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WTS-Boston April Luncheon on Climate Change

May 3, 2016 12:00 PM

Photo by http://frankmonkiewicz.com/

Written By: Zachary Hellyar, CDM Smith

The WTS-Boston April 2016 luncheon topic was Climate Change and the Commonwealth: A Panel Discussion.   Our panel of speakers consisted of Amy Longsworth, Director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC), Carl Spector, Commissioner of the Environment Department for the City of Boston,  and Steven Miller, Supervisor of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Highway Division’s Environmental Management System and Sustainability efforts.  The moderator for the discussion was Stephanie DiNezio, Project Manager within MassDOT’s Environmental Services Department.

This panel of experts represented several different perspectives on the topic of climate change.  Steve Miller is currently the project manager for the Central Artery vulnerability assessment program and has worked with numerous states and federal and international agencies to advance the understanding of climate vulnerability and to develop climate change adaptation strategies.  Amy Longsworth  has more than 20 years of experience in helping corporate leadership shape their sustainability and business strategies to minimize risk and identify opportunities.  Carl Spector oversees programs in climate change, environmental protection, historical preservation, and other aspects of sustainability for the City of Boston.

The panelists demonstrated the importance of public and private partnerships in achieving common goals, and were a remarkable representation of the collaboration efforts required in tackling climate change preparedness and adaptation at the local, state, and regional levels. 

Amy Longworth shared that the mission of the GRC is to gather leaders from all sectors of Boston to implement the Climate Action Plan.  Members of the GRC include the Mayor of Boston, leaders of energy companies, and state agencies.  The GRC is working with the Go Boston 2030 planning initiative to help establish ways to meet climate goals set forth in the Climate Action Plan. 

The GRC is addressing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and the transportation network, physical climate change adaptation strategies, and advising the City of Boston on climate change legislation.  It is anticipated that Antarctic ice melting will result in a sea level rise in this area in the range of 0.3 feet to 0.7 feet.  Steven Miller highlighted the MassDOT flood maps, which may be found on MassDOT’s website, which depict flooding scenarios for multiple locations in the Boston area.  The infrastructure in these areas will require preemptive work to help mitigate the effects of flooding.  Flood critical areas are broken up into different categories and the definition of flood critical infrastructure is under debate.  Getting ahead of the inevitable impacts of climate change will help us preserve the integrity of our transportation system, invest our money wisely, and lessen the severity of impacts for ourselves and future generations down the line.

Carl Spector drew attention to the City of Boston’s first Climate Action Plan, which was developed in 2007 and has since been updated in January of 2015.  The plan is constantly evolving.  Discussions have been started pertaining to the plans that need to be developed for the projected 2050 climate changes.

MassDOT has established an internal group named, “GreenDOT”, according to Steven Miller.  This group maintains is focused on the construction of sustainable infrastructure for all MassDOT projects.  GreenDOT’s focus is on complete street solutions for bicyclists and pedestrians , promoting public transit, green development, and other aspects of sustainability.  The latest development includes the installation of hundreds of photovoltaic cells along key areas of the Massachusetts Turnpike.  Bike trails and community paths are also within the realm of GreenDOT, which plans to construct more alternative opportunities to minimize the amount of carbon-emitting vehicles in the transportation system.  GreenDOT also led to a fleet of hybrid MassDOT vehicles to further reduce the carbon footprint of the agency.

In Boston, Carl Spector shared that the city has currently implemented programs that will increase energy efficiency in its existing buildings and has set increased energy standards to be met.  The GRC estimates that if 50 of the largest buildings in Boston meet the heightened energy standards, there would be an approximate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.  Their aim is to lead by example and include the smaller buildings to follow suit leading to the further reductions of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Prompting the panel participants and bringing her own experience and expertise to bear, Stephanie DiNezio actively facilitated this timely discussion.  Audience members were able to present questions for the panelists to consider as they move forward in their climate change endeavors.



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