Imagine Boston 2030 will be the City of Boston’s first completed citywide plan in more than 50 years. Planning for the impacts of climate change is a huge part of this plan. Learn how Climate Ready Boston, in collaboration with Imagine Boston 2030, is helping think through policies and decisions today that will have lasting impacts on the future preparedness of Boston.

Imagine Boston 2030 is Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s plan for the future of Boston. It has been shaped by over 12,000 resident voices, and outlines how we can harness the city’s current growth to achieve our residents’ long term goals.

Today’s growth and the preparedness for the future

The City is committed to continuing to prepare Boston’s natural and built environment for climate change. Have you seen the first draft of Imagine Boston’s plan, called Expanding Opportunity? Climate adaptation is a top priority. As the report explains:

Many of the areas where Boston will grow are exposed to flooding risk as sea levels rise. By growing in these areas, Boston is committing to protecting them. Although we do not know all the mechanisms for protection yet, Boston is investing in developing local climate plans for vulnerable areas. These plans will identify multilayered investments needed to enable climate-ready growth. Boston will approach this topic dynamically, regularly gather the most up-to-date information, and respond to new information as we have it.

IMG_7409.JPGMany of the “expanded neighborhoods” identified in Imagine Boston’s plan are in the current or future floodplain. In some cases, these expanded neighborhood areas include or adjoin a breach or entry point where flooding could impact existing neighborhoods. Boston is committed to studying and investing in multilayered climate protections that prepare both our existing neighborhoods, and these adjacent, expanded neighborhoods for future risks.

The City of Boston will continue to assess and plan for the impacts of climate change. As recommended in the Climate Ready Boston report, the City will work to advance climate-ready zoning, provide guidelines to ensure new development and buildings already in the pipeline are climate-ready, and develop audit programs and identify resources to support retrofits in existing buildings.

Preparing development in Boston for climate change

Since 2013, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA, formerly the BRA, which is the City-affiliated agency that plans and guides the built environment in Boston) has required an assessment of climate impacts on large building and renovation projects. As part of the Article 80 review process, developers need to complete the Climate Change Preparedness and Resiliency Checklist, and inform the City how they are considering impacts of sea level rise and increased heat and precipitation on their buildings. For an in-depth look at the development of this important tool, read this case study starting on page 76 of the Climate Adaptation: The State of Practice in U.S. Communities report.

There are many examples of buildings that have already incorporated innovative resilient design to adapt to climate change. GE’s new headquarters in the Seaport will be elevated 4.5 feet to account for sea level rise, along with additional landscaping and open space along the Fort Point Channel.

Another example is the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Charlestown. This facility has won many awards for its considerations for climate change impacts, and serves as a model for other developers to look towards when designing their own buildings.

Boston has another resource for innovative design ideas. Last year, Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston hosted a design competition for the design community in Boston and around the world to consider a future with more water. The Boston Living With Water competition drew more than 40 design teams to submit ideas for sites expected to be regularly inundated with water in the future. The exercise demonstrated that there are creative ways to work with water, and such creativity has the opportunity to benefit our community.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions  

The foundation of all of this work is Mayor Walsh’s commitment to reducing Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions. As we look to the future, we know that by reducing emissions globally, we can mitigate the severity of the impacts Boston will have to face. Climate Ready Boston concludes that a high-emissions future has a likely range of sea-level rise of 3.2-7.4 feet by the end of the century, while a low-emissions future has a range of 1.8-3.8 feet.

These projections show that no matter how successful we are at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Boston will have to plan for significant sea level rise and more severe weather. Together, Imagine Boston 2030 and Climate Ready Boston lay out the first steps in doing so.

What’s next

Both Imagine Boston 2030 and Climate Ready Boston are ongoing efforts, working together to better Boston’s future. We encourage everyone to read Imagine Boston’s first draft plan called Expanding Opportunity, and providing your feedback. There are many ways to do that, here’s just a few:

For Climate Ready Boston and all things climate-related, stay connected with Greenovate Boston. We’ll continue to provide updates through email and social media, as well as respond to comments to our blog here.

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