Global Climate Strike Boston 2022

Written by Stefan Geller

Over 100 climate activists gathered in front of the State House on Friday to take part in the “People, Not Profit” climate strike with Fridays For Future Massachusetts, demanding Gov. Charlie Baker and the Boston City Council take urgent action to combat the intersecting crises of racism, economic and energy injustice, housing and climate changes. 

The strike – cosponsored by BCAN, Boston University’s Environmental Student Organization (BU ESO), Extinction Rebellion Boston, Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative, H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center and 350 Massachusetts – joined countless others across the globe in support of Fridays For Future, the youth-led climate action group started by Greta Thunberg. 

“Friday’s Climate Strike rally was one of the most moving I have been a part of. The multi-generational participation—with lots of young people, from high school through college and beyond—was simply thrilling,” said BCAN volunteer Terry Mason. “We inspire one another and we need one another, it was clear. Racial diversity among participants was also great to see. The speakers were, to a person, concrete and passionate and even spiritual. I actually welled up with tears at one point. I can’t say enough about how moving that afternoon was to me. It felt like a true community of souls.”

Atop their list of demands, activists called on the Boston City Council to include in its budget a line item to acquire green space infrastructure and reduce urban heat island effect in the city.

Activists also called on Baker and his administration to mitigate further climate change by pressuring ISO-New England, which manages New England’s power grid, to stop obstructing the transition to clean energy use.

“As a young person, being constantly told that our future is doomed can feel incredibly hopeless. However, I am honored to be fighting this fight alongside so many talented activists,” said Maya Nelson of the Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network. “The only option is to tackle climate change with everything we have, on a personal and systemic level, while making sure we listen to all impacted groups.” 

The day after the climate strike, another 100+ climate activists held a rally along American Legion Highway to save Crane Ledge Woods by purchasing the 24-acre urban woodland and tree canopy bordered by Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roslindale. 

“We are all connected. Anything that happens in one part of the world, or in our city impacts all of us,” said Jose Masso of the Crane Ledge Woods Coalition (CLWC). “Our decisions and actions regarding the climate will impact our children’s children and future generations. The time to act is now!”
​​The day after the Climate Strike, March 26, over 100 members and allies of the coalition to Save Crane Ledge Woods called for the city to purchase the 24-acre urban woodland and tree canopy bordered by Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roslindale. The spirited rally drew support from scores of honking cars along American Legion Highway. Full conservation of Crane Ledge Woods is a once-in-a- generation’s opportunity to preserve rich urban tree canopy and invaluable carbon sink for inland neighborhoods. Preserving urban trees is a critical part of mitigating climate change while promoting climate resilience and environmental justice. Contact Mayor Wu and your city councilor by email, telephone, and US mail. To join the fight, sign the CLWC petition now.

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Boston Climate Activists Join Fridays For Future Global Climate Strike

March 23, 2022

Activists of Boston and beyond will come together this Friday to demand urgent action needed to combat the intersecting crises of racism, economic and energy injustice, housing, and climate change. The strike will be on March 25, 2022, at 3 PM at the Boston Commons, where the park meets the Statehouse. The Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN), Boston University’s Environmental Student Organization (BU ESO), Extinction Rebellion Boston, Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative, H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center, and 350 Massachusetts are co-sponsoring this year’s Fridays For Future Massachusetts Global Climate Strike.

This year’s Global Climate Strike centers on People, Not Profit. We come together on this day to demand that our local and state policymakers take decisive actions to align with this message. We stand in solidarity with the Crane Ledge Woods Coalition to urge Boston City Council to include in its budget a line item to acquire green space infrastructure and reduce urban heat island effect in the city, starting with the Crane Ledge Woods property. To mitigate further climate change, we demand that Governor Baker and his administration heed our call for a just transition to clean energy and call on ISO-New England to stop obstructing this transition. Our full solidarity action toolkit can be found here.

Our speakers for the event are listed below:

Saahithi Achanta, BCAN: “We are all a part of a larger fight and movement against climate change when we make community efforts towards sustainability. Policymakers must understand that change starts locally, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of community efforts to promote sustainability in Boston’s public policy.”

Jose Masso, Crane Ledge Woods Coalition: “We are all connected. Anything that happens in one part of the world, or in our city impacts all of us. Our decisions and actions regarding the climate will impact our children’s children and future generations. The time to act is now!”

Judith Foster, H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center: “Environmental justice is Social justice. We can no longer ignore the science and the obvious. Our toxic environment is affecting our overall health and wellness. We know the solutions, let’s put them into sustainable practices.”

Keeley Bombard, BU ESO: “As the president of BU’s Environmental Student Organization, I sometimes feel like our passion for environmental topics is siloed on campus. With this event, we’re getting the chance to expand our reach and connect to the greater Boston community.” 

Curt Newton, 350 Mass: “In taking on our interlinked ecological and social justice crises, it really matters how we show up for each other and keep growing our capacity to work together. From repairing our relationship with nature to accelerating the clean energy transformation, 350 Mass enthusiastically supports the 2022 Boston Global Climate Strike, and stands in solidarity with BIPOC and youth leadership to create a more equitable and thriving future for all.”

Maya Nelson, Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network: “As a young person, being constantly told that our future is doomed can feel incredibly hopeless. However, I am honored to be fighting this fight alongside so many talented activists. The only option is to tackle climate change with everything we have, on a personal and systemic level, while making sure we listen to all impacted groups.” 

Claire Müller, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network: “Climate change is one more inevitable outcome of racial capitalism. We must heal and transform this entire system with a just transition. With affordable housing, indigenous justice, clean local renewable energy,  and so much more. All with loving cooperation at the heart. We made these systems, we can heal them. That does not mean we all must do everything, but each part of the movement must aim for the same vision. “

About Us

The BCAN’s mission is to organize Boston residents and collaborate with other social justice allies to advocate for climate justice and urgent action on climate emergency by the City of Boston and other policymakers.

Hailey Moll

Communications Lead, Boston Climate Action Network                                          

Hailey.v.moll96@gmail.com

Remembering Owen Toney

Written by Loie Hayes


Owen is second from the left, pictured with members of Green Neighbors Education Committee at an Energy Fair in Harambee Park, Dorchester. All of these folks had earlier participated in Low Carbon Living workshops led by Owen and BCAN members.

In honor of Black History Month, BCAN wants to share a posthumous tribute to one of Boston’s most active Black climate organizers in the early 2000s: Owen Toney.

Owen was an organizer with the local chapter of ACORN in 2008, when BCAN and ACORN began co-hosting energy saving workshops in Fields Corner, Dorchester. Over the next several years Owen expanded his organizing efforts to host Energy Fairs in many Boston neighborhoods. The first Energy Fair featured political commentator Van Jones as its keynote speaker. Owen founded and directed Green Neighbors Education Committee and played important roles in a number of area environmental organizations.

 Owen helped introduce hundreds of Boston residents to issues of climate change, energy efficiency, and energy justice. He championed solutions for energy and health that centered the disproportionate impacts of climate change and energy injustice on Black, brown, and poor communities. He loved creating community events to bring energy innovations into neighborhoods. And we loved being a part of his efforts. Owen, you are missed!

Owen (near center) was an organizer at this Mission Hill Energy Fair, held on Oct. 25, 2009, in conjunction with the International Day of Action led by 350.org. (See more photos on our blog: 350 International Day of Climate Action – Boston Climate Action Network (bostoncan.org))

Saluting Hazel Johnson, Environmental Justice Leader

Written by Paula Georges

Hazel Johnson outside the office of People for Community Recovery, which she started in 1979 so residents of Altgeld Gardens could advocate for repairs in their community. (Courtesy of People for Community Recovery)

From the 1970s until her death in 2011, Hazel Johnson empowered residents to seek redress from the pollutants that threatened their health. From the South Side of Chicago, she fought for clean air and water for the residents of Altgeld Gardens, a housing project built on a toxic waste site. After the death of her husband and several neighbors from cancer, she learned that Altgeld Gardens and neighboring Calumet City had the highest cancer rates in the area. Her personal tragedy put her on a path to discover why these communities suffered from such elevated rates of cancer.

To find out what was happening to residents of Altgeld gardens and Calumet City, she initiated a community health study. Walking door-to-door to determine the health status of her neighbors, she discovered alarming rates of illness and death. In addition, she uncovered and documented the many toxic industrial and waste sites surrounding her neighborhood. Making the connection between environmental pollution and human health, she saw the ways in which environmental issues connect deeply with race, class, and gender.

In 1971, Hazel Johnson founded People for Community Recovery (PCR), now celebrating over 50 years of environmental advocacy. PCR continues to be a grassroots organization which values leadership development, transparent decision making, and community-led campaigns. PCR catalyzes residents of public housing and EJ communities to press for a clean environment. In collaboration with local residents, PCR educates and advocates for policy and programs on issues of the environment, health, housing, education, training, neighborhood safety, and economic equity.

For her efforts to expose the toxic waste hazards in vulnerable, low-income communities of color, Hazel Johnson came to be known as the mother of the environmental justice movement.

BERDO 2.0’s Review Board—Does it Deliver Community Oversight to the “Greening” of Boston’s Largest Buildings?

Written by Paula Georges

Boston’s large buildings, including office, commercial and residential buildings, account for over half of the city’s carbon footprint. To reduce pollutants from Boston’s dirtiest buildings and meet Boston emissions reduction goals, the City has drafted an overhaul of the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). The amended ordinance, now called the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance, requires building owners to meet emissions standards that become more strict over time.

This ordinance’s implementation will be overseen by a Review Board. This Review Board will have responsibility for the following functions: approve hardship compliance plans and other waiver applications, approve expenditures from the Equitable Emissions Investment Fund, propose regulations to the Air Pollution Control Commission (APCC), and oversee enforcement.

But who will be making these decisions? Who will sit on the Review Board? Review Board members have significant regulatory authority to determine how strictly the rules are enforced and how equitably funds are spent.  Will big building owners be allowed to police themselves? Or will there be true community accountability? Review Board members must have credibility with under-served neighborhoods and residents in carrying out their significant authority. Board members should be drawn from community-based groups who can represent and give voice to the environmental justice populations most affected by climate change and who will benefit the most from building upgrades.

Coming Up: Boston City Council hearing on BERDO 2.0 on Thursday, July 22, 3PM. The hearing offers an opportunity for BCAN and other climate advocacy groups to weigh in on these amendments. 

Watch live at bit.ly/BostonCityCouncilTV

Behind Closed Doors

Written by Paula Georges

In January 2021, a group of researchers at the Institute for Environment and Society at Brown University, led by Professor J. Timmons Roberts, published a report, Who’s Delaying Climate Change in Massachusetts? The report documents how industrial actors successfully lobby against climate legislation at the state level. The report may not surprise climate activists on how corporate interests in Massachusetts  ̶  armed with incredible financial resources  ̶  are able to block climate legislation; nevertheless, these findings are potentially useful to mount an effective offense against these outsized powerful interests.

One key finding is that the opponents of climate action rarely testify publicly about their opposition to climate bills, but rather meet with policy-makers behind closed doors. Of particular importance to the successful passage of strong amendments to the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), now under consideration at the Boston City Council, is that the public hearings and working group meetings may not reveal the opposition from the real estate trade associations such as NAIOP Mass, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and Mass. Association of Realtors.

As documented in the report, commercial real estate interests resist residential energy efficiency standards and mandating energy audits. Using social justice narratives, real estate interests complain that these kinds of regulations would place an undue burden on housing affordability. Yet, they never talk about how energy bills could be lowered by retrofitting housing with efficiency measures. One possible tactic to neutralize the power of trade associations is to ask those individual members of the association who are friendly to reforms to testify in favor of BERDO amendments.

Another important finding is that pro-climate actors do not always support each other’s bills. For example, solar activists do not necessarily lobby in favor of raising efficiency standards. Expanding the network of green actors that support a wide range of climate bills could increase our movement’s lobbying power. In this light we invite all organizations and activists involved in environmental, energy, and social justice campaigns in the City of Boston to contact your City Councilors in support of passage of a strong amendment to BERDO.

Regional Proposals to Adapt to the Consequences of Climate Change

Written by Paula Georges

Three recent opinion pieces published on the Boston Globe’s opinion page on Monday, May 31, 2021, suggest three ways to address the impact of climate change on Boston and the other communities along Massachusetts’ vulnerable coastline and its regional economy. These proposals are worth reviewing, but the first line of defense is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The first one, entitled “Managing rising seas may require a managed retreat,” by Richard W. Murray and Daniel P. Schrag, proposes that communities in harm’s way must adapt to the “new, future coast, without promises of a perfect safety net that we cannot afford.” The authors maintain that we cannot build our way out of the threat of rising seas with costly sea walls that are only short-term solutions at best. Difficult decisions must be made by all levels of government to end low-cost flood insurance and require relocation away from the coast.

The second piece entitled, “Developing a climate resilient Boston waterfront,” by Jocelyn Forbush, suggests that building a greener waterfront is one way to protect vulnerable at-risk neighborhoods, such as East Boston. This adaptation method calls for a “raised, grassy park with natural plantings and salt marsh” that can absorb flood waters and bounce back after disruption. This approach calls for open, green space that offers respite from city streets to the public and provides opportunity for “inclusive programming.”

The third piece entitled, “Planning a ‘layered defense’ for Boston Harbor,” by Bill Golden, suggests that all the 15 cities and towns linked to Boston Harbor should develop a regional sea gate system and integrate it with locally based coastal resiliency plans. The author points out that New Bedford, with its regional, reliable sea gate system, has protected the city from the devastation of storm surge for over 50 years.  Given that the Boston Metropolitan area acts as New England’s economic engine, the author maintains these actions must be taken to preserve our regional economy.

A robust discussion must be had on what to do about the increasing flood risk to the low-lying neighborhoods of South Boston, East Boston and other at-risk neighborhoods. Special attention must be paid to the concerns of the low- and moderate-income households living in these at-risk neighborhoods. While these discussions are critical, the reduction of climate-warming emissions remains the priority, because burning fossil fuels is the root cause of climate change.

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure!

Written by Loie Hayes

This old adage – you can’t manage what you don’t measure – goes to the heart of why BCAN fought for the first version of Boston’s Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) back in 2013. Without accurate data about how much energy our city’s biggest buildings are using, there’s no way for their owners to achieve necessary reductions, nor to be held accountable for doing so.

BERDO now requires owners to report their buildings’ energy use annually. BERDO was a big win for the climate movement in Boston all those years ago, but it is not yet known for its accurate data. We’ve spent many hours collectively analyzing the BERDO data, and we’ve found that many building owners are reporting improbably low – or high – energy usage.

We applaud Boston’s Environment Department for proposing significant revisions to BERDO (aka “BERDO 2.0”), but we do have to call into question a couple of parts of the proposal. The first one, which this blog post addresses, is the manner in which building owners will have to verify the accuracy of their reported energy use.

Under the current version of BERDO, building owners must report their energy use data to the City annually, but they don’t have to have an independent professional certify that their data are accurate. The Environment Department now recommends that, every five years, an owner be required to obtain certification for his or her past five years of data. (This process is referred to as “third party verification” in BERDO 2.0.)

BCAN has pointed out that, when owners’ data are inaccurate, a five-year delay in certification could result in their learning for the first time after 2025 that they are out of compliance with the 2025 emissions standard—too late to avoid a violation and too late to prevent potentially tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

BCAN proposes that owners be required to obtain certification for their first annual report after the amended BERDO takes effect, with subsequent certifications due every five years after that. It’s only common sense to measure well so we can manage well.

