State, municipal officials focus on climate change at summit

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More than 150 local officials and stakeholders attended a summit on Sept. 12 in Westborough to mark the one-year anniversary of Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive order on climate change and to hear from state officials about their efforts to combat climate change and prepare for its impacts.
Administration officials provided updates on progress under the executive order and unveiled new climate change initiatives.
Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth,” mapped out the state’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve resiliency, and protect against the impacts of climate change. The order also established a framework for cities and towns to assess their vulnerabilities to climate change and extreme weather events and to provide technical assistance.
At the summit, municipal officials learned more about the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, which provides grants for cities and towns to participate in a process to identify local hazards and vulnerabilities and develop strategies to become more resilient. The administration has announced grant awards to communities totaling more than $1.1 million so far.
In the coming months, a new community resilience building guide will be sent to communities participating in the program. Using climate change data and local knowledge, the program aims to identify a community’s hazards, challenges and strengths to develop a plan to improve resilience.
Communities that complete the program will be designated as a “Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program community.” According to the administration, the designation may lead to improved standing for future funding opportunities.
Gov. Baker spoke at the summit about the administration’s efforts to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. The administration plans to hold listening sessions over the next few months on this issue so that stakeholders have an opportunity to weigh in on issues such as electric vehicles and resilient transportation infrastructure.
The governor also announced that state officials will be working with the Northeast Climate Science Center at UMass-Amherst to release statewide climate change projections. The public will be able to access the data online this fall.
At the Sept. 13 meeting of the MMA Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment, members worked on a “best practice” recommendation on climate change action plans for municipalities and discussed resources for communities that are interested in engaging more on the issue.
In January, the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show will offer two workshops for local officials on the topic of climate change. Local officials will have an opportunity to hear from a panel of experts about adaptation strategies, assessing vulnerabilities and developing resiliency plans at the “Weathering Climate Change Through Preparation” workshop. Attendees will learn about climate change mitigation, reducing emissions and using clean and renewable energy at the “Combatting Climate Change With Clean Energy” workshop.