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Boston Releases Plan For Action On Climate Change03:43

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Rising tide floods Christopher Columbus Park next to Boston's Longwharf on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. closemore
Rising tide floods Christopher Columbus Park next to Boston's Longwharf on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

Standing on Boston's Long Wharf, John Barros, the city's chief of economic development, recalled what the site looked like in January 2014, when a nor'easter brought record high tides.

"We're at ground zero here," said Barros, who was part of a steering committee that spent the past year working on a plan to prepare for storms like that one, as well as the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.

"When we think about what 2-to-5 feet means, which is some of the conservative estimates of sea rise, 2 feet, this place would probably be underwater every day," he said.

25 Percent Emissions Cut By 2025

In the report being formally issued Thursday are dozens of recommendations with overarching themes behind them. The city aims to reduce the number of cars on the road, and so the report calls for installing new bike lanes and building more affordable and environmentally friendly housing.

This is all to meet an existing goal of reducing the city's greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent less than their 2005 rates by the year 2025.

"It's not just enough for large property owners to say, ''OK, we have a recycling program, we'll dim the lights when we're not in the office,' " said Vivien Li, president of the Boston Harbor Association, and co-chair of the steering committee that produced the report. "It means that all of us live a lifestyle that's going to make a difference over time."

That could mean biking to work for some. For others, re-insulating their homes to use less heat in the winter. One recommendation even calls for planting trees, so that 35 percent of Boston will have tree cover.

"It's not just enough for large property owners to say 'OK, we have a recycling program, we'll dim the lights when we're not in the office.' It means that all of us live a lifestyle that's going to make a difference over time."

Vivien Li, president of the Boston Harbor Association

Many city objectives center on construction — specifically, building with climate change and possible sea level rise in mind.

David Begelfer, CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, praised the city for addressing climate change, but said he has concerns, such as whether the city will impose more stringent environmental regulations on developers.

He said he'd rather see the free market implement those measures.

"Where the market can respond on its own, it's best to let that happen. Cities and states should be involved when the market isn't responsive," Begelfer said.

"There are a number of buildings being built right now down in the Seaport area, and they are being built in response to some of the concerns that there are regarding storm surge and flooding," he continued.

The report calls for the city to examine rezoning along the waterfront, as well as possible regulation on how green buildings have to be.

But nothing is binding — at least not yet.

Climate Aims For 2050 Will Be Out Of Reach Without Major Changes

Back at Long Wharf, Barros said either way, it's good for the city's economy.

"Going green is good for the bottom line," he said. "Making sure that people understand the savings is really important, but also recognizing the value in terms of job creation. Over the last four years, since 2010, we've seen an increase in 47 percent of green jobs in the area. That's 28,000 jobs."

Barros, and others who worked on the report, say the city's 2025 emissions goal is doable. But much more challenging is meeting the goal for 2050 — which calls for emissions to be 80 percent less than their 2005 levels.

Reaching that goal, the report says, will require a transformation of Boston's energy and transportation infrastructure.

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Jack Lepiarz Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz is a reporter and anchor at WBUR.

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