Carbon Free Boston Working Group

The Carbon Free Boston initiative modeled the four main carbon emitting sectors of the economy — buildings, transportation, waste, and electricity — and analyzed the policy and technology pathways to a post-carbon future.

The Carbon Free Boston Working Group supports the City of Boston’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Achieving the goal will require significant shifts in the current energy mix used by the City, its residents, and its commercial sectors. Essentially, a transition must be effected from carbon-based fuel sources to renewable energy sources. The Carbon Free Boston project, sponsored by the GRC and its CFB Working Group, is designed to figure out the specific pathways for making that transition within the next 32 years.

In 2016, Mayor Marty Walsh asked the GRC for help with the development of strategies to achieve its targets of carbon neutral by 2050, with interim goals of a 25 and 50 percent reduction by 2020 and 2030, respectively, relative to a 2005 baseline. In response to the Mayor’s request, the Green Ribbon Commission organized a collaboration with Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) to produce the Carbon Free Boston report in 2018, for the purpose of informing the next phase of Boston’s de-carbonization strategies and actions. The CFB report quantifies the most effective combination of technologies and policies to reduce GHG emissions across the energy, buildings, transportation, and waste sectors; it will also inform the City’s 2019 Climate Action Plan update.

ISE’s approach was to model Boston’s four major carbon-producing sectors — electric power, buildings, transportation, and waste — and assess technical and policy options for reducing their emissions over time. The modeling process was guided by a set of Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) with deep experience in each of the four sectors. The choices involved in changing how energy is produced or procured also carry social and economic equity considerations for the City of Boston. A social equity specialist was on the consulting team, leading a Social Equity Advisory Group that includes equity experts as well as many of the members of the other TAGs. The final report provides an equity lens, in addition to technical criteria, for the City to use in evaluating its choices for how to proceed toward a carbon-free future. The report was officially released January 29th, 2019.

To learn more about Carbon Free Boston and see who was involved, visit the ISE website.

Buildings (heating and cooling) represent more carbon emissions in the City of Boston than any other sector, and of these, commercial buildings are the biggest emitters. Key strategies for reducing carbon from buildings are: 1) applying deep energy retrofits; 2) procuring or producing renewable energy; and 3) shifting to all-electrification (versus natural gas or oil), assuming a clean energy grid. Some examples of GRC member buildings that have taken steps to reduce carbon and save costs are shown below.



  • Mindy Lubber