City Councilor Michelle Wu Launches Plan for a Boston Green New Deal and Just Recovery

Special to the Beacon Hill Times

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu has released a city-level Green New Deal (GND) and Just Recovery plan for Boston, a framework for using the full reach of municipal authority to mitigate the threat of climate change, attack poverty and economic inequality, close the wealth gap, and dismantle structural racism.  

“Climate justice is racial and economic justice,” said Councilor Wu. “Cities have tremendous power to lead the charge, and we must recognize this moment as a call to action.”

Councilor Wu has emphasized that bold, progressive action is in line with the City of Boston’s legacy of civic leadership, as the home of the first public park, public school, and public library in the country. The report features 15 policies to demonstrate the potential for transformative city action today—accelerating decarbonization, just and resilient development, transportation justice, decommodifying housing, food justice, resilient stormwater infrastructure, growing the urban tree canopy, harnessing our coastal and ocean resources for decarbonization and “blue jobs,” and more.

“For a just, green, and equitable COVID recovery in Boston, business as usual is simply no longer an option,” said Yanisa Techagumthorn, Sunrise Boston Political Co-Lead. “Councilor Wu’s Green New Deal plan aims to address multiple issues, including housing, transit, and food security. It’s an ambitious, yet realistic, plan that matches the scope of the dual crises we face: the current pandemic and the imminent impacts of climate change. An opportunity for Boston to model aggressive action that will simultaneously lower our emissions and improve the lives of the most vulnerable residents.”

“The permafrost of structural and institutional racism is slowly being melted as its roots are exposed and action is taken,” said Mela Bush Miles of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE). “A global pandemic has shone a light on what Black communities knew all along. Disparities in health care, employment, transportation, and education wreak havoc on Black lives. We MUST deal with the public health crisis of racism. We need a citywide Green New Deal and Just recovery to unearth the root causes of these disparities and to proactively plan a just and sustainable future for our city. We must especially prioritize those who have been ignored for far too long.  Success is within reach if we lead with climate, environmental and racial justice to build a just and sustainable future for Boston and beyond.”

“Boston faces a myriad of challenges – COVID, economic recession, structural racism, and a lurking-in-the-background climate crisis,” said Craig Altemose, Executive Director at Better Future Project. “We cannot confront these challenges with some tweaks to business-as-usual; we need bold, ambitious, and visionary policies that reimagine how our society can and should work — for everyone. We at 350 Mass are thrilled to support Councilor Wu’s Green New Deal and Just Recovery plan for Boston, and look forward to working with her to turn that vision into reality.”

“Councilor Michelle Wu’s Green New Deal is the only city plan equal to both the scale and urgency of Boston’s challenge in leading the city and the world from climate crisis to sustainable prosperity in a just economy,” said Bradley Campbell, President of the Conservation Law Foundation. “CLF joins our community partners in leading the call for the City and Commonwealth to take up this Nation-leading call to action.”

To kick off the legislative process and community engagement around this plan, Councilor Wu has filed a hearing order regarding implementing a Green New Deal & Just Recovery, which was introduced at the Boston City Council meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 19. On Thursday, Aug. 20, Councilor Wu is scheduled to join local activists for a virtual Green New Deal & Just Recovery launch event.

The report builds on Councilor Wu’s leadership on climate justice and racial justice. Over her seven years on the Boston City Council, she has authored and passed: 

• Boston’s Face Surveillance Ban ordinance (June 2020), prohibiting the use of a surveillance technology that threatens civil rights and is racially discriminatory

• Boston Local Wetlands Protection ordinance (December 2019), empowering city agencies to require more resilient development, green infrastructure, and protect valuable natural resource areas

• Good Food Purchasing ordinance (March 2019), aligning Boston Public Schools food procurement with a local, healthy, sustainable, fair, and humane food supply chain

• Right to Charge home-rule petition (January 2019 passed by the state legislature; October 2017 passed by the City Council), removing barriers to installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure

• Short-Term Rentals ordinance (June 2018), closing corporate loopholes to stem displacement, protect residential housing, and stabilize communities

• Equity in City Contracting ordinance (December 2017), aligning municipal purchasing and procurement to close the racial wealth gap and create wealth locally

• Community Choice Electricity Order (October 2017), setting the framework for Boston’s recently approved municipal aggregation plan to ramp up renewable energy sourcing for residents and small businesses

• Boston’s Paid Parental Leave ordinance (April 2015), offering paid leave for city employees regardless of birth or adoption and inclusive of every family type

• Resolution Supporting Statewide Fossil Fuel Divestment (November. 2014)

• Health Care Equity ordinance (June 2014), prohibiting discrimination in health care coverage on the basis of gender identity

She has also led the charge for transit justice, successfully petitioning the MBTA to scale back proposed fare hikes in 2019, shielding bus riders, youth, and seniors from fare increases; pushing for fare-free public transportation; releasing a Boston Youth Transportation Report in 2018, calling for the expansion of free transit passes for all Boston, which was implemented the next school year. Councilor Wu previously released a climate justice report in 2016, Climate Justice for the City of Boston: Visioning Policies and Processes.

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