By Jared Sargent
The trees that Boston officials have been planting around the city aren’t just a nice part of the scenery; they’re removing damaging greenhouse gas emissions from the air.
The effort is part of the city’s Climate Action Plan, which intends to reduce Boston’s net carbon footprint to zero by 2050. The plan will lower the city’s emissions in steps: aiming for a 25 percent reduction by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction by 2030, both based on 2005 conditions.
According to the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, the city is on track for the 2020 benchmark; however, Boston’s Environment Commissioner Carl Spector stressed that a great deal of work would still need to be done for Boston to reach the goal.
“We can’t let up because there’s still work to do,” Spector said, “Boston is continuing to grow, so we have to make sure we’re more than compensating for the growth.”
Not all of Boston’s efforts go according to plan, however. In 2007, Mayor Thomas Menino pledged that Boston would plant 100,000 trees by 2020. However, the city has struggled to meet these expectations.
“We have not made a lot of progress on the overall goal,” Spector said, after discussing the tree planting at a City Council meeting, “We’ve had an increase in what are called street trees, but street trees are only about 10 percent of the total number of trees in Boston.”
Energy use in buildings accounts for about three quarters of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to a Climate Action Plan update, Boston’s focus on green building standards has played a considerable role in greenhouse gas reductions.
City officials have also taken steps to include the community in the plan. The Greenovate Boston program seeks to inform Bostonians about climate change and also get people involved in finding solutions.
Spector spoke to the city’s efforts to involve the community, listing community meetings, advisory committees and a climate leaders program used to obtain feedback as just a few ways the Boston community is engaged in the effort.
“Policies and programs won’t be effective if they don’t have the general support of the community. And that’s all sectors of the community,” Spector said, “All different neighborhoods, all different parts of the economy, all different institutions- we need them to be engaged.”