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Cambridge Climate Protection Action Committee Outlines Goals for Achieving Net Zero Carbon Emissions

Cambridge City Hall, located in Central Square.
Cambridge City Hall, located in Central Square. By Jacqueline S. Chea
By Davit Antonyan, Contributing Writer

UPDATED: Nov. 15, 2019 at 10:29 p.m.

The Climate Protection Action Committee unanimously supported recommendations to the City Manager’s Office that aim to combat climate change in Cambridge in a meeting Thursday night.

The recommendations came as part of the committee’s Net Zero Action Plan, a strategy to promote eliminating all production of carbon emissions in buildings and infrastructure throughout the city. The committee presented the recommendations in an Net Zero Action Plan Progress Report to ensure the city implements its previously stated goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Cambridge produced 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2012, according to a recent report conducted by the City’s Community Development Department.

Three committee members who spoke at the meeting said they found it urgent to make actionable recommendations to the City Manager’s office to institute certain suggestions from the Net Zero Action Plan. Though they agreed Cambridge is on track to meet their broader goals, they said they believe the city is behind schedule in adopting their recommendations.

Cambridge Net Zero Energy Planner Seth Federspiel led the discussion to vote on the progress report, which the committee will send to the City Manager at the end of the year.

“We support being aggressive in this. It was supposed to be adopted in fiscal year 2019 and it hasn’t been adopted yet,” Federspiel said. “Our goal is to get to net zero emissions by 2050. They should move forward in adopting it.”

Cambridge spokesperson Lee Gianetti wrote in an email statement that officials always anticipated efforts to put the plan into action might “encounter barriers” during the process.

“As we have dived into implementation, this has, indeed, been true,” Gianetti wrote. “As a result, some actions are on time, some are behind schedule and others are ahead of schedule.”

“All the City’s new construction in the last few has been net-zero ready, ahead of the municipal net zero commitment, which will be triggered in 2020,” Gianetti added.

He also wrote the first year of implementation included more delays, but that progress has sped up since then. The city is also about to undertake a five-year review of the plan.

Cambridge’s commitment to decreasing emissions has inspired community members to join the Climate Protection Action Committee to further promote the cause.

John Bolduc, an environmental planner and committee member, facilitated the latter part of the meeting, outlining Cambridge’s carbon consumption and its greenhouse gas emissions. He focused on a partnership between the committee and the Recycling Advisory Committee to develop feasible strategies to address climate change issues, referencing a mission statement drafted by the committee.

“The idea would be a possible scope for a joint subcommittee between CPAC and the RAC to work on this issue of greenhouse gas emissions and consumption,” Bolduc said.

The committee also voted unanimously to approve the mission statement and prepared plans to send it to the Recycling Advisory Committee by Jan. 2020.

Bernardo García, an exchange student from Monterrey, Mexico studying at UMass Boston, was one of several students from the Boston area studying climate change who attended the meeting. García said he appreciated that Cambridge residents came together to take decisive action on climate change — something he has not noticed in his own hometown.

“I just wanted to come in here and take a look at how these types of meetings go,” he said. “Not being from here, it’s nice to see that people are actually getting together and trying to solve these climate issues.”

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