Officials Outline Plans for Managing Climate Change

By Dan Murphy

City officials outlined their plans for managing climate change at Community Church of Boston on March 15 at a forum sponsored by the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee.

Panelists included Austin Blackmon, the city’s chief of environment, energy and open space; Lourdes Lopez, community outreach manager for “Renew Boston,” the public-private partnership to promote energy efficiency and alternative energy services for Boston residents and businesses; and Nikhil Nadkarni, climate and building program manager for the city’s

Environment Department. The event moderator was Richard Dimino, president and CEO of A Better City – a non-profit dedicated to improving the economy and quality of life in the Boston region via significant transportation, land development and environmental policies, projects and initiatives – and a member of the city’s 2014 Climate Action Plan Steering Committee.

Blackmon, who recently represented Boston at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, where the city won an award for “Smart Cities and Smart Community Engagement,” discussed the Greenovate Boston 2014 Climate Action Plan. This provides a blueprint for Boston’s goal of achieving a 25-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) by 2020, as well as a first look at how the city intends to reach its objective of an 80 decrease in emissions by 2050.

Blackmon said commercial buildings and road transportation are currently the two biggest culprits, accounting for 50 percent and 28 percent of emissions respectively.

While sea levels typically rise due to climate change at a rate of around 10 inches over 100 years, Blackmon said the rates are now growing exponentially, especially as the Northeast is currently seeing the greatest increase of precipitation in the U.S.

“The goal is to have a Back Bay, which is still inhabitable in 2100,” Blackmon said.

 “Point person” for the city’s Building and Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), Nadkarni discussed Boston’s requirement for large- and medium-sized buildings to report their annual energy and water use to the city, which in turn makes the findings available to the public. The ordinance also mandates that   buildings complete an energy assessment or energy action every five years while providing exemptions for those that are already efficient or are making significant progress on efficiency.

Nadkarni said the first year of energy metrics for 1,360 large buildings in Boston is now available online at, including an interactive map that details building energy and water usage. The city is also using results from the study to reach out to energy-intensive buildings to inform them of available efficiency opportunities with Eversource.

As an incentive for efficient buildings, Nadkarni said Greenovate Mayor’s Carbon Cup recognizes large buildings committed to 30 percent reduction by 2020.

Dimino, who served as the city’s transportation commissioner from around 1984 to 1994, discussed his ongoing involvement with Go Boston 2030. Besides addressing equity issues throughout Boston, this city transportation master plan aims to help meet the citywide objectives of a 25-precent reduction on GHGEs by 2020 and zero roadway fatalities.

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