Rick Dimino

In the first few weeks of 2021, we have taken major steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change.  

By re-signing the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office, President Joe Biden and his team of climate experts stand ready to re-commit the United States to national and global climate action.  

President Biden has also created a cabinet and Executive Branch strategically designed to confront our climate crisis and to build the economy of the future. Former Secretary of State John Kerry will serve as a special presidential envoy for climate and Massachusetts native and former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will serve as the first-ever national climate advisor in the White House.  

Under this visionary leadership, the Biden Administration is poised to “build back better” by making record investments in clean energy and in modern, sustainable infrastructure.   

At the state and local level, our leaders must rise to the occasion and work together to broker smart, workable climate solutions for the commonwealth 

Earlier this month, the state Senate and House of Representatives passed a sweeping climate bill in the final hours of the legislative session, which Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed on account of several arguably fixable provisions he feared would negatively impact the region’s economic recovery. The governor has committed to revisiting and advancing climate legislation in the coming weeks and months.  

Meanwhile, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano remain unwavering in their commitment to the legislature’s climate bill, which was refiled just days into the new session. It is possible to get this right through goodfaith collaboration between the governor, legislative leaders and the business community. To be clear, the stakes are high for the commonwealth – without thoughtful and effective action on climate and resiliency, our regional economy will not recover, grow and thrive. 

Industry Must Have Input 

This focus on climate is an unparalleled opportunity to advance a compromise bill that propels Massachusetts toward meeting its climate goals and while investing in our economic growth. The foundation of the legislature’s bill is solid, but some key amendments are needed to address implementation concerns, specifically relating to the stretch energy building code.  

The goal of updating the state’s stretch energy code is laudable – it would enable municipalities to opt into a more stringent energy code for buildings. However, the bill’s current language lacks clarity regarding process and scope and promulgates an unworkable timeline. It is particularly problematic that municipalities could adopt the new code within one year of the bill’s passage. 

If we are going to get to net zero, we must pursue a comprehensive strategy that includes achievable energy efficiency requirements prescribed in the code, as well as renewable energy guidelines that allow for both the development of onsite renewable energy and the procurement of offsite renewable energy. Above all, this process should be guided by industry input and enabled by the provision of incentives. The commercial real estate sector must be at the table to define compliance pathways and timelines that are both technically and economically feasible. 

Despite the urgency of our near-term goal to enact a climate bill as soon as possible, we should not lose sight of our long-term objective to develop a broader climate policy framework that works for our communities, businesses and regional economy. With help from the business community, our state leaders must come together to make the small changes needed to get a landmark climate bill across the finish line. This commonsense, bipartisan compromise would position the commonwealth to deliver not just a climate bill, but also the sustainable, equitable and resilient growth of our region.    

Rick Dimino is CEO of A Better City. 

We Have the Opportunity to Get it Right on Climate

by Rick Dimino time to read: 3 min