Rick Dimino

Rick Dimino

Massachusetts is facing unprecedented challenges from the impacts of climate change – including increasing king tides, severe storms, precipitation, extreme heat and sea level rise. According to Climate Ready Boston, the commonwealth may be impacted by up to 3 feet of sea level rise between 2000 and 2070, and the pace is anticipated to accelerate over time. While the projections are daunting, they offer an unparalleled opportunity for Massachusetts to do what it does best – confront hard problems, propose bold solutions and lead the nation in climate resilience.  

The Massachusetts business community understands that both action and urgency are required to combat the impacts of climate change. For more than a decade, leaders from the private and non-profit sectors have worked with A Better City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and adapt to a new climate reality. A Better City leads the Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Estate Working Group and has participated in the last two Climate Action Plan updates for the city of Boston. While we have made some progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, more must be done across sectors to adapt and to prepare for the impacts of climate change. The future health, safety, and economic stability of the commonwealth will depend on how we respond to this challenge.     

Speaker Has Floated Good Idea  

Fortunately, our most powerful elected officials are already rising to the occasion, with Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo proposing additional state aid for climate resilience to ensure that communities throughout the entire commonwealth are protected.  

DeLeo’s GreenWorks bill would dedicate $1.3 billion over 10 years to provide grants and loans to municipalities to fund microgrids, vehicle fleet electrification, sustainability coordinators, and other local infrastructure. This program would be financed through additional state borrowing, similar to how the commonwealth pays for other municipal infrastructure grants.  

A Better City testified in support of DeLeo’s GreenWorks bill and joined many other stakeholders in calls to expediently pass this bill, but $1.3 billion is only a down payment on the extensive work that must be done to protect the commonwealth. Advancing a bond bill specifically designed to tackle climate resilience is a promising start, but we can, and we must do more.   

Baker’s bill, S.10, also aims to dedicate $1 billion over 10 years for resiliency projects by increasing the state’s deeds excise tax, often referred to as the real estate transfer tax, from $2 to $3 for every $500 of value 

The governor deserves credit for proposing an ongoing, independent source of funding for resiliency, but this bill lacks critical detail about how the new revenue will be spent. As currently drafted, only a third of the revenue generated by the deeds excise tax is dedicated to the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund, another third will be swept into the General Fund and potentially used for any state budget item, and the final third is currently unaccounted for. Additional transparency regarding who pays, who benefits and how the revenue can be accessed equitably, will be critical in determining future support for this bill. 

Real Estate Should Not Bear Burden Alone 

Targeting only the real estate tax to raise revenue for resiliency is a difficult pill for many to swallow. The real estate sector is already burdened with significant fees and taxes that fund myriad of public initiatives, but this resiliency plan does not explain how or guarantee that some of that funding will be reinvested into protecting both public and private real estate. The impacts from climate change are a threat and danger to all sectors of the economy and residents of the commonwealth, so the burden for funding preventative measures should be distributed beyond the real estate community. The existential threat of climate change demands a bold, comprehensive solution – not a piecemeal approach.  

For that reason, A Better City is leading the business community’s call for a Massachusetts Climate Resilience Commission to develop a long-term strategic vision for the governance, finance and implementation of infrastructure investments in the commonwealth. We join a diverse coalition of stakeholders – including The Boston Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, and Boston Harbor Now – in calling for the establishment of this commission.  

The necessary investments required to tackle climate resilience in the metropolitan Boston area and throughout the entire commonwealth will require broad-scale and diversified funding streams, far greater than one single sector tax or revenue stream alone. The governor’s and speaker’s plans are both steps forward that can help Massachusetts finance a statewide climate strategy, but even if both are perfected and implemented, we will still require a more comprehensive approach to climate financing, governance and infrastructure investment.  

Rick Dimino is CEO of A Better City. 

Getting it Right on Resiliency Funding and Investment

by Rick Dimino time to read: 3 min