Tag Archives: adaptation

Preparing for Climate Change in our Communities

September 24-30th is Climate Preparedness Week, a movement dedicated to learning, service, and actions that better prepare our communities for extreme weather events.

Climate change is already impacting towns and cities across Massachusetts, from hotter summers and rising sea levels to more frequent severe weather events and inland flooding. Meanwhile, recent extreme storms like the devastating Hurricane Dorian are reminders that extreme weather events are only getting worse globally. So while we continue working toward reducing emissions and preventing the worst future climate change scenarios, we also need to get serious about preparing for the inevitable impacts we’ll continue to see.

© Andrew Dai

Massachusetts has been a leader on this front, from the first-in-the-nation State Hazard and Mitigation Implementation Plan, to the groundbreaking Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which provides support for communities to begin planning for climate change. And at Mass Audubon, we’ve been working to support these efforts as MVP facilitators and advocates for adaptation planning and funding. But there’s still so much to do!

Ready to take action and help your community build resilience? Why not start by:

Need more reasons to get involved? Many climate preparedness strategies, especially those that take advantage of nature based solutions, also have co-benefits of improving public health and preserving natural resources.

Climate Preparedness Week is a great introduction to getting more involved in your local community while helping build climate resilience, and we know that connected communities are more resilient communities. We have a lot of work to do, but each person’s decisions add up. What starts with individual action can turn into collective action in a neighborhood, community, state, or even country. 

Find an event near you to get started today!

Help Rally Support for Community Climate Funding

Last week was a big one for the future of climate change planning, when bills filed by Governor Baker and by Speaker DeLeo to fund community preparedness had their hearings at the State House.

The success of the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program has made clear that Massachusetts cities and towns are eager to be proactive about planning for climate change impacts. Planning for these impacts also reduces the long-term costs of climate-related risks and protects property values. With 71% of Massachusetts municipalities enrolled in the program’s first three years, additional funding is now needed to help meet demand for planning and action grants.

Nature based solutions, like protecting floodplains and forests, are prioritized through MVP.

Governor Baker’s bill, An Act Providing for Climate Change Adaptation Infrastructure Investments in the Commonwealth (S.10), would:

  • Establish a new, sustainable source of revenue for cities and towns to fund resilient infrastructure and nature-based solutions to climate impacts
  • Build upon the MVP program to meet its increased demand
  • Increase the state’s deeds excise from $2.28 to $3.42 for every $500 of a property sale. This would allow approximately $137 million annually to be invested in climate change adaptation and resiliency projects throughout Massachusetts to protect public health, safety, and property
  • Deposit funds into a Global Warming Solutions Trust fund to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to cities and towns for their priority adaptation projects
  • Allow funds to be spent across fiscal years, lending flexibility to support larger, more complex projects

Speaker DeLeo’s “Greenworks” bill (H.3846) would:

  • Establish a GreenWorks resiliency program for Massachusetts cities and towns, which would include grants for public infrastructure improvements, renewable energy production and storage, and MVP-related adaptation projects
  • Develop a matching grant program to support and provide technical assistance for cities and towns to develop municipal microgrid clean energy systems
  • Develop a grant programs to encourage electrification of vehicle fleets owned by municipalities or regional transit authorities
  • Establish a grant program to allow municipalities to hire sustainability coordinators
  • Establish a Green Resiliency Fund to provide loans to municipalities for resiliency improvements and investments
  • Provide this funding, which would total about $1.3 billion, through the sale of specially-designated bonds
Flooding following a storm this past winter. Photo credit: FEMA

Mass Audubon submitted testimony in support of each bill, both independently and with partners like our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition and the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. You can also read testimony on S.10 from Governor Baker and EEA Secretary Theoharides.

You can help too!  

If your state representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on Revenue, contact them and urge them to report S.10 favorably out of committee, so it can continue its path toward being signed into law.

If they are a member of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, contact them and urge them to report H.3846 favorably out of committee.

Even if your legislator isn’t on either Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of these bills. Let them know that as the impacts of climate change continue to become more severe, it’s crucial that Massachusetts cities and towns are as prepared as possible. These bills would help make sure that happens by setting aside steady income streams to fund community resiliency projects.

Preparing Our Communities for Climate Change

by Mike Cusher

In 2018, the United States dealt with 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters. The four highest annual occurrences of billion-dollar weather disasters have all been within the past decade, and last year’s events had a total economic impact of $91 billion. This number includes both the direct costs of destruction as well as indirect costs like lost wages during and after the disaster, both of which pale in comparison to the increased health risks and tragic loss of life due to these storms.

Massachusetts was impacted by two of these devastating weather disasters last year during nor’easters that hit in January and in March. With these events, we are seeing the destruction of our 1,500 miles of coastline and major flooding of our inland rivers. The Commonwealth is in desperate need of increased revenue to ensure our most vulnerable communities are ready for more such impacts in the coming years. We know that being proactive in response to these weather events will cost less, and reduce damage, compared with reacting to disasters after they have occurred.

