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Massachusetts Governor Creates Climate Change Strategy Through Executive Order

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Leadership & Transparency
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Climate change is a serious issue. It may even be the most serious issue of our day. One state recently took a big step to take climate change action. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order last week that spells out a plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The executive order directs state agencies to do what it takes to reduce GHG emissions and build resiliency within state government operations. Specifically, the offices of the Energy and Environmental Affairs and Public Safety and Security are directed to lead the development and implementation of a statewide climate adaptation plan. Each state agency will be required to pick a climate change coordinator who will create a vulnerability assessment, plus assist with implementing and coordination efforts to tackle climate change.

The towns and cities in Massachusetts are vulnerable to climate change. Massachusetts is in danger of sea level rise caused by climate change. Thirty percent of Boston could be plunged underwater, a report by Climate Ready Boston found. Governor Baker’s executive order directs two state agencies, Energy and Environmental Affairs and Public Safety and Security to coordinate climate change preparation assistance to cities and towns in the state.

Transportation, along with the electricity and building sectors, accounts for 90 percent of the state’s GHG emissions. Gasoline and diesel fuel for road, rail, air and marine transportation accounts for 39 percent of the state’s emissions. The Baker administration will work with state and regional transportation leaders plus environment and energy agencies to create an outline for the additional steps needed to develop regional policies to reduce emissions from the transportation sector.

The executive order comes at a time when half of Massachusetts is experiencing extreme drought. More frequent droughts in the state are expected and the average number of consecutive dry days is projected to increase by one to five days. Short term droughts of one to three months are projected to increase.

“Combatting and preparing for the impacts of climate change will require a holistic approach across state and local government and collaboration with stakeholders from all corners of the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker in a statement. “By signing this Executive Order, our administration is taking an important step to protect public health and safety, local infrastructure, small businesses, and our state’s abundant natural resources from the effects of climate change.”
The executive order comes months after the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that state regulators are required to set limits on the different sources of GHG emissions. The 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to reduces its GHG emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The state argued that under the law only the Department of Environmental Protection is required to set emissions targets, not specific limits. However, environmental groups have long countered that the state isn’t doing enough to reduce emissions by 25 percent. The ruling concluded that although the DEP’s “cited regulatory initiatives are important to the Commonwealth's overall scheme of reducing greenhouse gas emissions over time, they do not fulfil the specific requirements” of the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.

In August, Governor Baker signed energy diversity legislation into law that requires utilities in the state to competitively obtain 1,200 megawatts (MW) of clean energy generation including hydropower, solar and onshore wind. The legislation allows for about 1,600 MW of offshore wind energy. In July, the governor signed legislation to increase hydropower in the state. Massachusetts ranks 16 among states for renewable energy generation, according to energy.gov. It ranks number six among states for installed solar energy capacity, according to rankings by Ecotech Institute

Photo: Flickr/Dale Kruse

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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