Boston Prepares for Climate Change

More than 36 million people will fly in and out of Boston’s Logan airport this year. If you’re in a window seat, you’ll notice the glittering new Seaport district across the harbor from the airport -- and beyond it, the historic Fort Point area that borders on “Southie,” which the world knows as “Good Will Hunting” territory. All of these areas are included in the City’s South Boston neighborhood.

Development has barreled forward at a breathtaking pace during the past decade, and today the map includes some of the city’s top employers -- GE, Vertex, PwC, along with major law firms, the Boston convention center (with 2.1 million square feet of space), condominiums, hotels, and restaurants galore.

And all of it is in a flood plain.

This week the City of Boston’s Greenovate team announced a Carbon-Free plan that puts us on track to reduce carbon emissions by 25% by 2020 and 100% by 2050. The initiative is a partnership between the City, the Green Ribbon Commission (with support from the Barr Foundation), and Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy. It’s part of the Climate Ready Boston and Imagine Boston plans: a grand vision for transforming Boston, which is one of the most vulnerable cities to sea-level rise, to become a state of the art metropolitan example of urban climate resilience and adaptation.

Also this week, a business organization called A Better City published “Voluntary Resilience Standards: An Assessment of Market Options for Boston’s Large Commercial Buildings.” It’s an impressive, comprehensive document and you can have a look here.

This report provides an overview of climate impacts projected to affect Boston over the next half century, describes each of the eight resilience standards relevant to Boston’s large commercial facilities, provides a comparison of these standards, and analyzes their ability to support resilience to extreme temperatures, sea-level rise, extreme precipitation, and severe weather in Boston’s commercial building stock.

Keyword: voluntary. Professionals in established sectors such as commercial real-estate developers and insurance brokers typically adhere to required regulations, not voluntary ones. And that’s where people – citizens, employees, shareholders, customers – can play an essential role to demand acceleration of the entire process. Broad public engagement is a key to success of the bold new proposals, including muscular support for improved building ordinances in line with science-based data such as Boston’s (alarming) sea-level rise projections.

The City’s plan has many moving parts. One strategy is to educate, engage, and enthuse people, neighborhood by neighborhood, via a network of trained Climate Ready Leaders run by the City’s Greenovate Boston team. Live or work in Boston? Then you can participate! More info on trainings at City Hall in early 2018.

If you’re in Boston on Monday, December 11, you can attend the Climate Ready Boston kick-off event for South Boston, from 6 to 8 pm. It’s open to everyone. Hope to see you there!

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