State Director, Environment Massachusetts
State Director, Environment Massachusetts
Boston – Responding to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, advocates and concerned citizens gathered at the State House today to call for repowering Massachusetts with 100 percent clean, renewable energy like solar and wind.
“With President Trump stepping back on climate change, Massachusetts’ leaders need to step forward,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “Our climate and our health can’t wait. We’re calling on state leaders to commit to achieving 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts as rapidly as possible.”
Environmentalists, business leaders, local officials, and students urged legislative leaders to push back against President Trump’s anti-clean-energy agenda by fast-tracking the 100% Renewable Energy Act, filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), and Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge). The bill would put Massachusetts on track to source 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035, and heat its buildings and power its transportation system entirely with renewable energy by 2050.
Speakers also urged Governor Baker to do everything in his power to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, including following through on his administration’s pledge to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
“We will not reverse the destructive effects of climate change if we don’t take bold policy actions today,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge. “Moving to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 will boost our green economy, and ensure that we’re leading the nation on protecting our environment and health.”
“President Trump’s recent withdrawl from the Paris Climate Agreement has made our mission of combating climate change in Massachusetts a moral obligation to achieve,” said Representative Sean Garballey. “This legislation represents a continued commitment to fostering a healthy planet and sustainable future for generations to follow. “
“Massachusetts has always been a leader in championing a bold progressive vision of America,” said Representative Marjorie Decker. “Setting a goal of 100 percent renewable energy has never been more important in the face of President Trump’s regular attacks on policy that protects our environment. We must send a message that climate change is a priority.”
The Paris climate agreement, negotiated in December 2015, is an agreement between nearly every country in the world to limit global warming pollution to a level necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.
On June 1, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement. Since President Trump’s announcement, hundreds of American cities, universities, and businesses have said they will continue to take action to meet the targets of the Paris agreement.
“Now more than ever, we must address the reality of climate change through investing in 100 percent renewable energy sources,” said Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley, chair of the Council’s Environment & Sustainability Committee. “A lack of leadership and outright hostility in Washington hindering efforts to combat climate change means that cities and towns in this Commonwealth must lead the way.”
“The business community knows the financial and physical risks of not taking the realities of climate change seriously,” said Jesse Mermell, President of the Alliance for Business Leadership. “Combating climate change and investing in clean energy is not just a chance to do good and protect our environment for future generations, but an opportunity for economic growth and job creation through innovation.”
Governor Charlie Baker recently joined a bipartisan alliance of governors pledging to uphold the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Environmental leaders praised the move, but urged Governor Baker to follow through with concrete action to reduce pollution.
Speakers at the rally pointed to several areas where Governor Baker could take immediate action to follow through on his commitment, including strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and improving a proposed incentive program to increase access to solar energy for everyone.
Today’s rally was sponsored by Environment Massachusetts, Massachusetts Sierra Club, Climate Action Now, MASSPIRG Students, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future, Boston Clean Energy Coalition, Greening Greenfield, Alliance for Climate Education, and Consumers for Sensible Energy.
“Climate change affects all of us, but young people will live to see the greatest impacts,” said Maggie Slein, a Senior Action Fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education and a recent graduate of Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree. “Committing to 100 percent renewable energy in our local communities and statewide will help keep us moving in the right direction on climate change.”
Scientists predict that climate change will make extreme snow and rain storms more frequent, while increasing the severity of droughts like the one that Massachusetts experienced over the last two years. According to one estimate, sea levels could rise by more than seven feet in Boston by the end of this century unless we move rapidly to reduce global warming emissions.
Pollution from fossil fuels is also linked to a wide range of health problems, including asthma and cardiovascular disease. A recent report from the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center found that the Boston metropolitan area experienced 92 days with elevated levels of particulate pollution and 41 days with elevated smog pollution in 2015.
“Look at your children, your nieces, your nephews, your grandkids, the kids next door: we have a moral obligation to protect them from climate change,” said Daria Mark with Mothers Out Front. “To do that, we must create a comprehensive plan for Massachusetts to get to 100 percent renewable energy. And we need that plan now, for our children and for all children. They deserve nothing less.”
“People in my community are concerned about climate change and are taking action to solve this problem — which is one of the biggest problems facing my generation” said Joel Hitchens, a history and environmental studies major and a member of the MASSPIRG Students chapter at UMass Boston. “Despite federal attacks on our environment, I do not feel apathetic. I don’t feel worried, because I know that we can keep organizing and working locally to address climate change.”
Recently, Clean Water Action, Mass Climate Action Network, 350 Massachusetts, and Environment Massachusetts released a toolkit for local activists interested in moving their town or city closer to 100 percent renewable energy, on behalf of the Mass Power Forward coalition.
So far, at least four Massachusetts communities — Salem, Cambridge, Framingham, and Leverett — have committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.
“The time for bold leadership is now,” said Hellerstein. “Massachusetts can blaze the trail towards a future powered entirely with clean, renewable energy.”
“In the era of Donald Trump, it is more incumbent upon Massachusetts to lead,” said Emily Norton, Chapter Director for the Massachusetts Sierra Club. “Governor Baker is to be commended for joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, but words must be followed with action. Gov. Baker’s support for a new $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline is not consistent with the Paris Accord, nor is his severe underfunding of the very agencies that carry out environmental protection duties.”
“The League of Women Voters has supported meaningful environmental and energy legislation since the 1960s as a basic function of good government working through a democratic process, on behalf of the public welfare,” said Launa Zimmaro, Legislative Specialist, Climate and Energy, for the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “The 100% Renewable Energy Act is a tremendous opportunity to show true leadership and vision for a livable future, if enacted.”
“The fact of the matter is that states need to lead now,” said Andrew Gordon, Legislative Coordinator for 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future. “While joining the U.S. Climate Alliance is a positive first step, it cannot be the only step we take. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard by setting clear ambitious goals that grow our clean energy sector for everyone. 100 percent renewables represents that standard.”