Boston has long been a leader on climate action — and ahead of the United Nations’ climate talks later this year, we’re gearing up to advance that role further. This week, the City of Boston and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission are hosting a delegation of urban sustainability directors from 19 large cities around the world to share policies and practices to help inform the next round of international climate negotiations in Paris in December.
Since the adoption of Boston’s executive order on climate change in 2007, city officials and the business community have taken action to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Our work has included such achievements as: saving the city $1.4 million annually through energy efficiency opportunities, strengthening our buildings’ green standards, creating more than 90 miles of bike lanes, rapidly expanding our bike-share program to include more than 12,000 members, and gathering data on building energy usage so we can make smart choices in achieving our greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets.
All these efforts to reach our climate and sustainability goals could not be achieved without the commitment and leadership of Boston residents. Prior to the updated Climate Action Plan released early last year, hundreds of people showed up to public forums and participated in the process that led to our action plan. With the help of the Greenovate Boston initiative, people are staying engaged and taking action, from choosing public transportation over driving to turning thermostats down to conserve energy.
In addition, the 34-member Green Ribbon Commission is working to reduce Boston’s carbon footprint. A coalition of top executives and community leaders with expertise in energy, health care, real estate, construction, biotech, tourism, financial services, philanthropy, government, and more provides counsel to City Hall, develops shared strategies to mitigate climate change, and leads by example in implementation of energy efficiency and clean energy practices in their own institutions.
Boston’s goal is to inhibit the advances of climate change, while ensuring resilience in the face of inevitable rising seas and other environmental changes already underway. We believe working together across key sectors will help us discover the innovative steps that will not only serve Boston, but benefit other leading cities around the world. That’s why Boston is a member of C40, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, and why the city participated in the US-China Climate Cities Summit in Los Angeles earlier this month. We understand that collaboration is key, and this week’s gathering of like-minded people from diverse places will facilitate the sharing of best practices and the birth of new ideas for scalable and replicable actions across the globe.
We have crossed a threshold in the conversation around climate change. The international leaders visiting Boston this week are putting their heads together to address a global problem that they know will dramatically impact all of our lives. Those impacts — some already happening — will take many forms that affect our environment, economy, and public health. Had Hurricane Sandy hit just five hours earlier, Boston could have experienced losses similar to and on the scale of those seen along the coasts of New Jersey and New York. We know it is not only right but necessary to contribute our local solutions to this global issue.
We welcome the opportunity to work together toward our mutual goal of benefiting those most threatened, as well as our own citizens of Boston. We are delighted to bring this esteemed group to our city and look forward to rolling up our sleeves together.
Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston. Amos B. Hostetter Jr is cofounder of the Barr Foundation and cochair of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission.