Acting On Climate Change
Climate change poses an existential threat to our city, country, and planet. According to the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment, between 1895 and 2011, temperatures in the Northeastern United States have risen by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit. This data may seem distant, but it was collected at Milton’s Blue Hill Observatory, just a few miles from our city. As a member of the generation tasked with taking on climate change, this issue must be treated with the urgency it demands at every level.
Newton has taken strides in this fight. Our city’s Climate Action Plan has given us concrete targets and a path forward. Now it is up to city leaders and residents to make it a reality. The Newton Power Choice Program now has a default of 80% renewable energy, with an option to increase to 100%. This is the highest default for a renewable energy municipal program in Massachusetts (as of 2019). But we can not afford to stop there. Newton residents of all ages deserve a safe, healthy environment in which they can raise their children and strengthen their communities. For Newton to continue to be a leader on climate, we must implement bold, progressive action.
We need stronger plans for carbon reductions and neutrality, especially through public facilities and sustainable infrastructure.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 to prevent irreversible damage. The current goal in Newton’s Climate Action Plan is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. This goal is a good start, but we should be using all the tools at our disposal to get there earlier. We also need to take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with the state and federal governments on this issue.
We need to retrofit our public facilities, many of which are old and poorly insulated, making our cooling and heating systems unsustainable and inefficient.
We need to convert our city’s buildings and transportation systems to electricity rather than fossil fuels, as specified in the Newton Climate Action Plan.
We must push for electric heat in new buildings instead of fossil fuels so buildings are easier to fix in the future and adhere to our climate action goals.
In order to incentivize home energy improvements, I support pending legislation at the state level which would require homeowners to supply energy efficiency score cards when selling their home.
I also support economic incentives such as congestion pricing to reduce reliance on cars. We should establish parking fees based on the entire cost of parking (on public streets and in parking lots) including the construction, maintenance, and environmental costs.
As your City Councilor, I will advocate for improvements and restoration of sustainable infrastructure, especially for wetlands vulnerable to flooding. My neighborhood, Nonantum, is considered one of the most vulnerable areas, according to the 2018 Climate Action Plan. We need a plan for wetlands in Newton that are particularly at-risk as sea levels rise.
2. We must maintain, invest in, and expand our city’s parks and public green spaces.
Green space and park areas reduce air pollution, enhance immunity through exposure to microbiota, and have many mental health benefits. This is especially relevant to my neighborhood of Nonantum, where our beloved Pellegrini Park is in need of many improvements.
As we work toward these sustainable goals, I will also advocate for universal design in public green spaces. I will work with our disabled neighbors to ensure that these spaces are accessible for all members of our community.
3. We need green transportation in our city.
Transportation is one of the largest contributors to climate change, accounting for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions annually, on average. That number is even higher in our city, as 31% of our emissions come from transportation. I will advocate for a Green Transportation Plan – including expanded bike lanes and paths, improved walkability within the city for pedestrians, and improved accessibility to the MBTA and Green Line within Newton. We need to establish clear car-free routes to and from school. We can do so by making it easier for students to walk and bike, which is beneficial to both environmental and physical health. I also support efforts to ensure that our new housing projects are transit-oriented. This will make living in Newton more attainable for young people, especially young families, who might not have a car.
We also need to improve the accessibility of electric vehicles (EVs) through expanded charging infrastructure, especially in new housing developments. It is also critical that we eliminate parking minimums and set aside parking spots in village centers and other lots for electric vehicles.
4. We need to promote state and local solutions to fix our city’s gas leaks.
Newton currently has 926 unrepaired gas leaks in our city’s underground gas pipelines, which pose a danger to our physical health and cost our city a considerable amount of money. We must ensure that the leaks are located, measured, and repaired diligently, that utility companies are held accountable, and that we never allow ourselves to let this issue go unwatched.
5. We need diverse housing options to make our city as sustainable and vibrant as possible.
Buildings and construction account for 36% of global energy usage and 39% of our energy-related carbon emissions. We should be minimizing teardowns and the constructions of megamansions, both of which use considerable energy and resources. Multi-family housing is not just more accessible and affordable for lower and middle income individuals and families, but these units are also more environmentally efficient in terms of their water, energy, and land usage. They will lower our carbon footprint and welcome a new, young generation to our city.
6. I am committed to supporting and uplifting the advocacy of groups in our city leading the charge on climate action.
I will be an ally to the groups in our city fighting for the bold and necessary solutions to the climate crisis. The work of groups like Green Newton, Mothers Out Front, and the Newton North Climate Collective push our city to think bigger and confront environmental issues with the urgency they deserve. They will always have a seat at my table. I am also looking forward to collaborating with groups like the Newton Citizens Committee on Energy and other city leaders to ensure that we use every tool at our disposal to make our city a more environmentally-just place.