New Massachusetts Bill a Win for Equitable Climate Policy, Says Science Group

Legislation Strengthens Climate Targets, Environmental Justice and Clean Energy and Transportation

Published Mar 19, 2021

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (March 19, 2021)—The Massachusetts legislature has passed a long-awaited bill addressing climate change, advancing environmental justice and boosting clean energy and clean transportation. This bill commits the state to net-zero emissions by 2050, with clear sector-specific targets for 2030 and 2040, and addresses long-standing socioeconomic inequities through strong environmental justice protections. The bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, puts Massachusetts on a path toward a cleaner, healthier, more equitable commonwealth for all residents, and for future generations, according to experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“The bill's passage is a landmark win for equitable climate policy in Massachusetts,” said Paula García, senior bilingual energy analyst with the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “It’s a serious effort to reduce emissions and the danger that climate change poses to communities across the commonwealth. The new targets are grounded in science and are ambitious enough to make sure Massachusetts is leading the way on fighting climate change.”

The bill targets a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, on the path to net-zero emissions by 2050. A 2020 United Nations Environment Program report confirmed that the world could see a 3 degree rise in temperature this century without sharp and rapid emissions cuts. Without decisive action, Massachusetts residents will be even more exposed to rising sea levels and extreme heat. The new climate bill would help ensure Massachusetts is doing its share to reduce these risks.

UCS experts praised the significant environmental justice provisions in the bill. “Protections for Black, Brown, Indigenous, immigrant and low-income communities are long overdue,” said García. “These communities bear a disproportionate share of the harm from pollution and climate change, yet they’ve been historically excluded from decisions around policy and development. The environmental justice movement has been fighting for decades to end these inequities, and this bill reflects their efforts, particularly in how it requires the consideration of cumulative impacts from new projects.”

To help achieve its climate targets, the bill sets sector-specific requirements, including for the electricity sector. The result, UCS experts say, will be a big boost for renewable power.

“The bill will spur more progress in the deployment of cleaner energy sources,” García said. “It will lead to investments in solar energy, offshore wind and greater energy efficiency—investments that will create good jobs as well as reduce pollution.”

The bill also directly addresses emissions from transportation, the largest source of global warming emissions in the commonwealth.

“Transportation is the only sector in Massachusetts where emissions are higher today than they were in 1990,” said Paulina Muratore, Senior Transportation Campaign Coordinator at UCS. “We can’t solve the problem of climate change without addressing pollution from cars, trucks and buses, which is why it’s so important that this bill sets sector-specific limits. Those vehicle standards are reinforced by the push this bill gives toward renewable energy—creating a cleaner grid that can, and must, power the electrified vehicles of the future.”

The climate bill is the result of multiple legislative sessions and careful negotiations between legislators and stakeholders from across the commonwealth. UCS experts praised the persistence of the bill’s sponsors and the legislative leaders who prioritized it, and call on the Governor to sign it swiftly into law this time, after vetoing it twice previously.

“This bill is the foundation for a cleaner, safer and healthier future for Massachusetts, and a model for the country,” said García. “We look forward to seeing this bill signed into law, and to having the administration make these really important changes that our economy and our future depend on. We also look forward to the legislature continuing its efforts to reduce pollution and create an equitable clean-energy economy in the months and years to come.”