OPINION: Support the Selectmen’s CAP Warrant Article at the April 2021 Town Meeting!

Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash

January 11, 2021, Submitted by John H. Borger

Have you watched with increasing alarm the effects of climate change we see every day? Are you concerned about climate change and about what kind of world we will leave our children and grandchildren? Are you wondering what you can do personally? Well, now there is a way that you can have a real impact!

Hingham’s town government administrators understand your concerns and, even as they continue to deal with Covid19, are working to provide a powerful way that you can participate in a community-wide effort to fight climate change. While you may not have seen much publicity on these efforts, several groups in Hingham have been working hard over the last several years to lay the groundwork for development of a comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CAP). These include, but are not limited to:

  • The Energy Action Committee, a chartered Town committee focused on more efficient use of energy
  • Cleaner Greener Hingham, promoting better environmental stewardship
  • Hingham Net Zero, a grassroots climate action group supporting individual efforts to lower emissions

Most recently, the Selectmen convened the Climate Action Plan Task Force, drawing membership from each of these groups. The Task Force has technical support from Planning Director Mary Savage-Dunham and a senior consultant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission with extensive CAP development experience, Brooks Winner. As the town web site explains, “This task force was formed to focus the conversation around climate action planning and develop the scope for Hingham to use in the development of a climate action plan”.

What is a “climate action plan”? Ultimately, It’s a commitment to reduce the town’s total emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from all relevant sources by a specified percentage, by a specific target date, with reference to a quantified “baseline” – total emissions measured as of a certain date. Several towns in Massachusetts have developed and published climate action plans. While specific targets vary, these plans all share the indispensable properties of being tailored to each town’s individual characteristics, opportunities and challenges, and are specific and measurable. They drew on a range of state-wide and regional studies and reflect the input of a wide range of contributors. They used town resources but depended heavily on citizen volunteers, including students.

For example, Concord has set the goal of an 80% reduction in total carbon emissions by 2050 through an initial five year plan to be periodically updated, incorporating a wide range of strategies developed with extensive input from stakeholders – individual citizens, businesses, civic groups, etc. Concord was able to finalize its plan with virtual meetings even as it battled the coronavirus. Other towns, such as Belmont, Newton, Winchester and Dedham have developed plans, with different targets, ranging from an 80% reduction in emissions to “net zero” emissions by 2050. The City of Boston has set the goal of reaching carbon neutrality (“net zero”) by 2050; the Commonwealth has set a state-wide goal of reducing emissions by 85% by 2050. Hingham needs our own CAP!

The methodology common to these plans is straightforward: 1) inventory the level of emissions from key sectors such as household heating and cooling, transportation, municipal light plant electricity sourcing, etc. 2) Identify sector-specific strategies to reduce emissions; 3) establish protocols to periodically measure progress and update plans. The plans typically list, for each sector, responsible leaders (or “champions”) and key enabling partners.

Hingham administrators plan to submit a warrant article to the 2021 Town Meeting. Based on the Task Force’s assessment of scope, they will propose a modest initial investment in staff and consulting resources to get started. But most important of all, they will be seeking your endorsement of the goal of developing a climate action plan for Hingham. Please let them know that you fully support this effort. PLEASE VOTE YES!

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