After the successful passage and signing into law of the climate bill in July, Mothers Out Front is starting to look ahead to the next legislative session and the next gubernatorial term in Massachusetts. Because Gov. Charlie Baker is not running for reelection, we will have a new governor in January.
On September 15, I joined a Climate Action Call to learn more about the opportunities for climate action presented by the change in administration in Massachusetts. During the event, members from all over the state gathered to build our movement and take actions that will encourage our next governor to take meaningful action on climate.
The Governor’s Role in Shaping Climate
We were joined by Ann Berwick, a member of Mothers Out Front and the current Co-Director of Climate and Sustainability for Newton. Ann served as the chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities from 2010-2015, and shared her perspective on what the next governor could do to accelerate a just transition away from fossil fuels in Massachusetts.
Ann explained some of the consequential early decisions that the governor will make that could have a big impact on our state’s ability to reduce emissions and air pollution across the Commonwealth:
- The governor sets the agenda for key agencies and has the bully pulpit. A governor who is motivated to take action on climate can spur increased legislative activity and steer policy in the right direction.
- One of the most important things the new governor will do early on is make key appointments to two agencies that control energy policy and oversight of utilities – the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and Department of Public Utilities (DPU). Appointments of DPU commissioners are particularly crucial, as once appointed these commissioners act independently of the administration. Appointing commissioners whose careers reflect a deep commitment to addressing climate change is crucial to making progress on things like accelerating the growth of green energy and shifting away from fossil fuels.
- Ann emphasized that electrification of the built environment in Massachusetts is a key area that needs to be advanced to address climate change, and the new governor will have a number of different opportunities to advance that goal. One area that they could address early on is improving the current building “stretch code,” which sets standards for new construction and renovations and does little to phase out the use of fossil fuels in new construction. The new governor could update and improve rules in order to improve energy efficiency and accelerate decarbonization in the building sector.
- Ann also highlighted additional local and legislative opportunities to advance building electrification. Local cities and towns can continue to pass home rule petitions seeking to allow electrification requirements in new construction and major renovations. The legislature could go even farther by expanding building electrification policies during the next legislative session.
Sending a Powerful Letter to the Next Governor
After examining the importance of the governor to advancing our climate goals, we turned to our collective action for the day. As Mothers Out Front looks ahead to the coming year, we are taking this moment to gather our strength as a movement and to raise our voices together to urge the new governor to take action on climate. We have written a powerful letter to the next governor — whomever that might be — that asserts our vision as a movement:
A Commonwealth where children can breathe clean air – in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods. Where families can count on safe, healthy, affordable, and sustainable housing. Where workers can count on quality, family-sustaining jobs. Where communities can be free from unjust burdens of pollution and energy infrastructure.
This letter also articulates a clear set of priorities that Mothers Out Front hopes the next Governor will embrace in their first term:
- Protect air quality for all communities – both indoors and out
- Stop the runaway construction of dirty energy plants and pipelines
- Say “no” to utilities’ plans to prolong the piping of methane and other dangerous gases under our streets and into our homes
- Prioritize funds and policies to speed the adoption of clean, safe, and affordable electric solutions
- Ensure that low- and moderate-income people benefit by scaling up funding to retrofit older homes
- Invest in workers, including prioritizing union contracts
Mothers Out Front will deliver this letter, with thousands of signatures, to the new governor when they take office in January.
Our action on the call was simple: first, sign the letter, and next, commit to being a Climate Connector by setting an intention to gather a specific number of signatures from those in our community and around the state. In addition to being an assertion of our agenda and our strength as a movement, this letter is an opportunity for us to each reach out to others about this work and bring more voices into our movement. The letter is an opportunity to have conversations and build connections with people who are aligned with our vision, people who care about climate but haven’t found a way to take action, and people who are just learning about the importance of these issues.
Here are two things you can do today to advance this work:
- Read and sign the letter!
- Sign up to be a Climate Connector by engaging with folks in the community and gathering signatures. Signatures from all mothers, caregivers, and caring persons (in other words, everyone!) are welcome.
Join Us in Climate Action!
Join Mothers Out Front on Thursday, October 20, 12:00-12:45 pm to take action for a livable climate! No prior experience or knowledge is necessary—Mothers Out Front organizers will provide the background and tools needed during the event.
*The ‘stretch code’ is an optional appendix to the Massachusetts building energy code. It allows cities and towns to impose a more energy efficient version of this code, within set limits. Currently the limits set by the Baker administration do not allow cities and towns to require that all new construction and major renovations be all-electric. [jump back to section]
Charlotte Dobbs is a volunteer with Mothers Out Front in Belmont. Charlotte is a consultant and mom of a feisty one-year-old. She was inspired to join Mothers Out Front after realizing how much potential there was to make a difference at a state level here in Massachusetts, and how much MOF had already accomplished.