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.

Summer Internship Opportunity

Application deadline: April 1

Boston Climate Action Network is accepting applications for a paid internship position, Outreach Organizer, to support our campaign to cut greenhouse gas emissions from Boston’s largest buildings. More than half of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the largest 3% of its buildings. We are working with allies to pass legislation to bring these buildings to net zero emissions by 2050.

The City Council will be actively debating our proposed legislation this summer. We need to build a volunteer base to advocate for our campaign in ways that resonate with the public. As the BCAN intern, you will help build our volunteer base in every City Council district, with training and support from BCAN staff and longtime volunteers.

At BCAN, we use phone, email, video conferencing, and, to the extent that it is COVID-safe, in-person canvassing and presentations to reach out to local communities, recruit new members, and build volunteers’ skills.  We will track the campaign’s progress through volunteer sign-up rates, petition signatures, and attendance at meetings with activists, the public, and political figures.

Essential qualities of successful applicants:

  • Familiarity with Boston’s neighborhoods
  • Ability to attend events at a variety of locations in Boston on a daily basis as needed
  • An understanding of climate justice and of the climate impacts affecting Boston residents
  • Ability to work well with volunteers with diverse communication skills
  • Effective public speaker

Helpful qualities:

  • Boston residency
  • Involvement in a community-based organization within the City of Boston
  • Fluency in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, or Cape Verdean or Haitian Creole

Hours are flexible with the expectation that you’ll work approximately 20-25 hours during the 9 to 5 weekday and approximately 10-15 hours during evenings and weekends. The start date is negotiable, but not earlier than May 1 and no later than June 15.

Applicants must supply their own computer and work space and be experienced with working remotely. Please indicate in your application your level of expertise with Google Docs and Sheets, Zoom, and Powerpoint.

Stipend: $16/hr, 35hrs/wk, 12wks. Deadline for applications: April 1. Send resume and cover letter to BostonClimateAction@gmail.com with the heading: Internship application. No phone calls please.

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.

Donate to win big in 2021

You know the facts of climate change. You want to “fight like hell for the living,” as Mother Jones has told us. Boston Climate Action Network is leading the effort for city-level urgent and ambitious action on climate. Here are four reasons to join us in the fight and donate to make sure we win big in 2021. 

  1. We put our muscle where it makes a tangible impact. As residents of Boston, we know our City Councilors and Mayor listen to us. When we move City of Boston policy, that sets a precedent for the rest of New England. For example, soon Boston residents will have 10% more regionally produced renewable energy feeding into our electricity grid, for no extra cost, thanks to the BCAN-promoted Community Choice Electricity program.
  2. We focus on issues that take big bites of the climate apple. Our current campaign – Green Buildings, Not Greenhouse Gases – aims to radically reduce emissions from the biggest source of emissions in the city: large residential and commercial buildings.
  3. We know how to  network! There are countless groups in Boston working to solve various aspects of the climate crisis and the social crises that make climate issues so difficult to resolve. BCAN brings a social and political lens to climate organizing and builds networks for every campaign.
  4. We’re in it for the long haul. For 20 years we’ve been building the climate justice movement in Boston, training activists, educating the public with theater and song, and forming coalitions to achieve our goals. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain strong. This year as policies to meet our 2030 and 2050 goals are battled out in city hall and in community forums, BCAN will continue to push the envelope. The transition to low-carbon heating and high efficiency buildings will not happen unless activist groups like BCAN turn out residents to demand ambitious measures. 

Boston will also be choosing a new Mayor in 2021. The verbiage will be flying and BCAN will be there to parse the routine ideas from the truly innovative. You count on BCAN to alert you to Boston’s climate news every two weeks and to the moments when you need to show up so City Hall understands the force of people’s desire for urgent climate action.

Can we count on you to support the key role BCAN plays in leveraging Boston as a climate leader nationwide? Please become a sustaining donor this year if you do, or make the most generous annual donation your budget permits. 

Our climate is changing exponentially fast, and a dollar toward activism now can prevent having to spend hundreds of dollars for climate adaptation measures in the decades to come.

Thank you for your support!

Loie Hayes, Natasha Khatri, Judith Kolligian, Stephanie Komorowski, Terry Mason, Michael Weinstein, and Andy Wells-Bean
BCAN Board of Directors and Campaign Coordinator

PS: To donate, you can mail a check to: BCAN, POBox 300984, Boston, MA 02130;
To make a tax-deductible contribution online:

  • Go to the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund website, grassrootsfund.org/donate/now
  • Fill in your contact information and preferred contribution, then scroll down to “Program”
  • Click on “Fiscal Sponsored Group”
  • Write in “Boston Climate Action Network”

King Tides and Rising Seas

BCAN continues to document the increasing frequency of flooding in Boston due to sea level rise. This is especially noticeable at “king tide” events, the next of which is upcoming on Sunday November 15th. And this is only just the beginning. These coastline maps demonstrate the city’s vulnerability over the next several decades. Move the arrows to observe how the city is impacted.

