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‘There’s no way to sugarcoat it.’ The state’s first climate report card is out, and the grades are mixed.

A sailboat rests on the shore of Scituate Harbor in Scituate in October 2021.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

If Massachusetts is going to zero out its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as state law demands, it requires nothing short of a radical transformation — heat pumps instead of gas and oil furnaces; electric cars and buses quietly whirring down streets in place of gas-guzzlers; and electricity powered by wind and solar, rather than gas, oil or coal.

So — how’s it going?

The state’s first-ever annual climate report card was released Friday morning, and it offered up a mixed review. While heat pumps and electric vehicles are on the rise and clean energy is increasingly coming online, there is a long, potholed road ahead to get to the state’s near-term targets for the years 2025 and 2030.


“There’s no way to sugarcoat it: We’ve got a lot of work to do, and some big hurdles to cross,” said Jeremy McDiarmid, managing director of the clean energy advocacy group Advanced Energy United. “What this report card shows is that the 2030 reductions are far from a sure thing,”

The report card is one of several promises made by Melissa Hoffer, the state’s climate chief. The goal is to keep the state accountable for the work, or lack thereof, that’s underway, even if it isn’t always pretty.

“The report card shows us exactly what we need to do and it’s a call to action,” Hoffer said. “We need every person to join in this effort — this is our moment.”

A quick snapshot of where things stand:

There were 70,689 electric passenger vehicles on the road in 2022. By 2025, the state needs to nearly triple that. And by 2030, it needs 900,000 electric vehicles, according to the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan, which laid out benchmarks for meeting its climate target.

As to where to plug all those cars in, the state had 6,436 electric vehicle public charging ports as of Nov. 29 — less than half of the 15,000 needed by 2025, and a small fraction of the 75,000 needed by the end of the decade.


When it comes to buildings, nearly 30,000 households had heat pumps installed in the first half of 2023 through the Mass Save program. That’s a boom in recent years, but still less than a third of the 100,000 that’s needed by 2025, and a far cry from the half million needed by the end of the decade. (In Maine, meanwhile, the state surpassed its goal of 100,000 heat pumps by 2025 earlier this year, and decided to up the goal to 175,000 by 2027).

The numbers lay things out starkly: The hard work is yet to come. “The Commonwealth appears generally well-positioned to hit 2025 benchmarks — but bold interventions will be needed to meet 2030 decarbonization targets,” said Kate Dineen, president of A Better City.

Consider the power supply — after all, it’s also crucial that the electricity is created in clean ways too.

Between in-state resources (mostly hydroelectric and solar) and out-of-state resources that Massachusetts buys credits for, nearly half of the state’s electricity demand was met by clean resources in 2021. But much of that was achieved via low-hanging fruit. A significant portion of the state’s electricity comes from hydroelectric and nuclear power plants that have been on the grid for decades, while Massachusetts is also now reaping the benefits of an explosive growth in solar nationwide.


But where we go from here relies heavily on the development of offshore wind — meaning that achieving the state’s clean energy targets will require propping up an entirely new industry. The good news is that the state’s first major offshore wind project, Vineyard Wind, is poised to start delivering power to the grid soon. Meanwhile, other projects have hit major roadblocks due to changing economic conditions that forced developers to scrap existing contracts that were no longer financially feasible.

There’s far to go, yet. But ambition never comes easy — Massachusetts is one of just 14 states that’s set a goal to be carbon neutral by mid-century or earlier.

“We are entering the hardest part of meeting our climate goals,” Katherine Antos, state undersecretary for decarbonization and resilience, said in a press briefing about the report card. “So that is why we are both on track for where we said we would be, but also we know that more is needed and interventions are needed.”

One place where there’s clearly room for improvement is environmental justice. “Low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous and tribal communities, English-isolated populations, and others have borne the brunt of environmental impacts, burdens, and negative public health outcomes,” the report reads. But there are not currently any metrics listed in the report card to track what the state is doing to address those inequities.

Antos said that’s a problem the Healey administration is working actively on, pointing to the creation of a new undersecretary and office dedicated to environmental justice and equity. She said the state is currently working on determining which metrics most accurately track progress, which will be added to future report cards.


Mary Wambui, who sits on the state Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, which oversees Mass Save and other state initiatives, said she has felt optimistic about the progress toward environmental justice initiatives over the past year.

“To be honest with you, this is the first administration that is not giving the environment and environmental justice just lip service,” said Wambui, who has been on the council since 2017. “It’s like the silos are beginning to break.”

She also said that while the state may not have adopted environmental justice metrics for the report card, there are several efforts underway — including a program to help low- and moderate-income households switch to heat pumps, and a plan to track how heat pumps are deployed across geographic areas to ensure Mass Save funds are spent equitably. “So the metrics are there,” she said.

As for resilience and adapting to changes in the climate, “It’s time to transition from planning to implementation,” said Dineen.

The report card also takes a look at conservation — after all, the state is aiming for net-zero emissions, not zero. That means that any emissions still remaining by 2050 will have to be negated by other measures that can remove emissions from the atmosphere — either nascent technologies that are not yet available at scale, or, more likely, natural solutions like conserved forests and wetlands.


In that area, the state is a leader in the Northeast, but needs to go much further. As of last year, 27 percent of the state was permanently protected. That number needs to hit at least 40 percent by 2050, according to the report card.

“We have to do more than the current ‘business as usual,’” said Steve Long, policy director at the Nature Conservancy Massachusetts. “We need to double the pace of land and water conservation. This is both ambitious and achievable.”

In all cases, the state’s report card calls for more, faster. More funding, more staffing, more incentives to drive consumer choice, more workforce training to fill jobs — more. And more progress navigating bureaucratic logjams while also forging energy partnerships with other states.

“We’ve always been eyes wide open about, ‘What are the challenges that we’re facing? And also, what are the opportunities that that presents?’,” said Antos. “What’s very important for the public to look at is how these pieces fit together.”

Sabrina Shankman can be reached at sabrina.shankman@globe.com. Follow her @shankman.