By Jack Clarke
Massachusetts needs its own Green New Deal – but it needs to be a deal of action.
Although not a law but more a resolution expressing the will of the Congress on the necessity to address the climate crisis and economic inequality, the Green New Deal, filed by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and our own Sen. Ed Markey, was killed by the Senate in a vote following no review and analysis by legislative staff, no expert testimony or committee hearings, and no floor debate. The message was clear: the U.S. Senate does not want to discuss the climate’s breakdown. So we at the state level will.
The name harkens back to the New Deal and its social and economic reforms, and public works projects, undertaken by President Franklin Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression.
The Green New Deal echoes Roosevelt’s economic stimuli incentives and adds plans for renewable energy and resource efficiency.
FDR’s New Deal was not realized in one bill in one year, but became law through various pieces of legislation over the first three years of his first administration. Beacon Hill lawmakers should also develop an ambitious multi-year plan to meaningfully confront climate change, the most urgent threat of our lifetime, in their version of a Green New Deal – but it needs to be more than a good idea. And it needs to pass.
Although the national Green New Deal is admittedly a vision statement, the Massachusetts version should be a statutory set of requirements with goals, targets, and reasonable dates that move us forward in addressing the climate breakdown.
Our version should start with and include at a minimum, laws establishing:
§ Zero net carbon emissions, meaning Massachusetts emits only the carbon emissions that it can capture or reabsorb – by 2050.
§ An annual increase in the amount of clean energy that utilities are required to buy, leading to 100 percent renewables – by 2047.
§ Environmentally responsible development of 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy, and quickly scaling up from there. This is well beyond the 1,600 MW required now – by 2027.
§ A carbon fee: Massachusetts and eight other states, along with the District of Columbia, are presently participating in the Transportation Carbon Initiative that would cap regional transportation emissions and require fuel wholesalers to buy pollution permits for the fuels they sell. Revenues from the sale of the permits would then go back to states for investments in public transit, electric vehicles, bike lanes, and other initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector – by 2021. And if the regional approach fails, Massachusetts needs to be ready to go out on our own and pass a statewide carbon fee.
§ Improved solar options: allow net metering not just for Massachusetts homes but for all non-residential solar facilities to free up Bay State businesses and communities to build more solar projects, create more jobs, and allow for millions of dollars of investments – by 2021.
§ Create green jobs: Mobilize the academic and research assets of the Commonwealth to more fully contribute to the innovation economy and create more green jobs. This will require increased investments of private and state funds in Massachusetts’ 114 colleges and universities to research and apply advanced technologies in the fields of deep-water offshore wind energy, solar, carbon capture and re-use, and long-term high-quantity battery storage. This investment in education and innovation would unleash clean energy jobs. Although there are 110,700 such jobs in the Commonwealth workforce today, it’s still just 3 percent of Massachusetts employment. It needs to grow substantially – by 2021.
§ Environmental, social and economic justice principles should be embedded in all newly passed state laws whereby the power of communities of color, low-income, rural, indigenous, under-represented and non-English speaking residents in Massachusetts would be harnessed to help eradicate environmental racism and classism, to create healthy, and sustainable communities – by 2019.
The changes we experience today, such as stronger storms, accelerated sea-level rise, and intense heat are just the beginning of what should be expected.
There needs to be a sense of urgency on Beacon Hill when it comes to our climate emergency, especially as recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment warn we have only 12 years to figure out a solution before things really start to fall apart.
For my grandchildren, six year old Haley and her five year old brother Jack, who will be teenagers in twelve years, it is time for lawmakers to act, and to act now.
Jack Clarke is the director of public policy and government relations at Mass Audubon.