2023 was a year of ups and downs for our environment.
For four days in a row in July, we experienced the hottest days on record. In November, The Fifth National Climate Assessment found that “many of the climate conditions and impacts people are experiencing today are unprecedented for thousands of years.” The early impacts of the climate crisis that we are feeling right here in the Bay State– extreme weather, flooding, loss of crops, heat waves, and school closures as a result– are undeniable.
But 2023 had its share of environmental wins. In Massachusetts, the Healey-Driscoll Administration appointed the state’s first ever Climate Chief– Melissa Hoffer– this January, and the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Utilities announced a plan in December to phase out natural gas. On the global stage at COP28 in Dubai in December, world leaders approved a pact to “transition away from fossil fuels” – the first explicit mention of fossil fuels in global climate-agreement history. Nationally, we celebrated stronger protections from mining and drilling in the Boundary Waters, the Arctic Refuge, Bristol Bay and Chaco Canyon.
As the year comes to a close, we are reflecting on the work we’ve done at Environment Massachusetts to protect our environment– from preserving our oceans, to advocating for more renewable energy, to reducing our reliance on single-use plastics. Here are three highlights from 2023, which we could not have pulled off without you:
1. Knock, knock, who’s there? Clean energy movement-builders.
We know transitioning Massachusetts off of fossil fuels will take a village (a very large village). In May, we launched our annual grassroots effort for important environmental reforms: the summer canvass. This year, we campaigned in support of 100% renewable energy.
Massachusetts’ reliance on fossil fuels is harmful for our health and for the planet. Instead, we can harness energy from the sun and the wind to power our lives, which is why we’re building support for the 100% Clean Act (H.3689). The bill, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker and Rep. Sean Garballey, would transition the Bay State to 100% clean electricity by 2035 and 100% clean heating by 2045.
From the Cape to the Berkshires, Environment Massachusetts campaign organizers went door-to-door, educating the public about our work, mobilizing residents to make environmental change, and raising money to fund our campaigns. After tens of thousands of conversations with Bay Staters and 9,000 petition signatures collected, campaign organizers met with state legislators to deliver the grassroots support for the 100% Clean Act.
2. Protecting our underwater treasures
Our oceans are at-risk– of overfishing, oil drilling, coral bleaching, and rising temperatures. Our marine ecosystems and the diverse wildlife that call the ocean home are suffering from unsustainable and harmful human activities.
In 2023, Environment Massachusetts built support to protect our oceans, specifically Cashes Ledge – an important underwater mountain range 90 miles off the coast of Boston in the Gulf of Maine. Cashes Ledge is a biodiversity hotspot: home to New England’s healthiest kelp forests, as well as incredible and endangered species, including humpback whales, seabirds, and one of the last largest remaining populations of North Atlantic Cod.
In partnership with MASSPIRG Students, we called on President Biden to permanently protect Cashes Ledge under his commitment to protect 30% of America’s oceans by 2030. In December, student leaders, organizers, and environmental experts met with Congressional lawmakers, including Senator Markey’s office urging permanent protection of Cashes Ledge. Our team delivered petition signatures at their district offices with an additional letter of support from 350+ faculty, small businesses, student and environmental groups across New England.
3. Solar panels & wind turbines & heat pumps, oh my! Renewables are on the Rise.
In 2023, clean energy is booming in Massachusetts. Roofs across the Commonwealth are increasingly adorned in solar panel arrays, and wind turbines are spinning far off in the ocean, delivering renewable energy to homes far and wide.
In October, we released our Renewables on the Rise report, which tracks the exponential clean energy progress we’ve seen in the last decade. In Massachusetts, we are producing 10 times as much solar power as we did a decade ago, in 2013. And we’re not slowing down: Vineyard Wind, the 62-turbine wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, will be turning the switch on before the end of 2023– at its full capacity, it will power 400,000 homes in MA with clean energy.
Environment Massachusetts advocates and coalition-partners gathered under the solar canopy of the University of Massachusetts, Boston’s parking garage to celebrate the report’s findings, and the role institutions of higher learning are playing in the clean energy transition.
Whether we are researching reports, building coalitions, lobbying decision-makers, speaking to the press, or mobilizing a campaign, we simply could not do any of it without you.
Clean Energy Associate, Environment Massachusetts
Lydia is spearheading campaigns to transition Massachusetts to 100% clean, renewable energy to make our homes and buildings more efficient, and to enact policies to incentivize the widespread adoption of solar rooftops. In her free time, Lydia enjoys ballet, crochet and cooking.