The nor’easter of March 2018 caused significant coastal flooding and hurricane-force winds in Massachusetts. Photo credit: NOAAA

A big part of the solution comes from the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which enhances climate adaptation practices at the local level. The program provides support for communities across Massachusetts to consider their local strengths and vulnerabilities to climate change, and to prioritize actions they can take to create a safer and more resilient future. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP provider, and assists communities with this work.

But in addition to these local planning efforts, Massachusetts also needs more funding for state and local agencies to prioritize resilience. This occurs through actions like retrofitting vulnerable flood controls, transportation infrastructure, and water resources, and by implementing regional climate-smart land and coastal protection frameworks.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwaters, is one way to strengthen community resilience against climate change impacts. Photo credit: USFWS

Earlier this year, Governor Baker introduced legislation to address this need. An Act providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth (S.10) would create a new stream of funding to help our communities prepare for the future. The Governor’s proposal would raise $137 million annually, through a real estate tax increase, to go into the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund.  This funding would then be reinvested into our cities and towns, both through the MVP program and as other assistance for the state and local communities to protect vulnerable assets.

This legislation is a way to leverage a small increase in the deeds excise tax, paid during real estate transfers, into a major investment in the future of our Commonwealth. S.10 is a promising next step in our ongoing process to deal with the greatest threat our world has ever faced.

Mike Cusher is Mass Audubon’s legislative director

End of Session Wrap-up

by Karen Heymann

On July 31st, the clock ran out for the majority of the  8,727 bills filed in the 2017-2018 legislative session, of which around only 400 were signed into law by Governor Baker. While there are many factors that go into determining the probability of a bill becoming law, those numbers translate to about a 5% chance of getting a bill passed in the Massachusetts legislature. That number drops even lower once you subtract the number of routine bills filed, such as the state budget, liquor licenses and sick leave banks.

Given these odds, the passage of our priority bill, An Act providing for the establishment of a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change, or CAMP, first filed in 2015, was remarkable. This success represented the collective efforts of many, including the Baker administration, legislators, municipal leaders, environmental organizations, businesses and others. The strong support of the Baker administration was essential; not only had Governor Baker adopted the major provisions of CAMP in an Executive Order (an excellent step, but not law), he also took advantage of the need for a new environmental bond bill and included CAMP as an outside section of the bill when he filed it. Bond bills are funding authorizations typically passed every 5 years, and can be one of the best legislative vehicles for environmental legislation, since bond bills are usually passed in the same session they are filed.

Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Governor Charlie Baker, and Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton at the bond announcement in Scituate back in March following a severe winter storm season

When we first started working to get this bill filed in 2015, few legislators were aware of the seriousness and magnitude of the climate threats facing Massachusetts. Even just a few years ago climate change still seemed far off, something that would impact future, not current, generations. The frequency and severity of winter storms over the past few winters however, were a wake up call to many that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and that we need a comprehensive plan to prepare to deal with this threat. With the passage of CAMP, the current and future administrations are required to update a statewide climate adaptation plan every 5 years, and to support a program to provide technical and financial assistance to communities in assessing and addressing their own climate impacts.

The Bond: A Deeper Dive

Also included in the environmental bond bill were provisions which will also help reduce the Commonwealth’s climate emissions by protecting, restoring, and enhancing natural carbon storage areas like forests and salt marshes. One of Mass Audubon’s priority bills, supporting the Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership (MTWP), was included in the final environmental bond, and will support rural economic development in the Berkshire region by promoting local sustainable forestry and eco-tourism. Mass Audubon’s Losing Ground report series has documented the threats facing privately-owned forests in Massachusetts, largely from residential and commercial development. Innovative forest management approaches, such as the MTWP, could serve as a model for other states facing similar development threats to forests and other open space.

Not all of our legislative priorities were included in the final bond or approved for final passage. The “No net loss” or “Public Lands Protection Act” (PLPA) bill, which would have codified existing state policy preventing the loss of constitutionally-protected open space (known as Article 97 lands) by requiring replacement land, as well as notification to EEA prior to filing legislation to dispose of land, was not adopted. A statewide ban on plastic bags, adopted as an amendment in the Senate, was not included in the final bond bill despite local bag-ban ordinances in over 70 cities and towns. And our priority bill that would have improved protections for pollinators statewide also ran out of time.

The newly-passed energy bill will allow for further expansion of offshore wind development off Massachusetts’ coast.