Flooding -The High Cost of Climate Change

Written by Paula Georges

The Boston Globe reports that as sea levels rise and storms become more powerful, the risk of flooding in the City is increasing, bringing with it potentially devastating financial impacts.  Citing a recent study from the First Street Foundation, the news article states that in Boston “by mid-century more than 3,000 properties a year would face substantial risk of damage from flooding, those losses are likely to exceed $62 million a year in 30 years, 75% more than now.” As a coastal city, Boston’s low-lying neighborhoods face serious problems from damage due to seepage, since so much of our housing stock and structures are not built to resist flooding. Right now, Boston’s homeowners pay an average of $700 or less a year for flood insurance; the report predicts that in 30 years the cost may be as high as $9000 annually.

Environmentalists are calling for measures such as restoring river flood plains and making sure that there are undeveloped areas left to absorb stormwater. Coastal management experts call for retreating from high flood zones and not rebuilding in areas that are prone to flooding. Boston, like other high density urban areas, faces a unique set of challenges, since its existing building stock can’t easily be moved to less flood prone areas. For example, the Seaport district is the newest and perhaps the most vulnerable area for flooding damage in Boston. It is clear now that permitting its development was misguided and unsustainable.

The Mayor and City Council will soon be reviewing recommendations to update the Building Energy and Reporting Ordinance (BERDO) with new standards for owners of large buildings to curb greenhouse emissions. While that effort will mitigate climate change impacts, we must not lose sight of the importance of the need to address — through other policy measures — the climate change impacts we can no longer prevent. The City already has “guidelines” to reduce the impacts of flooding. It would be wise also to consider requiring retrofits that protect against damage from flooding in high-risk areas.

CCE Automatic Enrollment: Done for Us, Not to Us

As the City of Boston rolls out Community Choice Electricity (CCE), we hear or read occasional criticism of the program’s “opt-out” nature. To some, switching customers into the program unless they object feels like overreach, and non-transparent. We firmly disagree that the City has been either deceptive or coercive.

Communication about CCE has been open. The City sent a letter to every eligible customer, explaining the program, the comparative rates, and the available choices, including opting out. If the letter’s recipients, like its critics, found it confusing, it included clear instructions about where to get more information. Additionally, CCE has been well-advertised across several platforms, with many opportunities for engagement around questions and concerns. These have included press releases, posters, webinars on multiple dates with translation into multiple languages, and virtual “office hours” with City officials.

To those who find automatic enrollment in CCE heavy-handed, we offer a reminder: before CCE, people moving to Boston were not left to shop on their own for an energy provider, either. Instead, incoming residents were automatically assigned to Eversource, where they stayed unless they took the initiative to contract with a different electricity supplier. If it was previously acceptable for Eversource to be the default supplier, why is it a concern now to establish a different default that offers greener energy? The rollout only moves customers from one default to another: anyone who has already chosen a supplier other than Eversource will not be moved. And customers who are switched do not lose any of their choices: although January 11 was the deadline to prevent being enrolled in CCE, people can still switch back to Eversource at any time—or, alternatively, change to a more or less expensive CCE plan.

CCE skeptics also note that CCE’s rates are only guaranteed to be lower than Eversource’s through June, and that CCE could possibly end up costing more over all. However, every supplier changes its rates periodically, and there is no guarantee that Eversource will be the cheapest in the long run, either. What we do know is that the City is committed to keeping rates favorable and stable over time, being a principle priority of the program as disclosed on their website.

We get it: no one likes to feel pushed around. But that is not what’s happening here. Opt-out programs are designed to sign up a critical mass of participants in a timely way, not by entrapping the unwilling, but by making the process effortless for the rest.    

CCE is a critical element of Boston’s Climate Action Plan, which aims for our city to be carbon neutral by 2050. We think that implementing CCE efficiently is a form of facilitation, not pressure. Claiming that city government either overstepped its bounds or was secretive in the instance of the CCE rollout is not factual. When the City Council hearing on CCE was held in 2017, over 300 Bostonians showed up to voice their support. As a city, we have demanded swift and meaningful climate action; let us not now criticize our officials for fulfilling their promise.