· Reversing Climate Change. Climate change is the consequence of a planet out of balance. We’ve put too much carbon into the air and water, and need to get it back into the soil. Luckily, the measures we need to take to restore this balance will actually make our lives better – like working less, commuting less, sitting less time in cars, not tilling the soil, not adding pesticides or unnecessary fertilizers, not cutting down trees, freeing ourselves from a dependency on fossil fuels, and becoming energy independent with solar energy. If we approach the challenge of reversing climate change with urgency and a focused solidarity, it might even be fun to see how much better life is when we work with nature instead of against it.
· Renewable Energy. We have even less time than we think before we hit the climate change tipping point. By the Year 2050, we need to reach the point of drawdown. To actually reverse – and not just slow the rate of climate change – we’re going to have to be committed to 100% renewables (solar, geothermal, offshore wind, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps) by 2030. That means something closer to a 6% increase per year in the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). We should increase equitable access to solar power by removing caps on solar generation and providing grants for low-income and community solar.
· Gas Pipelines. We should oppose the expansion of new gas infrastructure in the state, and prioritize repairing leaking pipelines.
· Biomass. Forest-derived biomass is neither clean nor green, and should receive zero public funding. Currently, the Clean Energy Center, the Alternative Portfolio Standard, and the Renewable Portfolio Standard are paying people to install wood stoves and burn wood. That’s funding that could instead go to legitimate clean-future technologies like solar, geothermal, ground source heat pumps, and air source heat pumps. Burning biomass is lose-lose-lose (for carbon sequestration, for greenhouse gas emissions, and for the resulting air pollution’s impact on human health). It should not be subsidized.
· Transportation. Over a third of our greenhouse gases come from transportation, so any serious plan to reverse climate change will have to consider our existing infrastructure. In Western Massachusetts, we should be connected to the surrounding cities via high speed “solutionary rail” (electrified railroads run on renewable energy whose rail corridors carry power from remote solar installations to population centers). We’ll also have to push much harder to make sure everyone has the ability to walk, bike, or ride (an electric) bus to get to their destination.
· Smart Growth. Every day, 13 acres are developed – converting forests and farmlands to roads, driveways, houses, lawns and parking lots. Our cities can be much more dense and energy efficient – while our rural areas provide “environmental services” for our state (sequestered carbon, healthy soils, less runoff, cleaner water and air). Our rural towns should be compensated through PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) for the work our untaxed state lands provide for all residents of Massachusetts.
· Soil Health. Globally, agricultural soils have likely lost one-half to two-thirds of their carbon stocks. Our food system is responsible for 44 to 57 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. But we can reverse that – agriculture can be a net reducer of carbon dioxide if we employ regenerative farming techniques. An increase of only 0.4% of soil organic carbon would effectively offset 20 to 35% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Farms using regenerative agriculture techniques have seen soil carbon levels increase from 1-2% up to 5-8%. There’s a Healthy Soils Amendment to the Climate Resiliency Bond Bill in the House right now that would move us closer to that future.