The Governor did sign into law an energy bill that increases the growth rate of the state Renewable Portfolio Standard to 2% per year until 2029 and then 1% thereafter. This will increase the percentage of our energy required to come from renewable sources to 35% by 2030 (previously set at 25%) and to 45% by 2040 (previously set at 35%). Among other things, the bill establishes stronger targets for energy storage, and increased the potential for Massachusetts to procure up to 1,600 additional megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035.

In FY19 state budget news, the legislature approved healthy increases for the environmental agencies, but did not include two critical and widely supported sources of conservation funding: an increase for the Land Conservation Tax Credit and a much boost for the Community Preservation Trust fund, which provides a state match for locally-raised Community Preservation Act dollars. One of the big challenges for next session will be brainstorming ways to move forward funding increases for these two popular and critical sources of land protection funding.

Karen Heymann is Mass Audubon’s legislative director

Climate Adaptation Legislation Passed!

We are proud to report that our climate change adaptation legislation, our top legislative priority for the past four years, has passed as part of major environmental legislation (see below). This bill makes law a requirement for Massachusetts to adopt a statewide plan to address the impacts of climate change, and also codifies a grant and technical assistance program for cities and towns to develop their own plans. The bill also leaves the door open for future development of a voluntary coastal buyback program, which would help willing homeowners relocate away from hazardous coastal zones. It will be the first plan of its kind in the country to be codified into law.

Protecting wetlands that act as natural flood absorbers is one adaptation strategy

Along with our 52-member Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, we thank the bill’s sponsors Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Representative Frank Smizik (D-Brookline) for their tireless dedication in getting this bill over the finish line.

Details on the Environmental Bond

The environmental bond that includes our adaptation bill is now on the way to Governor Baker’s desk for his signature. The bond bill passed today was a compromise between the versions passed separately in the House and Senate. It authorizes $2.4 billion funding for conservation grant programs, climate resiliency, and coastal infrastructure, with special consideration given to projects utilizing nature-based solutions. In addition to our climate adaptation bill, the bond included a number of other policy provisions we support including the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, a grassroots initiative to stimulate conservation, sustainable forestry, and eco-tourism in the Berkshire region.

Our Commonwealth Conservation Council, a coalition of statewide organizations which Mass Audubon chairs, advocated for a strong bond bill. While we consider the final legislation to be a success, we were disappointed that several components from Senate version were not included in the final bill. These included a provision to ensure consistency between the statewide adaptation plan and other state policies, a statewide plastic bag ban, and codification of the state’s “no net loss” policy for permanently-protected conservation land.

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Adaptation Funding in the Environmental Bond

The Governor’s environmental bond bill (H.4438) is expected to go to the House floor for a vote this week. This bond includes several components of our priority climate change adaptation bill, and if signed into law, its passage will be an important step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past six years.

You can help by contacting your state representative and asking them to vote yes on H.4438.

A Closer Look at Coastal Buyback

With Massachusetts’ climate change adaptation needs frequently in the news following our series of recent storms, the possibility of a voluntary coastal buyback program has been getting more attention. A coastal buyback program, which is one proposed solution in our priority adaptation bill, would allow the state to purchase properties that suffer chronic storm damage.

Photo credit: FEMA

Some coastal homes have had to be repeatedly rebuilt or moved back from the beach following severe storms. A buyback program would offer an alternative for property owners and would save building and flood insurance costs. Reclaimed property would be returned to communities, and allowing the land to return to its natural state would restore barriers to flooding and provide a more resilient landscape. This process of property owners choosing not to rebuild after a storm and instead relocating away from the vulnerable shoreline, also known as managed retreat, ties into public safety as well.

Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke recently spoke with Fox25 Boston and WBGH on the proposed buyback program. He also offers some input during this short WGBH radio segment:

 

Big News for Climate Adaptation Funding

Mass Audubon staff joined Governor Charlie Baker, state officials, and nonprofit partners on the windy shores of Scituate last week where the Governor announced the filing of a 5-year, $1.4 billion capital spending bond. The good news for us: the proposed bond includes several aspects of our priority climate change adaptation bill.

As proposed, the bond would codify into law requirements for vulnerability assessments based on future climate change impacts, positions for science and state agency climate coordinators, and the statewide Integrated Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Plan. It also requires ongoing support and an increase in funding for the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, through which several Mass Audubon staff have been certified as trainers. Boosts in funding are also proposed for existing programs like the state’s Clean Water Trust Fund, state parks, and forest land protection programs.

Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Governor Charlie Baker, and Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton at the bond announcement in Scituate

The bond does not include every component of our adaptation bill. For instance, we would like to see its voluntary coastal buyback provision included, which would authorize the state to purchase storm-damaged properties along the shore. But it’s still a huge step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past five years. Our job now is to work with the legislature to further strengthen and improve the bond, and get it back on Governor Baker’s desk soon for his signature.

With support from Governor Baker and Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, we hope we have the momentum we need this time to get climate adaptation measures signed into law.

