At the Needham Special Town Meeting planned for later this month, Town Meeting Members will be asked to vote on a warrant article that asks the Town of Needham to declare a climate and ecological emergency, and urges the Town to act to address the impacts of climate change.
The petition drive was launched by Needham resident, Becca Phillips, who has been working with the grassroots organization Extinction Rebellion, to compel Needham and other local governments to take action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. Becca reached out to Green Needham, Equal Justice Needham, and other local groups, to marshal support for this citizens’ petition.
The language of the article has been reviewed with Town Counsel and the Town Meeting Moderator, and has been included in the Special Town Meeting Warrant after the Town Clerk certified nearly 200 signatures during the petition drive.
The intention of the article is to put the Town of Needham on record as being aware of our climate emergency, and to request that the Town of Needham, through the Select Board, prioritize work to lower the Town’s carbon footprint, and ultimately to reach net zero carbon, and to protect Needham’s trees, forests, and open spaces.
The Select Board has already agreed to add the development of a Climate Action Plan to its goals for the coming year, a significant step forward in addressing what this climate emergency resolution asks of the Town.
Polling by the Yale Climate Change Communication research product indicates that there is strong support in Needham for local government action on climate change. Locally, 79% of respondents believe climate change is real, and 66% believe it’s mostly as a result of human activity. Additionally, 63% believe it’s already harming people in the US, and 58% believe that local officials should do more to address climate change.
While the climate emergency resolution is itself non-binding, passing it will send a strong message that the people of Needham care about this issue, and expect the Town to follow up on the commitments it makes through the Climate Action Plan.
Green Needham is asking that Town Meeting members vote YES on this article.
You can watch a video from the proponents of the petition here.
You can read the full text of the article below. Please reach out to Green Needham Steering Committee member, Stephen Frail, if you have any questions about the Climate Emergency Declaration.
A Resolution Concerning Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency
Whereas, Needham Town Meeting recognizes that we are in a Climate and Ecological Emergency that threatens our town, state, nation and all of humanity;
And Whereas, Needham Town Meeting believes that a mobilization to meet this challenge is imperative to stabilize the climate, remedy environmental harms which disproportionately hurt environmental justice communities, create clean-energy jobs, and improve human lives;
And Whereas, in recent years, the Town of Needham has demonstrated a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our environment by: constructing LEED Certified buildings such as the Sunita Williams Elementary School and the Needham Free Library, including EV charging stations at Sunita Williams and at Needham Public Works, implementing large solar installations at the Town Recycling and Transfer Station, passing the Stretch Building Code and becoming a Green Community, committing to pesticide and herbicide-free maintenance of town trees and parks, and currently preparing a town-wide Climate Action Plan to further lower the town’s carbon footprint.
And Whereas, Town Meeting recommends that Needham join over 2,000 governments globally that have declared a climate emergency, an emergency primarily driven by human activities, most significantly the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests and other carbon sinks, resulting in rising global temperatures and loss of biodiversity.
And Whereas, a warming planet poses serious risks to human health, and safety and economic security, as evidenced by recent extreme weather events including droughts, forest fires, and floods, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, soil erosion, and mass species extinctions around the globe. Massachusetts is already experiencing flooding from storms and rising sea levels, droughts, increased transmission of tick-borne illnesses, record- breaking heat waves, and loss of biodiversity, such as bird and pollinator populations.
Be It Resolved, that this day, in recognition of the urgent need to mobilize, Needham’s Town Meeting goes on record as recommending that the Town of Needham, acting through the Select Board, declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency. Once declared, Town Meeting recommends that the Select Board consider taking further action including:
● Communicating to all town departments, businesses, and residents the critical need to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as is fiscally and technologically possible;
● Developing policies that protect Needham’s trees, forests, and open spaces because they draw carbon from the atmosphere, and provide life-sustaining food and shelter to other species;
● Prioritizing projects that reduce the town’s greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss;
● Ensuring that the town pursues an equitable and just transition to a zero-greenhouse gas future.
Town Meeting calls on state and federal elected officials to initiate a Climate Emergency mobilization and provide appropriate legislative, regulatory, and financial support to municipalities to implement local climate emergency initiatives. Town Meeting requests that the Town Clerk send notice of this resolution to the Office of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Needham’s state and federal legislators.