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Activists Call On Lawmakers To Accelerate State's Emissions Reduction Goals

Early afternoon bumper-to-bumper traffic on 93 in Milton (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Early afternoon bumper-to-bumper traffic on 93 in Milton (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With scientists warning that the challenge of preparing for and slowing climate change will get more difficult every year, legislators and climate activists pleaded with Beacon Hill leaders Tuesday not to wait to accelerate the state's 11-year-old carbon emission reduction goals.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, who has long been outspoken about aggressive approaches to climate change, and Rep. Joan Meschino have both filed legislation that would ramp up the state's emission reduction targets.

Their bills (H 832/S 524) propose to require the state to achieve "net zero" emissions by 2050.

"It seems that this year there is an opportunity to get done what we critically need to do," said Pacheco, testifying before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

A number of recent reports, including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from October and the most recent National Climate Assessment, have painted a dire picture of global warming.

U.N. scientists gave the world 12 years to take drastic steps to reduce greenhouse gases in order to avoid irreversible damage, and activists said states can't simply wait for the federal government to respond.

"Half measures are not going to measure up," said Launa Zimmaro, climate change and energy specialist for the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

The bills before the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture would rewrite the carbon emission reduction requirements included in the more-than-decade-old Global Warming Solutions Act.

Supporters say the update is necessary to reflect the most recent science on climate change that suggests reducing carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 will no longer be sufficient.

Both Pacheco's and Meschino's bills would set interim emission targets of 50% below 1990 by 2030 and 75% by 2040 before the ultimate "net zero" requirement in 2050.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Katie Theoharides said as recently as two weeks ago that the state was on track to exceed its 2020 emissions goal of 25 percent below 1990, and was sitting at 21.4 percent as of 2016.

The governor has not yet said whether he would support accelerating the state's emission requirements to "net zero" by 2050, and is currently focused on developing a regional approach with other states to reduce vehicle emissions.

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