Amherst in 2050: Carbon neutral?

  • About 200 students and adults attended a rally last March on the Amherst Common hosted by high school students as part of the global Fridays For Future movement. The Amherst Town Council will hear about recommendations for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in town at its Monday meeting. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Saturday, November 16, 2019

AMHERST — Recommendations for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Amherst, and making the town carbon-neutral within 30 years, will be presented to the Town Council on Monday.

After months of research and outreach to get input from a cross-section of the community, the Energy and Climate Action Committee will advise councilors to adopt three goals:

■First, the committee is recommending a 50 percent reduction in townwide greenhouse gas emissions below fiscal 2016 levels by 2030, with an interim goal of a 25 percent reduction in these emissions by 2025.

■Second, the committee asks that Amherst be carbon-neutral no later than 2050.

■Finally, it is urging councilors to be prepared to achieve carbon neutrality as early as 2030 by planning and advocating for state and federal action, and taking advantage of improved technology.

Committee Chairwoman Laura Draucker said the recommendations mark the completion of one of the first tasks in the committee’s charge. Committee members, she said, will go over the next steps with the Town Council.

The recommendations are based on scientific studies that show the importance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and are consistent with proposals in the Green New Deal.

Stephanie Ciccarello, the town’s sustainability coordinator, said the stated targets are ambitious, but are also consistent with current science. They also leave open the possibility of being more aggressive, she said. 

The committee notes in its report that during outreach many residents asked that the town act sooner rather than later.

The committee’s work will continue, including developing a climate action plan and interim actions to support the transition to carbon neutrality. Some of this work may include developing what are known as climate impact statements for purchases that contribute to fossil fuel consumption, evaluating ways to improve energy efficiency, moving toward heating system decarbonization at rental properties, and supporting Community Choice Aggregation, more renewable energy development and zero-carbon transportation.

The recommendations to the council will come the same day a new coalition of mayors across Massachusetts asks state leaders to accelerate a transition to clean and renewable energy, with a commitment to power all sectors with 100 percent renewable energy no later than 2045.

At the State House that morning, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curatatone and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell are expected to join Ben Hellerstein, state director of Environment Massachusetts, and Jacob Stern, clean energy organizer for the Sierra Club’s Massachusetts chapter, to make the appeal.