Mayors and Managers from 15 Metro Boston cities, and towns, including Everett, gathered to celebrate the five-year anniversary of their Climate Preparedness Commitment this week, discussing ways the region can be prepared for an equitable, climate-forward recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual “Regional Climate Collaboration: a Metro Mayors Celebration” took place over Zoom, touting accomplishments the group has made since signing a 2016 commitment to become a net zero carbon emissions region by 2050.
The group met five years ago, in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, to form a “Climate Preparedness Taskforce” to address vulnerabilities in the region’s shared critical infrastructure, and to support local climate preparedness and mitigation efforts now underway. Since that time, more than 100 climate mitigation actions have been completed by the 15 communities in the task force, including preparing for intense heat, installing solar arrays, drafting local vulnerability plans, electrification of vehicle fleets, LED streetlight conversions, adding renewables to the grid, municipal compost programs, and more.
“At the time that we formed the task force, very few communities had the staff to tackle their climate risks or to prepare for the future on their own, and we knew that the effects of a changing climate didn’t stop at municipal borders,” said Rebecca Davis, Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), which staffs the Coalition. “We feel that there’s a very important role cities and towns can play in tackling the climate crisis, and that the policies and actions taken at the local level really help inform policy at the state and federal level.”
Established in 2001, the Metro Mayors Coalition includes mayors and city and town managers from Arlington, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Melrose, Medford, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop. Leaders from these communities all gathered for a roundtable discussion at Friday’s event, taking turns highlighting past successes and discussing ways to craft a post-COVID recovery that is green, resilient, and just for all residents of the region.
Each community in the coalition committed to undertaking at least three actions in five years, and every single Metro Mayors member achieved that; in fact, the entire coalition has completed individual Municipal Vulnerability Plans, and all are designated as Green Communities by the state.
The Metro Mayors region is home to 1.4 million people and hosts critical regional infrastructure potentially vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as the MBTA, Logan International Airport, the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Charles River and Amelia Earhart Dams, the Island End River and food distribution center in Chelsea, and several energy facilities. Many of those regional sites are now priority resilience areas for Massachusetts thanks to advocacy by the coalition to elected leaders.
“From the outset we realized all levels of government need to work together,” said Davis.
Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides offered recorded remarks at the event, thanking the Metro Mayors Coalition for its work to push the region toward net zero and applauding the region for making strides to reduce emissions even during a pandemic. Sec. Theoharides told viewers EOEEA is hoping to work with MAPC and the Legislature to design a future funding solution to support cities and towns in the challenge of meeting shared climate goals. She also announced that a new round of MVP funding will be released in the next few weeks.