The Town of Needham is well on its way to creating a Climate Action Plan. The Plan will provide a roadmap for the Town, its residents, and businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resiliency as it works in an equitable way towards net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.
The basic formula to achieve that drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce energy use, electrify everything (heating, cooling, transportation) and support the “greening” of the electric grid as fossil fuels are eliminated as a source of electric power generation.
A Climate Action Plan Committee, (CAPC), consisting of two Select Board members, two members of the Planning Board and five interested residents, has been meeting monthly since March, 2022. As Committee Chair Stephen Frail points out, “For Needham to achieve the state-mandated greenhouse gas reductions, we will need contributions from Town residents, businesses, organizations, and the Town itself. Fortunately, both Massachusetts and the federal government are providing significant incentives to support the transition.”
What progress has been made so far?
- Greenhouse Gas Inventory completed – For Needham the three largest sources are residential buildings (heat and electricity), commercial/industrial buildings, and passenger vehicles. Town buildings and vehicles only contribute about 2.4 percent of Needham’s emissions.
- Two important warrant articles were passed by the October Special Town Meeting: The first appropriated funding to hire a Climate Action Plan consultant, who is expected to begin work in February/March 2023. The consultant will work with the CAPC on the development of the Plan. The second article authorized the Town to begin the process of Community Electricity Aggregation, identified by the committee “as the single most impactful step that Needham can take in the immediate term to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Learn more about CEA
- Six working groups were established in the fall and have been meeting to prioritize and make recommendations for actions to be included in the Plan.
- The next step is for the Climate Action Plan Committee to select a consultant via a public procurement process. Once the consultant is in place, the CAPC will continue with the next steps, which include public meetings to gather community feedback and input, and an initial draft of the Climate Action Plan.
- The goal is to complete the Plan by mid-2023.
What does this have to do with us personally?
Everything! The Climate Action Plan is advisory only. Stephen Frail emphasizes that “every single recommendation will have to go through the standard Town decision-making process and prioritization.” Some of us are Town Meeting members. All of us are constituents who can make our voices heard as Town Meeting, the Select Board, and other Town departments and committees work towards policies that integrate the Plan’s recommendations.
And we must remember that the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in Needham come from residences and personal vehicles. Ultimately it will be up to us, not only to speak up for policy changes, but also, if we have the privilege of choice, to follow up with our own thoughtful consumer decisions and the lifestyle changes necessary to avert a climate crisis that can’t be controlled.
When we need to replace anything — from a car, to a heating system, to a lawn mower, or a clothes drier or stove — we have an opportunity to go electric and sometimes reap generous rebates. Every time we take public transportation, set the thermostat down a notch in winter, or decide to cool the house with night air on a summer day, we are reducing our energy use. And of course installing solar panels or buying green energy makes a contribution to greening the grid. Household by household, we must make the urgently needed transition toward a sustainable, post-fossil-fuel world.