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More than 70 Cambridge residents and activists gathered in front of Cambridge City Hall Wednesday afternoon in support of Cambridge Green New Deal policies that would mandate emissions reductions from large commercial buildings.
The protesters — including student activists, environmentalists, local organizers, business owners, and Cambridge residents — rallied 30 minutes prior to a meeting of the Cambridge City Council’s Ordinance Committee, which was set to discuss proposed amendments to the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance.
The proposed BEUDO amendments would require large commercial buildings to gradually reduce emissions until 2035, when buildings subject to the amendments would be required to reach net zero emissions. Owners of buildings that miss their emissions targets would be required to pay a compliance fee.
The protest was co-sponsored by nine local and university organizations, including the Harvard Climate Coalition and Harvard Undergraduate Clean Energy Group.
Natalia S. George, a member of Sunrise Cambridge and a sophomore at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, spoke at the rally and called for the city to take decisive action on climate change.
“I fight for a livable future not only so people in years to come will have a healthy planet to live on, but also so people living right now have a bright future to look forward to. I believe that empathy is a core value of climate justice,” George said.
George said in an interview after the rally that she was glad many young activists turned out to support the amendments.
“I think it’s really good that more young people are getting out there to spread their opinions about it because a lot of people we see in government are on the older side,” George said. “Rallies like this are really good at getting the opinions of people who might otherwise be silenced in government.”
Climate activist Elana Sulakshana urged those who attended the protest to join the committee meeting and give public comment “in support of strong and equitable amendments” to BEUDO.
“You can talk about why a Green New Deal matters to you — why you’re afraid of climate change, why you’re calling for action, how your community’s impacted,” she said in her speech.
“We need policy that mandates them to cut emissions by 2035 — not 2050 or beyond,” Sulakshana added. “And we can’t exempt some of the big buildings in this city because they’re ‘historical sites’ or ‘they’re not big enough,’ we need to be tackling all of the large commercial buildings across Cambridge. ”
Emily Mockler, a member of Sunrise Cambridge who helped organize Wednesday’s rally, said in an interview after the event that she wanted residents’ voices heard over “all the large corporations that are probably going to be speaking,” adding that she hopes the amendments will “inspire other towns across the country.”
“It’s been rare that a municipality has actually written concrete laws that will force buildings to go to net zero.” Mockler said. “I was super excited to see Quinton Zondervan and other council members writing something so important that would have such a huge impact.”
Somerville resident Amber Houghstow, who was present at the rally, said she planned to attend the city council meeting to provide public comment about how the “carbon credit market is not working,” referencing the practice of purchasing carbon offsets instead of reducing emissions.
“People have been buying carbon credits, but they’re not actually getting carbon back into the soil,” Houghstow said.
“That has really profound implications for some of the changes that have been made in the last round of edits to this, which basically implies it’ll make this draft as it is now pretty ineffective,” she said of the amendments.
Steven E. Miller, a member of climate justice group 350 Massachusetts, said he supports the policies because of the impact climate change will have on his grandchildren.
“I came here because I now have grandchildren and I realized very intimately that the world will not be there for them, right?” said Miller. “So I feel it’s my responsibility to help do what I can to keep that from happening.”
—Staff writer Erika K. Chung can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @erikakychung.
—Staff writer Emily L. Ding can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilylding.
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