathways which he said will be “hellishly complicated,” and asked members to encourage the house to act on climate and transportation legislation. He said that COVID 19 has shown us that we’re not in rehearsal and that we have one chance to get things right!
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