Youth on Board/Boston Student Advisory Council

Generating Change

Like many cities, Boston has a Climate Action Plan. Yet, the City has more than a plan for reducing its carbon footprint. It also has the engagement of multiple sectors of the community and their shared commitment to make big changes. A new report commissioned by the Barr Foundation details how.

Boston has a long track record of leadership on sustainability and energy efficiency – with City officials often leading by example. As early as 2005 Boston published and implemented a "Integrated Energy Management Plan" for the City's 362 municipal buildings. The plan identified $4 Million of savings from making City buildings more efficient and reducing their energy consumption.

A year later Boston made headlines as the first city in the nation to require all new large-scale developments be LEED certified. Also in 2005 Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined mayors from across the nation as one of the first signers of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. With this act Menino committed Boston to meeting or exceeding the Kyoto Protocol targets for emissions reductions. This means reducing Boston emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 50% by 2050. To achieve this goal the Mayor and his team knew they would have to expand the effort beyond municipal buildings and operations alone. They would need sustained support and action by multiple sectors of the Boston community.

In March 2009 the Mayor appointed a Climate Action Task Force to carry out this work. The Task Force had 22 members including business and nonprofit leaders policy advocates technical experts and residents. Their charge was to review the City's Climate Action Plan and make recommendations for how the entire city could engage in the work of climate action – and share in the benefits (such as energy savings and new "Clean Tech" jobs). After a year-long process that ultimately engaged hundreds of residents (including over 140 youth) the Task Force Presented their recommendations to the Mayor in the form of the report: Sparking Boston's Climate Revolution. The report included a portfolio of mitigation strategies that could result in $2 billion of savings to Boston businesses government and residents.

The story of how these stakeholders came together and reached consensus is itself a critical element on Boston's path to success in climate action planning. In 2009 as the process was still ongoing Barr commissioned a team of evaluators to document the strengths and challenges of the process. Their report Generating Change: How Boston Transitioned from Municipal to Community Wide Climate Planning documents this process offers a blueprint for other communities seeking to move their climate efforts to new levels.

Download the Generating Change report

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Mariella Puerto

Mariella Puerto

Co-Director of Climate