Learn more about the bond’s funding breakdown and see what Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke had to say in this WBUR piece on the announcement, and in this Salem News article.

And you can read the language of the bond itself here.

Adaptation Needs in the News

Massachusetts’ climate change adaptation needs have continued to top the headlines over the past week, as communities around the state are still reeling from the impacts of recent storms. Here’s some of the recent coverage:

TV

Radio:

  • WBUR’s story about recent storms, and the questions they’ve raised about how to protect our cities
  • Jack Clarke offering input on the coastal buy-back provisions of our Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) bill during a WGBH segment:

 

Newspapers/online

  • The lead editorial in this Sunday’s Boston Globe focuses on “a must-do list for climate change in Greater Boston”
  • An earlier look by The Boston Globe’s at some of the recent storm damage, with input from Mass Audubon
  • State House News Service reports on our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition’s efforts to urge House leadership to take action on CAMP
  • WGBH’s piece on State House dynamics that have led to challenges in getting CAMP passed
  • This Banker and Tradesman column by A Better City’s Rick Dimino (who’s also a member of our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition) encourages the House to pass CAMP from a business standpoint

Jack Clarke discussing adaptation needs on The Take with Sue O’Connell

Senator Pacheco Speaks Out on Adaptation Needs

In light of recent storms, Massachusetts state senator Marc Pacheco, the lead sponsor of our climate change adaptation bill, gave a rousing speech on the Senate floor today on the critical need for action on adaptation planning. Here’s the speech in its entirety:

March 5th, informal session.

Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton): “This year, we saw two hundred-year storms in a matter of two months. We had homes underwater and almost half a million people in Massachusetts without power. Roads were closed, and people were asked to evacuate. Nine people died – one right here in Massachusetts. Public safety officials tell us that the flooding is the worst that they have seen. If there’s ever a time to get climate readiness and climate adaptation into statute, it’s now.

In November, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to create a climate adaptation management plan, and this is the fifth time we have done so. We should see the writing on the wall. If gone unchecked, severe weather will wreak immense havoc on Massachusetts. It’s already happening. It continues to happen.

Our communities, our cities and towns, are facing serious financial risks. Homes are being destroyed, properties are being ravaged. Moody’s Investor Services has already warned us that inaction will lead to costly credit downgrades. A report from Tufts University estimated that if the United States does not act to solve the global warming crisis, it will cost the economy $3.8 trillion annually by 2100.

In 2017, 16 weather and climate disaster events resulted in losses exceeding $306 billion across the United States. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 362 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

We have the ability to protect ourselves and our communities, but we need the political will in place to take action. Climate adaptation recommendations need to become requirements in state law.

Our bill directs key state agencies to develop a comprehensive adaptation management action plan. It also creates a climate adaptation grant program and creates a coastal buyback program. We – the Senate, the House and the Baker administration – need to get this done and put it into statute.

And if we truly want to be proactive and prevent the worst effects of global climate change in the future, then we, Mr. President, need to enact a comprehensive clean energy strategy immediately. What we are presently doing is just not enough. It may be more than many other states are doing, and we pat ourselves on the back for it, but it clearly is not enough.

The Global Warming and Climate Change Committee has submitted a bi-partisan, unanimously voted-on, omnibus clean energy bill to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We look forward to the committee’s work on this bill, and hopefully we will see it before the Senate soon so that we can have the opportunity to take it up and send it over to the House. Let’s get it done.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I want to thank the countless numbers of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, the men and women out there on the electrical poles bringing back power, all across the Commonwealth and across New England, doing so in a very, very dangerous time, during and at the end of these storms, when their lives are also placed in danger and harm’s way because of live wires, because of things they can’t see, below the water level, in areas that are flooded. And we haven’t even come close to estimating the financial costs associated with these terrible days that we have just experienced. I saw my colleague, the minority leader, and the Governor, on a shoreline, actually out there and seeing what has happened along the coastline.

I want to thank the Baker administration publicly for some of the work they have been doing relative to climate adaptation as a result of an agreement done back when we did the Energy Diversity Bill. Our minority leader and myself and many others were very involved in that. To the extent that there is work being done, it came as a result of dialogue around the Energy Diversity Bill.

But I wanted to come to the floor today to get this on the public record, under the rule we’ve set aside to do this periodically, and I think this is one of the first times that we’ve used it. And I plan on using this rule more and more and more on this issue. Because I mentioned $306 billion, nationally – where does that money come from, Mr. President? I’ll tell you where it comes from, it comes away from public education, it comes from public safety, it comes away from protecting our environment, it comes away from funding our roads and bridges. It comes away from everything that we care about in terms of the core services of running a government. That’s where those moneys are coming from. So I urge us today to recommit ourselves to ensuring that we will get these things done. Because it is urgent that we do so.

Thank you, Mr. President.”