Beyond its intrinsic value, nature provides measurable benefits to people by offering solutions to some of our biggest environmental problems. Our new set of five fact sheets takes a deeper look at the financial and health benefits of ecosystems like forests, wetlands, and urban green spaces.
Good news: the mosquito control bill that posed damaging changes to natural lands and public health has been redrafted. Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill made a big difference.
Learn About Net Zero Planning
Mass Audubon supportsH.3983, state legislation that lays out a road map for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our climate change program director is moderating a virtual conversation on the bill next Thursday – sign up today!
Supporting Stimulus Funds for Public Lands
Mass Audubon joined partners in urging Congress to fund programs that benefit wildlife and restore public lands in future COVID-19 stimulus bills. We advocated for conservation programs that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide benefits to people, communities, and the environment.
MVP Toolkit: Public Health and the Healthcare Sector
As Massachusetts’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program grows, so do the range of needs of participating cities and towns. The state has created guidance for understanding the intersections between public health, the healthcare sector, and climate change, and for developing projects with health-related co-benefits.
What’s better for the planet – a field full of solar panels shining in the sun, or that same number of panels placed over a parking lot? If you said parking lot, you’re right – but it’s complicated.
Responding as a global community to the threat of climate change means increasing and improving access to renewable energy sources. And here in Massachusetts, adding more clean energy to our electricity supply will be key to reaching our net-zero emissions goal by 2050. But it’s important to make sure this expanded access doesn’t come at the expense of our natural lands and resources. That’s why Mass Audubon has been participating in the public review process for Massachusetts solar energy regulations.
Last month, the state officially released updates to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program to double statewide solar capacity. The changes also include carving out part of the program to ensure access for low-income projects.
From 2012-2017, one-quarter of all land development in Massachusetts was the result of ground-mounted solar arrays – covering about 6,000 acres of what used to be forest or farmland. Expanding solar is crucial for climate action by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but the siting of these projects makes a difference. For instance, it’s counterproductive to clear-cut forests and convert them to industrial scale solar arrays. Forests are vital to our resiliency from the impacts of climate change, and they help absorb carbon emissions. If current trends continue, up to 150,000 acres of forest could be lost in order to meet the green energy targets.
Mass Audubon and our conservation partners urged the state to direct more SMART financial incentives to projects on rooftops, parking lots, and other areas already altered by development. This also has the benefit of locating the green energy supply closer to electrical demand – learn more about the benefits of “getting solar off the ground” in our new Losing Ground report.
Importantly, the new regulations address some of these recommendations by steering new projects away from irreplaceable natural lands. The state will end eligibility for new, large-scale, private solar projects in the most ecologically sensitive areas – habitat for state-listed rare species, core areas with large blocks of forest, and “Critical Natural Landscapes”. This is good news! However, many projects already planned before the update will still proceed in these areas under the old rules, and certain new publicly sponsored projects can still be located in these sensitive areas.
What comes next?
We look forward to seeing how these changes will improve the solar landscape in Massachusetts. We are also pressing for even more progress, like increasing funding for parking lot canopies, which cost more to build than arrays on open land but have far fewer development impacts. Co-location within farms is another potentially promising approach that may support the business’s financial viability and energy efficiency, while maintaining the land’s agricultural productivity. We are also urging the state to provide more planning assistance to small communities to help direct projects to the right locations.
Mass Audubon will be offering our feedback on the new updates, and you can too. The Department of Energy Resources is holding a virtual public hearing on Friday, May 22, and is also accepting written public comments through June 1. You can sign up to join the hearing online here, or submit written comments to [email protected]. Please include “SMART Public Comment” in the subject line.
It’s exciting to see clean energy taking off in Massachusetts and around the world. With careful planning now, we can ensure solar’s expansion is a success for consumers, the climate, and conservation.
Did you know Mass Audubon is offering online programs and classes during COVID-19 related closures? From birding resources to nature photography tips, you can pick up a new skill or learn about our natural world from home.
The latest Op Ed from our advocacy director takes a closer look at what’s at stake in recent Waters of the US protection rollbacks, which threaten half our country’s wetlands and many of our smaller streams. Learn more about our lawsuit to fight the changes here.
Getting SMART About Solar
Responding as a global community to the threat of climate change means expanding access to renewable energy, but this expansion shouldn’t come at the expense of our natural lands and resources. Learn more about recent state solar updates in our blog post.
Addressing Environmental Injustice in Massachusetts
A new brief from Attorney General Healy’s office highlights the longstanding impacts of environmental injustice on families in Massachusetts. Read their ideas to address these impacts — like investing in clean energy jobs and strengthening regulations to protect vulnerable communities — and our statement of support.
The state released its formal letter of determination for reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Their plan includes offsetting a portion of remaining emissions through sequestration by natural sources like trees—which means land protection must play a critical role.
Op Ed: Science Matters
The latest op ed from our advocacy director highlights the need for science-driven decisions in both public health and climate change policy-making. As we learn more about our vulnerabilities, we can save lives by preparing today.
Funding Opportunity for Watershed Health
Restore America’s Estuaries Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants fund projects that help restore clean water and healthy ecosystems to the region. Applications are being accepted through May 29.
