On Thursday, May 12th Cambridge business leaders and policymakers came together for a panel discussion on wide-ranging topics related to climate change. Cambridge is at the forefront of climate change planning and mitigation policy, and serves as a role model for the rest of the state.
The event highlighted the successes of smart climate change planning in Cambridge and evaluated how to take these initiatives to the state level. The panel featured John Bolduc, Environmental Planner for the City of Cambridge, as well as two state legislators whose districts include parts of Cambridge, Representative Marjorie Decker and Representative Jonathan Hecht.
Cambridge’s Community Development Department (CCD) has set many climate change initiatives and targets over the years. The Climate Protection Action Committee goals call for an increase in off-site municipal supply to 5% by 2020 and community choice aggregation to 20% by 2020. From energy efficiency and building energy disclosure to the plastic bag ban, policies enacted in Cambridge have the ability to set a precedent for the surrounding communities in the state.
The panel discussion took place before the highly anticipated state (‘omnibus’) energy bill, expected to be announced any day now. While Cambridge is taking the lead on procuring its own renewable energy, many business leaders working in the city expressed their concern over state policies regarding renewable energy.
Although the omnibus energy bill is expected to call for some type of “combo platter” of energy sources, including hydro and offshore wind, the exact details are not yet available, and the final outcome is unknown. As policymakers consider our energy supply needs , the business community has been speaking out against any additional natural gas pipelines paid for by a new tax on their energy bill. Concerned over their energy costs, many have also expressed the need to fix the thousands of leaks in existing pipelines.
Representative Decker and Representative Hecht both noted the importance of the business voice in the political process. Groups like Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and utility lobbyists continue to dominate the conversation in the state house, but many local business leaders do not agree with these big-business priorities. Many attendees expressed their view during the discussion that large-scale deployment of renewable energy is the smart, affordable choice.