The map on the left-most side of the slide projects the high tides around the coastline of Boston in the 2030s, with 9 inches of sea level rise due to increasing global temperatures. The lighter blue represents flooding of sea water into city neighborhoods. The map on the right-most side of the slide depicts high tides in the 2070s, after a projected 36 inches of sea level rise, and additionally a middle-of-the-road scenario for flooding in our streets from stormwater, shown in aqua green. The purple, red, and bright green colors show the places in the city where our most vulnerable populations reside–low income residents, people of color, and the elderly.

These images give you just a peek into what has become our reality here in Boston. King tide events—AKA perigean spring tides—are not going away any time soon. We will see more and more of these flooding events in our city, and as the maps show, they will get worse and worse, especially for our most vulnerable and under-resourced communities. We must take bold and aggressive climate action now to protect our coastal neighborhoods and forestall the impact of climate change.

The City of Boston has a great tool for finding the projected flooding for any address in the City. To learn more about anticipated flooding in your neighborhood and at the places you like to visit, go to https://www.boston.gov/departments/environment/climate-ready-boston-map-explorer.

Protect the Results

BCAN’s campaign efforts usually do not include electoral issues and government appointments. However, the uncertainty of the presidential election warrants BCAN to use its influence to encourage a fair and democratic outcome. 

On October 30, 2020, BCAN submitted the following letter to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker addressing the November 3 election. In this letter, we have asked for the Governor to publicly affirm his commitment to defending the popular vote and to denounce efforts that are intended to undermine the results of this election. This includes prosecuting ballot tampering and voter intimidation, counting every vote before validating a candidate, and ensuring the state electors respect the outcome of the popular vote. 

We are asking that the Governor protect the results of the election, regardless of the outcome, and allow the will of our state’s majority to be reflected in the electoral college. These requests do not aid in the election of a particular party or candidate, but support the framework of our democracy. We also ask that Charlie Baker encourage other governors across the country to abide by these same principles.

Thank you to BCAN’s allies at Massachusetts Climate Action Network, Greater Boston Tenants Union, Climate Code Blue, 350 Mass for a Better Future, Mothers Out Front, Boston Clean Energy Coalition, and “e” inc. The Environmental Learning and Action Center for showing solidarity on this important issue. 

If you want to take individual action to help protect our democracy, you can tell Charlie Baker you support the demands of this letter by signing this petition: http://bit.ly/tell-charlie-baker

News Roundup: October

Campaign Update – Mothers Out Front Joins Buildings Campaign

We’re building a coalition to green our buildings! This month, Mothers Out Front adopted a better BERDO 2.0 as one of their priorities. BERDO is the City’s 2014 ordinance mandating certain energy efficiency actions in buildings 35,000 square feet or larger. The City has begun a process to strengthen BERDO in line with the City’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

We’re thrilled to have such an energetic ally on this campaign. With allies like Mothers Out Front our coalition can outweigh the resistance of some in the real estate industry who don’t want to see tougher regulation. We support the City of Boston as it works to enact stronger, more enforceable regulations. When BERDO 2.0 becomes law, we will urge the Mayor to implement it with adequate personnel resources to help the owners, managers and occupants of the largest buildings in the city cut their carbon footprints effectively and rapidly. Join us when Mothers Out Front holds their first buildings campaign orientation on the evening of December 7. Please register!

Climate News – Thousands of Environmentalists Vote for the First Time

Thanks to the efforts of the Environmental Voter Project (EVP), 259,575 environmentalists have already cast their first-ever ballots in the 2020 election. EVP’s website states that “tens of millions of Americans strongly prioritize progressive environmental policies – the real problem is that these people do not vote.” Its mission: to turn this group into consistent voters. This year, the non-profit has concentrated its efforts in 11 swing states.

What Can You Do?

Vote! Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm. If Trump loses the election but won’t accept defeat, then plan to join an action to protect our democracy. Peaceful protests can keep the government and courts accountable by demanding that every vote be counted. Be prepared to show up until Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. In Boston, Protect the Results Mobilization is planned for November 4, 3:30 pm, 139 Tremont Street. To find an event in your city or town go to https://protecttheresults.com

Upcoming Events

The BCAN Action Team meetings have changed dates for the remainder of the year! To avoid conflicts with Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Action Team will meet on the first and third Thursdays of the month, with the next meeting this Thursday, November 5 at 6 pm on Zoom.

Join us to get all the latest updates about CCE and the buildings campaign, and ways you can get involved.

King Tide Rally 10/17/2020

On Saturday 10/17, members of BCAN joined forces for the King Tide Rising Seas Rally. King Tides are especially high tides that occur during new or full moons, and pose an added danger to coastal cities such as Boston when combined with climate change. Click through the gallery below to check out some of the highlights from the event!