Nearing the end of 2016, Chief Blackmon reflects on the role of cities to act on climate in an uncertain future.
With 2016 coming soon to a close, many colleagues, friends and family have asked me:
What’s next? How can Boston thrive amid so much uncertainty about the future on so many issues? Will we be able to reach our climate goals? How is this going to affect us and the rest of the country?
Most of them are surprised when I answer, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be fine.” Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty around U.S. policy on many issues. However, I’m confident that even if federal progress on climate issues takes a different direction in the next few years, cities around the world like Boston will lean in and keep pace with our goals. Here’s why.
Practice Makes Perfect
Across the globe, cities have made progress on climate goals despite opposition or dysfunction at the national and international level. After international climate talks broke down in Copenhagen in 2009, Boston and many of the world’s most innovative cities formed the C40 Cities Climate Leadership group to act, despite of the negotiations’ outcomes. This group has taken more more than 10,000 climate change actions since its formation. C40 represents 25 percent of the total global economy, making our collective influence and capacity to learn greater than ever.
At the end of November, I attended the C40 annual summit in Mexico City, where cities domestic and abroad reiterated their climate commitments with more enthusiasm than ever. Lord Mayor Clover Moore of Sydney recalled how in Melbourne and several other Australian cities, governments accelerated energy efficiency and renewable energy projects despite opposition from their national government. She provided proof that other cities have done this before and that the U.S. is no different; we will move forward.
Growing Urban Urgency
As more of the world’s population relocates to cities, issues such as traffic, air pollution, and severe weather pose a much greater threat to the health, economy, and transportation systems in densely populated areas. City residents who are already vulnerable to these factors expect their Mayors to address these issues immediately, regardless of the national political environment. Therefore, Boston and other cities will continue to push forward in the present because as long as climate change impacts residents of Boston it will remain a priority for Mayor Walsh. Check out our most recent efforts to prepare Boston for the impacts of climate change through Climate Ready Boston here.
Galvanized and Organized City Collaboration
Boston participates in groups like C40, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and the Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network because we recognize that these platforms allow for city leaders to collaborate and share resources that accelerate progress. A great example of this collaboration is when over 40 mayors joined Mayor Walsh and Los Angeles’ Mayor Garcetti pledging their unwavering commitment to make climate progress a reality. It is important to remember that as a group we remain powerful, and will continue to push forward together.
State and Regional Support
Boston has certainly benefited from a close partnership with the Federal government on energy efficiency and other climate initiatives, and we’re still committed to that partnership however the most influential decisions for climate progress are made at the State and regional level. In Massachusetts, the State government leads our energy policy and building codes, two of the largest levers available to reduce emissions. Furthermore, legislation and programs like the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and Governor Baker’s Executive Order on Climate Change will keep the Commonwealth and Boston on track to meet our long-term emission reduction targets. The future of the Clean Power Plan will not deter our progress here at home.
As I look to the new year, I’m encouraged by the work I see happening across the globe to advance the most ambitious climate change goals. We also don’t have to look far for inspiration here at home -- whether it's big-picture work like the recent commitment of all the mayors in metropolitan Boston committing to carbon-neutral cities by 2050, or other steps forward like the release of the latest Climate Ready Boston report -- there are endless opportunities to take advantage of. We’re looking forward to 2017 and keep working hand in hand with our community to continue to make Boston a thriving, healthy, and innovative city.