As we move through this stressful time when each of our lives is affected by the acute crisis of COVID-19, I’d like to take a moment, in honor of Earth Day, to re-envision an economy recovered and rejuvenated by a swift transition to solar, wind and energy efficiency, resulting in more jobs, global exports of clean tech, and the opportunity to sustain the clean, healthier air that has been one of the few positive consequences of sheltering in place. As this pandemic subsides, I hope that we will harness the same creative, determined spirit we’re using to drive down the spread of COVID-19 to re-focus our resilience and creative energies on committing deeply to climate solutions.
While the climate crisis is currently not as acute as this terrible pandemic, it is no less pervasive and urgent. The good news about the climate crisis is that we (individuals, businesses, industry, organizations and our state government) have the opportunity to act now to reduce the impact of global heating and avert more frequent large scale climate crises like the local flooding from Hurricane Irene and the devastation in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands from Hurricane Maria.
Our Massachusetts legislators have a bill that would do just that. The Mass Power Forward (MPF) coalition of over 200 organizations, and local member organization, Climate Action Now Western MA (CAN), support Massachusetts House bill 2836, the 100% Renewable Energy Act, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker and Rep. Sean Garballey. This bill sets an ambitious goal to equitably reach 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2045. It invests in workforce development to quickly ramp up the capacity to train workers for renewable energy careers. For a fact sheet on the bill, go https://bit.ly/100RE_FactSheet.
As we all do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 by limiting our local outings and working at home when possible, we’re seeing a glimpse of how healthy our air quality will be with 100% electric transportation. Transportation accounts for about 40% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Massachusetts. If we quickly transition to electric buses, trucks and cars, not only will our GHG emissions plummet, so, too, will the high levels of pollution in our region that result in serious health impacts including asthma, heart diseases, and higher susceptibility to lung ailments like COVID-19.
To achieve 100% renewable energy, we also need to implement energy efficiency in a big way, a path that this bill will pursue. According to a model by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), energy efficiency could cut in half U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, as required by 2050 in the Paris Climate Accords. With efficient lighting and appliances like Energy Star washing machines and mini-splits for heating and cooling, building weatherization, and net zero energy new construction, consumers, businesses and our state agencies will avoid wasting energy and using fossil fuels, while significantly dropping their utility costs.
Climate Action Now (CAN) Legislative Committee member Sally Pick consults on energy-efficiency and solar power from her home in Montague.