Mayor Kim Janey on October 5 signed the City of Boston Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), which was unanimously approved by the Boston City Council with the goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging efficient use of energy and water, and developing investments in a green economy. The amendment to BERDO gives the City greater authority to set carbon targets for existing buildings that decrease over time with all buildings achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This policy is the single most impactful initiative to curb Boston’s carbon emissions.
“BERDO 2.0 is a monumental achievement that will have positive impacts on our residents for generations to come,” said Mayor Janey. “We know that the negative effects of climate change bear a disproportionate burden on our most socially vulnerable communities. I am grateful for this collaboration with the City Council to actively minimize the challenges associated with climate change and create more resilient communities.”
The BERDO amendment, sponsored by Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley, sets emissions targets and reporting requirements for buildings greater than or equal to 20,000 square feet, establishes the Emissions Review Board with community representation to increase accountability and transparency, and establishes an environmental-justice focused Equitable Emissions Investment Fund. In order for buildings to reduce their emissions, building owners may choose to carry out: energy efficiency improvements, switch to clean, efficient and electric heating systems, or fossil fuel free systems, and purchase clean energy.
“Today is a historic day for Boston. By passing and signing this transformative climate legislation into law, we are codifying equity and resilience in our city’s large buildings,” said Council President Pro Tempore O’Malley. “I am proud to have led and partnered with environmental justice organizations and various stakeholders across the city to create aggressive, but achievable sustainability goals for a carbon neutral future.”
“The amended ordinance was designed with an equity lens to accomplish strategic emissions reductions, and prioritizes benefits to environmental justice communities, green jobs, and transparency,” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. “Through BERDO 2.0 we will ensure that climate justice is achieved so that those who have contributed the least to climate change do not continue to face the most extreme effects.”
Buildings in Boston account for nearly seventy percent of citywide greenhouse gas emissions. Four percent of buildings in Boston are covered by the ordinance and they account for approximately sixty percent of Boston’s building emissions. The ordinance was originally passed in May 2013, and required that all commercial and residential buildings that are 35,000 square feet or have 35 units or more report their energy and water use to the City of Boston every year. Buildings covered were also required to show concerted efforts to reduce their energy use or emissions every five years through energy actions or audits. The ordinance required the City of Boston to make this data publicly available.
The 2019 update to Boston’s Climate Action Plan identified a building emissions performance standard as a principal tool to help the City accomplish a net zero transition for existing buildings and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The FY21 Climate Action Report includes the most recent updates regarding the status and implementation of the City of Boston’s plans and initiatives around climate, energy, and waste. The signing of the amended ordinance is part of a broader push by the City of Boston to lead on climate action and was supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. Boston is one of the 25 winning cities in the Climate Challenge, which is helping cities set and surpass ambitious climate goals.
“With its new Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance, Boston is taking a bold step to equitably lower its carbon footprint and achieve net zero by 2050. Designed in partnership with local stakeholders and community, this policy will also help make Boston cleaner and healthier, while creating new jobs,” said Kelly Shultz, who leads the sustainable cities program at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Bloomberg Philanthropies is proud to partner with cities at the forefront of the climate fight to push for the climate policies we know can reduce emissions and bring substantial benefits to communities.”
“Our collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and City Council is groundbreaking because it puts just transition theory into practice,” said Dwaign Tyndal, Executive Director of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE). “The Environment Department, the City Council, community groups including ACE, and stakeholders co-created a policy that will decrease emissions and support environmental justice populations. We look forward to continuing to partner with the City on its implementation.”
“We are proud to have involved over 100 residents who live in buildings over 20,000 square feet in the design of the ordinance. This was a great model of the City partnering with community organizations to equitably involve residents in the decision making process and centering the most impacted. This ordinance will not only greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also improve air quality for environmental justice communities and enact rent stabilization measures for low-income tenants whose buildings receive assistance in retrofitting their buildings,” said Mark Liu, Operations and Development Director, Chinese Progressive Association.
“The Longwood Medical and Academic Area is home to mission-driven, non-profit healthcare, educational, and medical research organizations that deeply understand the public health impacts of climate change. Longwood shares in the commitment to make Boston a carbon-neutral city by 2050 and we want to thank Mayor Janey, Councilor O’Malley, and Chief White-Hammond for their leadership on BERDO 2.0. We look forward to our continued work together to advance climate solutions and sustainability citywide,” said Tom Yardley, Vice President of Area Planning and Development, MASCO (Medical Academic and Scientific Community Organization).
This ordinance builds on Mayor Janey’s work to create a climate-ready, resilient Boston. Mayor Janey’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget includes significant investments for environmental justice and resilience, including:
$48 million for Phase 2 and 3 of Renew Boston Trust, which is designed to identify energy retrofit project opportunities in City-owned buildings to create future energy savings.
$5 million to support the development of a Climate Ready Boston Harbor Study that will examine the feasibility of measures along and within the harbor to reduce vulnerability of coastal flooding due to sea level rise caused by climate change.
$20 million to design and implement a signature, climate resilient waterfront park along the Fort Point Channel.
$4 million in workforce development and training opportunities for green jobs in the environment.
$1 million in workforce development and training opportunities for zero waste and mobility jobs.
$500,000 to support residents in making energy efficient upgrades to their homes.
$340,000 to support a new Healthy Places Initiative targeted for environmental justice populations, who often live in hotter neighborhoods with less tree canopy cover.
$200,000 towards the preservation and maintenance of historic and cultural sites in Boston.