One year after the landmark emissions reduction roadmap law was signed and with eight years to go until its first major decennial checkpoint, the Environmental League of Massachusetts on Monday unveiled a new website that will track the state's progress toward the so-called climate law's commitments, including becoming net-zero by 2050.
Signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on March 26, 2021, (https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2021/Chapter8) the law was designed to commit Massachusetts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, establish interim emissions goals between now and the middle of the century, adopt energy efficiency standards for appliances, authorize another 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power and address needs in environmental justice communities.
To keep track of the law's deadlines and requirements while work on them takes place across multiple departments and on various timelines, ELM rolled out a new website, www.NetZeroMA.org, with support from the Conservation Law Foundation, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and Elders Climate Action.
ELM Vice President for Policy Nancy Goodman said the website is meant to give advocates, legislators and state officials an easy way to track progress toward the state's climate commitments.
"It will take bold plans, timely implementation, and accountability to ensure Massachusetts reduces emissions at the rate required by the latest science," Goodman said.
The site lists more than 30 actions required by the law and cites the section of the law where the requirement originates. ELM lists four completed actions -- a gas emissions reduction goal for the MassSave program, early meetings around 2025 and 2030 emissions reductions requirements, the issuance of tax guidance for municipalities and clean energy project developers, and new energy efficiency appliance standards. Two requirements -- that new vacancies on the Board of Building Regulation and Standards be filled and that an environmental justice council be established -- are listed as incomplete.
In addition to the 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, the climate roadmap law also requires Massachusetts to reduce emissions by at least 75 percent by 2040 and at least 85 percent by 2050, with tag-along policies to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. The Department of Environmental Protection estimated last month that greenhouse gas emissions from Massachusetts in 2020 were roughly 28.6 percent less (see article below) than what was emitted into the atmosphere in the benchmark year 1990. - Colin A. Young/SHNS | 3/28/22 10:52 AM
Colin A. Young, 2/15/22 5:59 PM
FEB. 15, 2022.....The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has preliminarily estimated that greenhouse gas emissions in the state in 2020 were roughly 28.6 percent less than what was emitted into the atmosphere in the benchmark year 1990, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides told lawmakers Tuesday.
The emissions reduction level has not been confirmed and is shaded by the major changes to transportation and social life thanks to the 2020 arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the secretary said. But if verified, the drop would more than satisfy the state's legal requirement that its 2020 emissions were at least 25 percent lower than 1990 levels.
"I know you agree this is not necessarily cause for celebration. 2020 was an abnormal year by any stretch of the imagination, but we did also see the numbers ticking down in 2019. And so we do believe that the climate policies we've been implementing, the energy changes we've been making, are having a significant effect," Theohardides said. "There is more work to be done, but we are very confident that we will hit our 2020 emissions targets."
Hitting the 2020 emissions reduction requirement was not always a given. About 16 months ago, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs reported that 2018 emissions were 22.2 percent below emissions in 1990, having lost some ground from 2017 emissions that were 22.7 percent below 1990 levels.
The secretary shared the 2020 estimate with the Senate Global Warming and Climate Change Committee and Sen. Marc Pacheco, who has made a habit of asking Theoharides and other administration officials for updates on the state's compliance with emissions reductions requirements.
The panel convened Tuesday for Theoharides and her deputies to update lawmakers on the status of the administration's implementation of the 2021 climate roadmap law and the governor's development of the mandated 2025 and 2030 clean energy and climate plans. Both efforts have been impacted by the disintegration of the multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative and the rejection of the transmission corridor through Maine that was to connect Massachusetts to Canadian hydroelectric resources.
"This is a pivotal moment in our path to net-zero emissions," committee Chairwoman Sen. Cynthia Creem said. "The commonwealth is required to achieve a 50 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, a date that is not that far off. And in recent months, several new potholes have emerged in that road to 2030."
In addition to the 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, the state's 2021 climate roadmap law also requires Massachusetts to reduce emissions by at least 75 percent by 2040 and at least 85 percent by 2050, with tag-along policies to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century.
By July 1, Theoharides must adopt emissions limits and sector-specific sublimits for 2025 and 2030, and publish "comprehensive, clear and specific" plans to achieve them. Theoharides told the committee Tuesday that her team is "on schedule to meet that target."
Theoharides also refreshed committee members on the work the Baker administration has already done in connection to the new law, like proposing updates to the existing stretch building code and creating a new net-zero specialized stretch code for cities and towns to adopt.
Creem and Vice Chair Sen. Michael Barrett, who chairs the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for the Senate, made clear to Theoharides that they have concerns with the administration's proposed new net-zero building code, which must be finalized and put into place by the end of the year.
"I appreciate that hard work that went into the proposal but again, it didn't go far enough and I felt disappointed. The draft net-zero code would not represent a path for cities and towns to restrict the use of fossil fuels in new development," Creem said. "My hope is that we can convince you that the final version of the net-zero stretch code will give them that fossil-free option."
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