Two months after he vetoed a landmark climate bill, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) has signed something very similar, with a 2050 net-zero target and raft of measures that include more offshore wind, new building codes, and benchmarks for electric vehicle adoption.
The bill requires Massachusetts to “reduce its carbon emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2030, 75% below those levels by 2040, and achieve ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2050,” writes The Boston Globe, adding that tree planting and other forms of carbon dioxide removal will likely be required to make the final target.
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Citing concerns about cost, Baker vetoed an earlier version of the plan back in January, saying the state could save US$6 billion by setting the emissions reduction target for 2030 5% lower. Approving most of the otherwise “technical” changes the governor had asked for, state lawmakers stood firm on 50% by 2030 and won, likely because the bill no longer requires sector-specific emissions caps to be legally binding—provided the state as a whole makes the target.
Aiding in this endeavour will be the acquisition of more wind power. The Globe says the bill “authorizes up to 2,400 additional megawatts of offshore wind, bringing the state’s total requirement for offshore wind to 4,000 megawatts by 2027, with another 1,600 megawatts planned.”
The bill also mandates a new building code that promotes fossil-free construction, as well as “benchmarks for the adoption of electric vehicles, charging stations, energy storage, heat pumps, anaerobic digesters, and new solar technologies.”
The new bill is also notable for its commitment to environmental justice, including actions that will give “communities with a disproportionate amount of pollution a greater voice in approving local developments.” The state’s Department of Environmental Protection will be required “to take historical and existing pollution into account when deciding whether to approve a project.”
While he celebrated the new legislation as “pathbreaking,” Senator Michael Barrett (D), who played a pivotal role in the bill’s progress and eventual success, suggested some of his fellow legislators might still be determined to make the going hard. He warned that, having signed on to the climate bill, the government could not now become divided in its intention, but instead must act as one.
“Attempts to evade legislative intent and substitute the weaker preferences of the executive branch have got to stop,” he said. “If these efforts continue, they will trigger a wave of lawsuits, something none of us wants.”