Boston Aims To Become Carbon Free By 2050
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- January 31, 2019
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Boston is planning to become a carbon free city by 2050. A new report commissioned by the City of Boston and authored by the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University and the Green Ribbon Commission has set that ambitious target and lists steps that the city should take to achieve that goal.
The report, which is called Carbon Free Boston, focuses on three areas: maximizing energy-efficient practices at homes and commercial establishments within the city, converting fossil-fuel intensive activities to electric ones, and ensuring that the city’s systems, such as transportation and electricity, run on clean energy.
To get a head start on energy efficiency, the report suggests designing new buildings in Boston’s housing stock with high energy performance standards. Existing buildings should be retrofitted for a similar goal. According to statistics, twenty-nine percent of Boston’s emissions come from its transportation sector and passenger vehicles are responsible for 75% of those emissions. To reduce their impact, the report’s authors state that public transit should be encouraged and pedestrian walkways and bike paths should be expanded to further facilitate the goal of weaning consumers away from gas guzzling vehicles. In addition to this, the report mentions building new residential structures in “centrally-located, walkable, and transit-rich” neighborhoods.
In line with current fashion, mitigating climate change is linked to social change in the study. “Boston’s successful transition to a carbon-neutral city will require not only technically efficient and far-reaching solutions, but also a social equity ethic implemented every step of the way,” the report’s authors write.
Can Boston Become Carbon Free By 2050?
Much of the groundwork for this ambitious goal has already been laid. Massachusetts is a leader in energy-efficient practices. Boston already ranks high on important parameters, such as public transit and walkability. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is already the largest consumer of electricity in the state and has been making efforts to increase the number of renewable energy vehicles and stations under its charge. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the 8th and 9th Congressional districts, which are part of Greater Boston, are home to 30,000 solar projects out of a total of 82,000 within the state.
By themselves, however, those statistics are not sufficient to meet Boston’s goal. There are still significant problems that need to be overcome. For example, Massachusetts’ plan to close the Pilgrim nuclear power plant this year will cause a big hole in the state’s energy mix. According to the Boston Globe, the close in one day will remove “more zero-emission electricity production than all the windmills and solar panels Massachusetts has added over the last 20 years.” (Renewable sources of energy were responsible for less than 5 percent of electricity in 2017 while nuclear energy accounted for approximately 16%.) While offshore wind farms hold great potential for Massachusetts, they are yet to come online. Meanwhile, natural gas and fossil fuels will have to step in to keep the lights on. The report does not offer a solution to this impending problem.