| GRC | 04.23.20

GRC Climate Work Continues

Our community faces tremendous challenges at this time, and while the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s core work focuses on climate change, we recognize that the coronavirus pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequities that have captured our urgent attention are interrelated in important ways. As a membership group, we need to listen and learn from those who are suffering from generations of neglect and – all too often – deliberate abuse by those in positions of privilege. 

Social justice, public health, and climate equity are one and the same fight

The present moment has crystalized a change in our understanding of the problem. Social justice, public health, and climate equity are one and the same fight. They have to be solved together. As follows, we thought it would be most appropriate to provide a platform for recent statements from Boston’s leaders and some powerful perspectives from diverse leaders that offer their insights into systemic racism:

Climate change is inherently a social equity issue because socially vulnerable communities contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, but they are the most vulnerable to its impacts. This is the case globally, but it is also true here at home in Boston. As we forge ahead to make progress on climate change mitigation and resilience, we are committed to improving conditions that have contributed to economic and racial injustices. Climate resilience without social justice is not sustainable.

We must respect this moment by working harder and changing the way we go at it. The Boston Green Ribbon Commission will re-examine its climate strategies to place stronger emphasis on opportunities to build social equity. We can do better, and we will do better.  

Our work continues with even more urgency 

As the pandemic continues to impact our City this summer and beyond, we thank GRC Co-Chair Mayor Martin J. Walsh and his administration for their sound, informed leadership. We also recognize the swift and critical action taken by our healthcare partners that are on the front lines of the crisis. Many GRC member organizations have mobilized resources to help our community respond. This is representative of the commitment to collective wellbeing that also motivates our shared work on climate change.

The Boston Green Ribbon Commission does not intend to slow our work any more than can be helped. Mayor Walsh’s commitment to our work, as described during our recent May 28th member Zoom meeting, continues unimpeded. A few video highlights of our recent meeting and speakers are as follows:

  • Boston Medical Center CEO Kate Walsh offers lessons from COVID-19 for accelerating climate action
  • Secretary John Kerry speaks on the urgency of tackling climate change and the parallels with the coronavirus pandemic
  • Bud Ris gives an overview of the recently-released GRC report, “Expanding Boston’s Capacity to Build Coastal Resilience Infrastructure: Lessons from the Seaport District”
  • Mayor Walsh provides an update on the City’s coronavirus response and speaks to the importance of continuing to pursue the City’s climate agenda, despite the pandemic

The GRC continues to focus on the following initiatives: 

  • Accelerating efforts to develop social equity capacity throughout the GRC by creating a new Task Force that draws on the experiences and expertise of those communities that have been harmed by environmental and energy policies and practices.
  • Supporting the efforts of our Working Groups in Health Care; Commercial Real Estate; Higher Education; Cultural Institutions; and Climate Preparedness;
  • Helping the City reduce carbon emissions from existing buildings (which represents two-thirds of Boston’s annual carbon pollution); 
  • Developing principles and design approaches for neighborhood resiliency;
  • Exploring the potential for decarbonized district energy in Boston;
  • Conducting research to understand what we can learn and adopt from the response to coronavirus (behavioral and economic changes that have an environmental impact); and
  • Encouraging individual enterprises to develop climate action plans consistent with the goals of the City of Boston for climate resilience and carbon mitigation.

Resources and amplifying the voices of our members

These are hardly normal times, so they call for new and creative approaches to ensure that we keep the fight against climate change front and center. Many colleagues in our network have made efforts to convene, to write, to reflect on what has happened and imagine what might come next, and we have assembled a few of their pieces here.

In a Boston Globe column, Secretary John Kerry, who spoke to our members at our recent virtual meeting, artfully called out the parallels between the coronavirus and the climate crisis. Environmental factors compound the COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impact on communities of color in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healy highlights in a recent brief. There are opportunities to advance our climate plans in the mayhem, as Boston University’s Peter Fox-Penner writes in a Boston Globe Ideas piece. Some strategic advance action to reduce carbon emissions was taken in a timely way by Boston Medical Center, a Boston Globe Magazine story shows. Medical and community health experts from all over the globe, gathered by the Skoll Foundation and Health Care Without Harm, are coming together to think about systemic solutions. And, as usual, CERES President and GRC member Mindy Lubber is focused on better leadership.

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