Citizen involvement key to Climate Action Plan’s success

October 19, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer

Chair Brad Moyer recently presented a broad outline of the Climate Action Planning Committee's proposed Climate Action Plan to the Select Board, including potential actions at next spring's Annual Town Meeting.

The committee's public outreach plan is meeting its milestones, according to Moyer, and public sessions and open meetings have created "robust dialogue."

Actions that have been taken include establishing a link on the Town of Hingham website, a community survey, interviews with stakeholders, one to two public meetings a month, and regular updates to the board.

The CAPC's planning timeline is on track. Key dates include developing the contours of the plan, determining if any Town Meeting action is required, and if so, to prepare accordingly.

The goal is to complete a draft of the Climate Action Plan by the end of December and a final draft by March 31 in preparation for a Town Meeting vote on whether to adopt the plan.

Towns vary in their strategies and initiatives in targeting the areas of natural resources, buildings, energy, transportation and mobility, infrastructure and waste management, and public health and community preparedness.

Hingham's CAPC is focusing on six similar areas, including natural resources, energy, buildings, community, waste, and transportation, with detailed recommendations included within each category.

The goal is for Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant to lead on energy decarbonization as it relates to renewable energy, system upgrades, and reliability and resiliency.

"HMLP's commitment to go Net Zero is key to Hingham's electrification program," the report states. "Hingham's toughest challenge will be for all buildings to go Net Zero."

Potential items that may be raised at Town Meeting 2023 include:

  • potential funding for initiatives identified in the final Climate Action Plan
  • establishing a citizens' group to implement the plan
  • approving the residential PACE program if it becomes available. This would allow property owners to finance the up-front cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment.
  • adopting the most up-to-date stretch code, an initiative adopted by a number of towns across Massachusetts requiring buildings to meet higher energy efficiency standards.
  • establish limits on new natural gas hook-ups
  • establish limits on new oil heat boilers to encourage electric heat pump transition.

The plan serves as a guide to what may be included in a warrant article(s).

The report explains that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 "is a treasure trove to assist Hingham in meeting its Net Zero goals, offering lucrative incentives."

Next steps include incorporating comments from the recent CAPC survey, interviews, public meetings, and Select Board comments; completing a draft Climate Action Plan;  finalizing the plan and sharing it with the community leading up to next spring's Town Meeting; and identifying specific items for Town Meeting consideration.

The CAPC suggests that the public stay involved and share their input.

The draft plan will be reviewed at a public meeting in January 2023. Continued involvement by the public is key to the plan's success.

"The report was very positively received by the board, with appreciation expressed for the work of the committee," Select Board Chair William Ramsey told the Hingham Anchor following the meeting. "We are prepared to help the committee achieve their goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to lessen the effects of climate change."

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