Column: A Bold Vision for a Clean Energy Future

Ahead of the Paris climate summit in late 2015, President Barack Obama said, “There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate.” The resulting Paris Climate Agreement, signed by virtually every country in the world, is the strongest global response yet to the climate crisis facing our planet. Unfortunately, President Trump withdrew the United States from this agreement and our federal government has abdicated its responsibility to combat climate change. This responsibility has now fallen on states, cities, towns, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Massachusetts is stepping up to this challenge.

The Commonwealth has prioritized a cleaner, more sustainable energy future for years. The Global Warming Solutions Act, a landmark piece of legislation enacted in 2008, set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. We are currently on track to achieve the 2020 goal. In 2016, the state legislature passed An Act Relative to Energy Diversity, which will lead to significant new investments in offshore wind and hydroelectric energy as well as energy storage technology. Our efforts to combat climate change are reducing emissions, improving public health, catalyzing new technologies and businesses, and creating tens of thousands of new green economy jobs.

But we can and must do more. Throughout 2017, the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, on which I serve, hosted ten public hearings across the Commonwealth, including one in our district. Throughout our “Massachusetts Clean Energy Future Tour” we heard feedback from concerned residents about the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels and speed up our transition to clean, renewable energy. You can read the report from the Tour at Also in 2017, the Senate passed legislation to establish a comprehensive adaptation management action plan (CAMP) in response to climate change. The plan would codify the goals and priorities for strengthening resiliency, preservation, protection, restoration, and enhancement of the Commonwealth’s built and natural infrastructure, based on data about existing and projected climate change impacts, including temperature change, flooding, and sea level rise. This legislation is now pending before the House of Representatives.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change released An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future, a comprehensive bill that is the most ambitious effort yet to tackle climate change. This legislation includes numerous strategies, such as: increasing the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for utilities by 3% annually; a sizable additional offshore wind energy procurement; removing solar net metering caps and increasing access to solar incentive programs; prohibiting any “pipeline tax” on electric ratepayers and requiring utilities to repair gas leaks; increasing energy storage capabilities; requiring new approaches to grid planning that prioritize clean, local energy sources; and, for the first time, establishing a carbon pricing mechanism to reduce emissions in the transportation and building sectors of the economy.

I’m hopeful that the Senate will soon debate and pass this legislation. It will ensure that Massachusetts is at the forefront globally of efforts to fight climate change and promote a clean energy future.