Boston Advocacy

In 2019, the City of Boston released a Climate Action Plan (CAP) update, which laid out a number of climate goals alongside strategies to meet them. In addition to objectives related to waste reduction and climate adaptation, the city committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. In recent years, the city has made some progress through enacting policies like the Building Energy Reporting Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), initiating Community Choice Electricity (CCE), and setting a net-zero standard for new municipal buildings. While Boston’s emissions have decreased by 20% since 2005, the city is not yet on track to meet its 2050 target.

Our advocacy in Boston is focused on achieving a just transition to 100% clean energy, and climate justice for frontline communities who bear the brunt of climate pollution and impacts. We aim to achieve this by building a broad grassroots movement powered by community members and stakeholders who mobilize to demand bold, ambitious action from city leaders.

Energy Burden

Energy Burden has become an important tool in understanding energy efficiency and energy justice. In the Boston area, many residents struggle with energy costs depending on many intersecting variables such as race, income, eviction rates, and more. We hope to learn about Energy Burden in the Boston area by studying these statistics geographically and applying it to energy justice initiatives in Boston. 

Community Choice Electricity (CCE)

Rising Seas Rally for CCE

The Community Choice Electricity (CCE) program was unanimously approved by the Boston City Council in 2017 and initiated in early 2021. Using a municipal aggregation approach, the program allows Boston to bulk purchase electricity supply on behalf of its residents and businesses to stabilize rates and increase access to renewable sources of energy. All residents are automatically opted into the program unless they specify that they would like to opt out. The standard product is currently 28% renewable content, and there is an option to opt up to 100%. The first contract also secured a commitment to build out 100 MegaWatts of solar in the region.

An analysis conducted by the Applied Economics Clinic at Tufts University found that if 90% of residential and commercial customers in Boston remain opted into the program, it would generate 281 gigawatt-hours of additional renewable energy in New England each year at little or no cost to residents. By adding these resources onto the grid, gas power plants would run less often, and in turn carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 145,000 tons a year.

We are very pleased with the initiation of the CCE program and enthused by the potential for it to grow and strengthen. We will continue to advocate for the city to prioritize local clean energy development and job creation, with a focus on the benefits in environmental justice and frontline communities in Boston.

Building Emissions Performance Standard

Boston’s 86,000 buildings account for over 70% of the city’s total carbon emissions; and just 3% of the largest buildings are responsible for 50% of total carbon emissions. Existing buildings in the city must be retrofitted, electrified, and transitioned to renewable energy—we need a policy mechanism to guide this transition. The current policy, the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), mandates large building owners to report their energy and water use every year, and also take one “energy action” every five years. While BERDO has been an important first step, it does not go far enough in its scope or enforcement. Updating BERDO to include an emissions performance standard is a critical step towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley introduced the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance, or BERDO 2.0, which lays out a mandated path for buildings to become carbon-free by 2050. The amended legislation would accelerate decarbonization in new and existing buildings through a more expansive scope, equitable and democratic policy design, and strengthened enforcement mechanisms. Furthermore, it would lead to lower operating costs and lower energy bills for these buildings through improved energy efficiency. The policy will also prevent about 37 million metric tons of CO2 emissions over the next thirty years.

Considering the policy’s many benefits—from lower utility bills to improved air quality and public health, and local green jobs creation—the Boston City Council and Mayor Kim Janey should lead by example and support the passage of the BERDO amendments!

Net Zero Carbon Buildings

The City of Boston is in the midst of the third biggest building boom we’ve ever seen, with some 122 million new square footage of development going up across the city between 2021 and 2050. Much of this development is currently being built in the Seaport, an area extremely vulnerable to flooding; and nearly all of this new construction is projected to be serviced with gas infrastructure. With our buildings sector accounting for approximately 70% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, we can’t afford to be building new fossil fuel infrastructure now. It’s time to transition off gas and build for the future.

In 2019, former Mayor Walsh signed an executive order requiring all new municipal buildings be constructed to a Zero Net Carbon Standard. Going forward, all new buildings in the city should be designed to meet Net Zero Carbon standards. This means utilizing state of the art efficiency, building envelopes, and clean heating technologies such as heat pumps.

View our Displacement Prevention in Green Building Policy Fact Sheet

We’re continuing to advocate for the Wu administration and other city officials to act aggressively on climate to mitigate the catastrophic impacts the city will face if action is further delayed. If you want to get involved with our campaign to advance clean energy and climate justice in the City of Boston, fill out this form