By Ella Kamm
Somerville was recently recognized as a global leader in the fight against climate change. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) ranked Somerville as one of just 95 cities around the globe working transparently to stave off the effects of climate change in 2021.
The organization, which helps companies and cities measure and reduce their environmental impact, awards top honors to the cities that publicly disclose their emissions, set emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for the future and publish a climate action plan, among other indicators.
Fewer than 10% of the cities scored by the CDP were listed on the charity’s “A List.” Boston and Lexington, MA also made the list.
“By reporting climate data through CDP each year, Somerville is being transparent about its climate action, tracking progress, monitoring risks and benchmarking against other cities facing similar challenges,” Christine Blais, acting director of sustainability and environment for the City of Somerville, wrote in a statement to the Daily. “In doing so, Somerville is able to learn from and collaborate with other cities and organizations to accelerate its climate action.”
Blais explained that beyond the criteria the CDP uses to curate its list of global climate leaders, Somerville has taken a number of steps to reduce emissions and promote sustainability. Among them is the Community Choice Electricity Program, which provides utility users with vetted options for which to source their electricity supply. The city is also a founding member of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative, a regional partnership among communities in Greater Boston working to protect the area from climate-intensified risks.
Somerville Climate Forward, announced in 2018, is the city’s first comprehensive climate change plan. Its goals include reducing the city’s negative environmental impacts and preparing for the inevitable consequences of climate change. Blais said that the plan also considers the unequal burden of climate change on different populations and aims to fairly distribute the opportunities created by climate action.
“The plan represents the next step of a multi-year planning process that began with Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s commitment to making Somerville carbon neutral or having a net-zero release of GHG emissions, by 2050,” she said. “Now, Mayor Ballantyne is going a step further. She has set a goal for Somerville to become net-zero carbon negative by 2050.”
Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne stressed the importance of climate action in her inaugural address earlier this month.
“We face unprecedented pressures to act boldly and swiftly on climate change,” she said. “My administration will get straight to work on environmental sustainability and climate change initiatives. I have two daughters, and, like many of you, the world they will inherit from us is a huge concern for me.”
Ballantyne, who proposed Somerville’s Green New Deal in 2019, has revealed that her environmental goals for the city include electrifying infrastructure like buildings and vehicles, creating more green space and supporting green jobs in Somerville.
Action items on Ballantyne’s 100-Day Agenda include establishing a Climate Justice Summer Youth Jobs Program, setting a goal to create the most ecologically restorative city landscape in the region and increasing equal access within the Blue Bikes bike-share program.
According to Jennifer Reilly, a spokesperson for Tufts’ Office of Sustainability, the office and the university at large interact with Somerville’s sustainability efforts in numerous ways. In 2018, for example, Tufts ran a workshop with community members and staff from local municipalities on the Medford/Somerville campus to identify potential climate emergencies and create recommendations for solutions and strategies.
“Many departments and student groups at Tufts collaborate with the surrounding community to educate and support sustainable action at the local level.” The Office of Sustainability encourages sustainable commuting to our campuses and has a Bluebikes partnership available in Somerville, Cambridge, Boston, Brookline and Everett,” Reilly wrote in an email to the Daily. “Tufts Government and Community Relations offers Tufts Community Grants and other programs to support sustainability in many forms in our communities.”
Blais urged communities to come together to mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change in urban areas.
“Cities cover less than 2% of the world’s surface, yet they are home to 55% of the world’s population and account for 70% of global emissions,” Blais said. “To change everything it takes everyone. Somerville’s success would not be possible without the support of the community.”