Government is not moving urgently enough to address the climate crisis, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said on Thursday without hesitation, calling on state and federal leaders to move more swiftly.
“No,” Wu said flatly, to chuckles from the audience, in response to a question from Boston Globe Washington DC Bureau Chief Jackie Kucinich about whether officials at the federal level share the urgency Wu feels about the climate crisis.
But it’s not just the federal government falling short, Wu added, citing obstacles from Massachusetts state officials and even barriers within the city of Boston itself.
“Just to be fair, I would even say that the urgency that I feel is not even reflected in our policies at the city level,” Wu added. “I feel desperate and impatient every day, seeing the headlines, thinking about the world that my kids are going to grow up in, and then coming up against the reality of systems that take a long time to move.”
Wu’s comments came on the third day of the Boston Globe’s annual summit. During a 30-minute conversation with Kucinich at WBUR CitySpace, Wu, who pitched herself as Boston’s Green New Deal mayor, offered an update on the city’s climate policies and called on state and federal leaders to expedite funding and other administrative approvals that she said would empower Boston to act more swiftly to combat the climate crisis.
“Much of what we need to do is beyond the scope of what the city’s resources can address comprehensively,” Wu said. Offering one example, she noted that half of the city’s coast is managed by the state, and the cost of making the shoreline resilient to rising seas is too high to be borne without federal assistance. “Needing to pit communities against each other, still, for infrastructure funding... is holding us back.”
Another barrier Wu named: a new state climate program that will allow 10 Massachusetts cities or towns to bar the use of fossil fuels in all new construction and major renovations. Boston is angling for a spot on the list, which Wu said would be “incredibly impactful.” But the mere fact that the program is so limited is a problem, Wu said.
“First of all, just the idea that we can pick 10 cities” — the mayor laughed — “and feel like this is the resources that are available. It is so frustrating to even be in the position of having to advocate either against another municipality, or to try to make our case, really, in comparison to many other much, much smaller cities and towns who have a very different set of goals.”
“I would just implore the state — I mean, it’s a choice that we are putting a cap at 10,” Wu said. “It’s better than zero.... But we’re in a race against a clock to completely reshape our built environment and consumption and societal habits and energy sources. And we need every possible barrier taken down.”