This Earth Day, Let’s Commit to our Planet’s Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our concept of business-as-usual upside down. But when it comes to our environmental safeguards, business-as-usual wasn’t good enough to begin with. It’s time to reassess how stronger environmental policies mean stronger public health policies. Learn more >
Massachusetts has updated its solar energy program to expand capacity, direct projects away from important natural lands, and increase access for low-income projects. Smart solar siting is a Mass Audubon priority – stay tuned for more on what these changes mean.
Sign to Support Nonprofits
Our colleagues at the New England Aquarium have created a petition urging Congress to provide emergency relief funding to U.S. aquariums, zoos, and other nonprofit cultural organizations that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can help: sign today!
States Oppose EPA Rollbacks
Adding to the list of state leaders that have spoken out against environmental rollbacks during this pandemic, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and thirteen other state AGs have urged the EPA to rescind the changes.
April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which has always served as a reminder of our power to protect our planet and effect change. All month, Mass Audubon is celebrating this year’s theme of climate action. Join us!
New Leadership at Mass Audubon
We are excited to welcome David O’Neill as the new President of Mass Audubon! David has dedicated his professional career to conservation, and most recently served as Chief Conservation Officer and Senior Advisor to the CEO of National Audubon Society. Meet David >
Shaping Massachusetts’ Net-zero Vision
As a member of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, Mass Audubon provided input on the state’s Determination of Statewide Emissions Limit for 2050. We support a 2050 net-zero requirement, and made additional recommendations like ensuring equity and social justice measures.
COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Webinars
Our Southeast New England Network is hosting a series of lunchtime webinar discussions focused on how we can respond to the pandemic in a way that builds a stronger and more resilient New England. Learn more and register >
Defending US Water Protections
Mass Audubon joined our conservation partners in writing to US House and Senate leadership to ask that future stimulus packages include funding for water infrastructure programs, which are critical for minimizing pollution and ensuring clean drinking water access.
Federal Stimulus Support
We also urged the Massachusetts congressional delegation to ensure that COVID-19 relief includes investments in sustainable development and clean energy. By protecting our natural resources, we can also create crucial jobs to stimulate the nation’s recovery.
Mass Audubon has three new staff members helping us advance climate action! Welcome to Danielle Perry, Climate Change Adaptation Ecologist; Nia Keith, Climate Change Education Manager; and Rishya Narayanan, Climate Change Communications Manager.
Supporting Cleaner Transportation
Massachusetts is participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional partnership to reduce emissions and invest in sustainable transportation. We weighed in during TCI’s public comment period (more on our support for TCI here).
One Step Closer to Net Zero
The state has released a draft letter to officially set a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050. This release starts a month-long public comment period on how to reach that goal, and aligns with a series of public meetings held around the state.
Last week, the Massachusetts state Senate approved legislation to move us forward on climate action. An Act setting next-generation climate policy (S.2477) calls for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a more ambitious goal than the current state target.
This newly introduced, fast-moving bill is a top Mass
Audubon legislative priority, and would advance our organization’s Climate
Action Plan. It was among three climate-related bills to pass, the other two of
which address energy
efficiency and electric
and net-zero vehicle programs.
Currently, thanks to the Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2008, Massachusetts is required
to reduce its emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, with an interim goal
of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.
The new Next Generation bill ramps up those goals to achieve net-zero emissions for our state by 2050. It would set interim targets every five years, and would require a market-based, carbon-pricing mechanism for the transportation, commercial building, and residential sectors.
Mass Audubon, with our partners at The Nature Conservancy
and The Trustees, helped ensure an amendment was included to recognize the
importance of carbon sequestration by natural and working lands towards meeting
emissions reductions goals. If the bill passes, this would mark the first time in
Massachusetts this type of recognition would be given in emissions regulations.
The bills will now move on to the House, where we will work to amend it further to include industrial scale offshore wind – an important clean energy component for achieving emissions targets. Stay tuned for opportunities to help these Next Generation policies succeed!
The transportation sector is responsible for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions statewide. To help address the problem at its source, Massachusetts joined a regional initiative to reduce emissions and invest in sustainable transportation. You can help it succeed >
A new poll found that 58% of American respondents consider themselves either “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change—an all-time high, and an alarmed percentage that’s nearly triple what it was five years ago.
Webinar: Adopting CPA in Your Community
Our Community Preservation Act (CPA) has recently heard from many communities that are curious about adopting CPA. So we’re offering a free webinar on Thursday, January 30, at 12:00 pm to share CPA basics and how to adopt it locally! Get the details & register >
New England’s energy system is more expensive and more polluting than it should be, but Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is helping empower electricity users to advocate for a cleaner energy system in New England. Learn more and add your voice.
Good news – Mayor Marty Walsh signed an executive order last week requiring all new municipal building construction to meet a Zero Net Carbon standard. This means every new City-owned building will have to be low-energy and fossil fuel-free.
Supporting State Adaptation Funding
Mass Audubon and members of our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition provided testimony supporting the “Greenworks” bill, which would improve climate adaptation and resiliency policy and funding. We also suggested changes to strengthen the bill.
Opposing Offshore Drilling Changes
With conservation partners, we opposed a change to the federal Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act that put wildlife at risk. The amendment would have facilitated dangerous offshore oil drilling, harming marine mammals in the process – and fortunately, was later defeated.
Help Improve Mosquito Messaging
The state Department of Agricultural Resources is seeking feedback on their communication about mosquitoes and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) from this summer and fall. This input will help improve outreach next season.