Gov. Baker just signed a major climate bill into law

The new climate law is the product of years of work by legislators, environmental groups, industry leaders, and grassroots activists. Here's how we helped make it happen.

Clean energy


Activists and elected officials stand in front of the Massachusetts State House holding signs asking Gov. Charlie Baker to sign a climate bill.
Liam Louis, Elle Vignette Photography | Used by permission
Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a far-reaching climate bill that will help make our homes and businesses more energy-efficient, put more electric vehicles on the road, and ramp up the amount of electricity we get from the sun and wind.

When you think about global warming, you might feel concerned — and for good reason. We’re seeing the impacts of a warming climate all around us, as anyone who’s lived through the last few hot, muggy weeks can attest to.

But today I’m feeling hopeful. This bill is going to move us forward in a big way, especially when combined with recent climate legislation on the federal level. It’s easier than ever to see how Massachusetts can transition to 100% clean energy in the coming decades.

This new law is the product of years of work by legislators, environmental groups, industry leaders, and grassroots activists. We owe a lot of thanks to all of our partners in this effort.

Here’s how Environment Massachusetts helped pass the climate bill.

It started with a vision. In 2016, we launched a campaign calling for a statewide transition to 100% renewable energy. It was a bold and ambitious goal — some might have thought at the time that it was a little overambitious — but we thought we could inspire people with a vision of a cleaner, healthier future, free from all of the negative impacts of fossil fuels. And we had the research to back up our claim that an energy system powered entirely by renewable resources was possible.

Next came the policy. We worked with legislators to introduce bills like:

  • The 100% Clean Act (Reps. Marjorie Decker and Sean Garballey) to transition Massachusetts to 100% clean electricity by 2035 and 100% clean heating and transportation by 2045.
  • The Better Buildings Act (Rep. Maria Robinson, Sen. Becca Rausch) to require the owners of large office and apartment buildings to disclose their energy use each year and take steps to make their buildings more efficient over time.
  • The GREEN Act (Reps. Natalie Higgins and Michael Kushmerek, Sen. Brendan Crighton) to retrofit homes in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities to be energy-efficient and fossil-fuel-free.
  • The Solar Neighborhoods Act (Reps. Mike Connolly and Jack Lewis, Sen. Jamie Eldridge) to require new buildings to be built with rooftop solar panels.
Activists and elected officials rallying in front of the State House in Boston
Staff | Used by permission
State Rep. Marjorie Decker (Cambridge) spoke at a rally for 100% renewable energy in 2017.

We built a coalition. We partnered with groups representing some of Massachusetts’ biggest real estate owners and tenants — like Ceres and Health Care Without Harm — to advocate for energy efficiency standards for existing large buildings. We signed on more than 50 environmental and civic organizations to support a statewide commitment to 100% clean energy, and worked with the coalition Mass Power Forward to mobilize grassroots support.

About a dozen individuals, dressed formally, standing in front of a farmhouse on a sunny day in the summer.
Stephanie Pierce Photography | Used by permission
Local leaders and state legislators gathered at a renewable energy summit at the Dismas Family Farm in Oakham in 2017.

We engaged civic leaders. We worked with dozens of local elected officials, health professionals, and business leaders to speak out in support of clean energy and energy efficiency policies. And we organized a summit for Massachusetts’ emerging leaders in the millennial generation to strategize for the transition to 100% renewable energy.

City Councilor Michelle Wu standing in front of a crowd of seated people, holding a microphone.
Athelston Rogers Photography | Used by permission
City Councilor Michelle Wu (now mayor of Boston) spoke at our 100% Renewable Energy Millennial Leadership Summit in 2018.

We mobilized the grassroots. We identified supporters through door-to-door canvassing, holding one-on-one conversations and distributing campaign literature to thousands of households. We helped MASSPIRG Students, a statewide organization of college students, organize dozens of lobby meetings at the State House and build grassroots support on their campuses.

It helps when some of the Commonwealth’s biggest institutions get on board. This April, UMass Amherst, Massachusetts’ flagship public university, committed to transition to 100% renewable energy for electricity and heating by 2032, thanks to persistent advocacy by the campus chapter of MASSPIRG. UMass joined other institutions, such as Harvard and Boston University, that have made commitments to 100% renewable electricity.

Three individuals standing in front of a construction scene, with a building in the background.
Staff | TPIN
State Rep. Michelle Ciccollo (Lexington) and state Sen. Michael Barrett (Lexington), Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, joined us for an event to release the 2019 edition of our Renewable Communities report.

We lobbied elected officials. We pounded the pavement on Beacon Hill. And when the COVID-19 pandemic began, we kept lobbying over Zoom, connecting health professionals, students, and other allies with House and Senate leaders and rank-and-file members.

Six individuals in a Zoom meeting grid.
Staff | TPIN
Our canvassing staff organized a virtual lobby meeting with state Rep. Mindy Domb (Amherst) in 2021.

And when we hit the home stretch, we sprinted. As the clock ticked down toward the end of the legislative session on July 31, our canvassers spoke face-to-face with more than 10,000 people about the need for Massachusetts to act on climate, and collected 4,000 signatures calling on our elected officials to pass strong clean energy legislation.

And then, once the climate bill started moving through the House and Senate and to the governor’s desk, we:

  • Held a press event on the steps of the State House, leading to media coverage in NBC10, WWLP 22 News, and other outlets
  • Connected more than 700 people to Gov. Baker’s office by phone to leave messages of support
  • Generated nearly 1,000 constituent emails asking the governor to sign the bill
  • Ran Facebook ads and mobilized supporters to post on Twitter to help keep the spotlight on the governor
  • Worked with allies to identify people close to Gov. Baker who could put in a good word
About a dozen young people in blue t-shirts holding signs asking Gov. Charlie Baker to sign a climate bill.
Staff | TPIN

This climate bill is a big deal.

Now that this bill (H.5060) has become law, here’s what it will mean for Massachusetts:

  • By 2035, 100% of the cars sold in Massachusetts will be electric vehicles (EVs).
  • The owners of large buildings — such as office and apartment buildings, hospitals, and universities — will be required to disclose their energy use each year, a critical first step toward making these buildings more energy-efficient.
  • The MBTA must transition to an all-electric bus fleet, and state agencies will help regional transit authorities (RTAs) adopt electric buses.
  • More of our electricity will come from renewable sources because there will be fewer arbitrary obstacles standing in the way of solar and offshore wind projects.
  • Up to 10 cities and towns can adopt local policies requiring new buildings to use fossil fuel-free heating and appliances, laying the groundwork for healthier, cleaner homes and offices for all of us.
  • A new pilot program will retrofit low- to moderate-income housing to be energy efficient and use clean, all-electric heating and appliances.

We’re taking big steps toward a cleaner, healthier, safer future for everyone. And when the new legislative session starts in January, we’ll keep pushing to accelerate Massachusetts’ transition to 100% clean, renewable sources of energy.


Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

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