Climate Bill Finally Becomes Law: Grassroots Activists Across Massachusetts Celebrate Landmark Victory
Today, after months of back-and-forth with the legislature, Governor Baker has finally signed the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill into law. In late 2020, the Governor vetoed a previous version of the legislation. When it reached his desk again this January, he sided with real estate industry interests and attempted to water down key provisions. This past week, House and Senate leaders responded to pressure from their constituents and put their foot down, overwhelmingly rejecting efforts to weaken the legislation. Today, the Governor finally capitulated and signed the bill into law.
Climate activists have been advocating for a bold legislative response to the climate crisis for the better part of a decade. Since January 2019, members of Mass Power Forward, a state-wide coalition of over 200 organizations, have been specifically prioritizing protections for environmental justice communities (now slated to become law), a just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy, and other policies that match the scope of the real threats of climate change.
In addition to the environmental justice protections included in the legislation, the coalition is also celebrating the creation of a new net zero stretch building code, allowing municipalities greater control over the quality and efficiency of new construction projects. The bill builds upon the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) by creating interim carbon emissions targets for 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045 as well as ‘sub limits’ (or targets) for major sectors (e.g. electric power, transportation, heating and cooling).
While this legislation represents a significant step forward and a foundation to build on, much work remains to address climate justice and emissions in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, Mass Power Forward released its 2021-2022 legislative priorities, which include: building on the environmental justice policies in the Next Generation bill with new air quality and infrastructure siting rules; a bold plan to retrofit one million Massachusetts homes; protections for renter and homeowners impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic; and a plan to transition the state’s electric, transportation, and building sectors to 100% clean energy.
Sofia Owen, Staff Attorney at ACE (Alternatives for Community and Environment): “Environmental racism continues to be a reality in Massachusetts. Black, Brown, and low-income communities have been targeted with decades of pollution, resulting in higher rates of asthma and health issues that make it harder to breathe and higher risks of contracting COVID-19. By signing this bill, Governor Baker has taken the first step in addressing this injustice, giving communities of color and low-income communities more effective tools to protect their health and environment from pollution. Our neighborhoods have been dumping grounds for pollution and toxic industry for decades and this bill, finally, can start to change that. We are grateful to our legislative sponsors and allies and look forward to continuing to work toward a healthy environment and a just future for Massachusetts.”
In response, Jacob Stern, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter issued the following statement:
“I guess the third time’s the charm! While it’s great to see the Governor finally get onboard, it’s the House and Senate members who have truly demonstrated a commitment to the safety of their communities and growing Massachusetts’ green economy. This groundbreaking legislation will put the state on track to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the current decade while also putting the needs of environmental justice communities first.”
In response, says Claire Müller, Movement Building Director of UU Mass Action said:
“Finally! Governor Baker vetoed this bill twice and yet still it moves forward. Too many people have already been forced to sacrifice their homes and their health due to our collective dependency on fossil fuels. We are glad to see that finally, Massachusetts legislators codify Environmental Justice into law. This is an important step forward. We have to make bold leaps forward to make up for lost time.”
In response, Sylvia Broude, Executive Director of Community Action Works Campaigns said:
“Finally, environmental justice is law in Massachusetts. This bill is a commitment to do better to protect Black, Indigenous, people of color communities and poor communities across the state who have been sacrifice zones for far too long. The bill also expands our state’s commitment to truly clean, renewable energy, making way for a future where no community in Massachusetts is forced to breathe air polluted by fossil fuels. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this bill is one step on the way there.”
In response, Cabell Eames, Legislative Manager for 35O Massachusetts said:
“The cries of the people from all over the state have been heard today, as they have been fighting for years to get sensible climate legislation passed. This is only the beginning of where we need to go- and we’re ready to propel forward, so that a sustainable future is not only possible, it can be expected.”
Sarah Dooling, MCAN, issued the following statement:
“This is the first piece of climate legislation passed in Massachusetts in over a decade, and creates the foundation for bold and robust statewide climate policy for years to come. This win would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of local advocates. We know that our work is far from over. But today we are better positioned than ever to keep up our advocacy for stronger protections for Environmental Justice communities, a rapid transition off of polluting sources of energy, and an efficiency-based Net Zero building code that ALL communities can adopt. MCAN is looking forward to continuing our work with you to hold the Baker Administration accountable to a liveable, breathable, renewable, and equitable future in Massachusetts and beyond.”
Eben Bein, MA Field Coordinator for Our Climate and Administrator for the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition: “Young people from across the MA Youth Climate Coalition lobbied hard for many key components of this bill. It is only one step toward science-based and equitable climate justice, but it lays a critical groundwork for the coming sessions.”