The Challenge and Opportunity of Climate Change in the Commonwealth

Juliette Kayyem is running for Governor. - promoted by david

As we approached the holidays this time last year, many celebrations were cut short through the lasting destruction inflicted by Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast at the end of October, razing the northeast from New Hampshire to New York, striking New York City especially hard. While we felt Sandy in Massachusetts, it could have been much worse for the Commonwealth. Had Hurricane Sandy hit four hours later and at high tide, the shocking images of a city without power, submerged in water, and facing a rising death toll could have been right here in Boston.

Having spent part of my career managing the aftermath of disasters, from deploying the National Guard to snow emergencies to the BP oil spill, I know that we must always minimize risk as well as mitigate against harms that may arise in the future. The debate of the science behind climate change needs to end. We need to start to embrace solutions that can engage all our citizens, protect our communities, promote jobs, and expand economic opportunities. While the Patrick Administration has picked up this battle and made tremendous progress, the political dysfunction in Washington leaves these advancements at risk. It is imperative to take action and address the challenge of climate change before it’s too late.

As Undersecretary for Homeland Security under Governor Deval Patrick, I supervised the response of state agencies to natural disasters, and personally saw the aftermath of communities devastated by severe climate conditions. Knowing how catastrophic these effects can be, I plan to continue the Patrick administration’s fight for Massachusetts’ goal of 25% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, and 80% reduction by 2050. However, while the effects of climate change create a serious threat to the Commonwealth, they also provide us with an opportunity to invest in the economy.

Massachusetts needs a leader who understands the necessity to tackle climate change, while also taking advantage of the opportunity to invest in the clean tech industry. I’ve written a plan that centers on the creation of Green Banks (also known as energy banks), which through credit enhancement, risk reduction, and new financing programs can increase private investment into the clean tech industry. This industry has seen a continued increase in employment, adding 8,000 jobs between 2012-2013 and projected to continue to grow. This growth can only continue if we motivate investment from the private sector.

The challenges and opportunity of climate change is one that I’m prepared to take on as Governor of Massachusetts. I believe that if we incentivize private investment in a clean energy infrastructure through Green Banks, increase conservation, preserve natural resources, and develop and disseminate more and better data, we will be environmentally and economically stronger than ever before.


Link to the Kayyem Plan: “Opportunity of Climate Change


20 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. More muncipal solar please

    Ms. Kayyem:

    We met once briefly (I managed to embarrass myself in the process of being introduced to you!) and will likely gladhand a few more times between now and November 2014. Folks around here know I care deeply about environmental issues, and am pretty knowledgeable about them (if I say so myself!)

    I was thinking about this the other day, and thought it would make a lovely little part of somebody’s enviro plan, maybe yours.

    The Commonwealth currently has a solar RPS carve out, which, bottom line, requires the non-muni power companies to subsidize the installation of solar panels. It’s run by DOER, and it’s a good program. The state also helps pay for new and substantially expanded public school buildings, on the order of 30% of the total cost is my understanding.

    The idea: if your city or town is building/expanding a public school and you apply for and get state aid for the construction, the state also puts solar panels on the roof of that school, with the environmental attributes used to comply with the SREC program and the electricity itself going “for free” to the school. So long as ratepayers are subsidizing solar panels to make them economically efficient for the owner, why doesn’t the state just pay for the whole thing and put them on school roofs when they’re doing work there already, thereby helping to support PV, drive down prices, and lower the operating costs of the school?

    It need not be limited to schools of course, and so far as I can tell every new state building should be built with solar as SOP, but schools are a nice touch because every community has ‘em, they scale (roughly) with population, and the state already has a program to subsidize their construction.


    • And

      so many have nice flat roofs.

      • We have a new school on the drawing board in Milford

        I was lucky enough to be invited to a design meeting where LEED certification was being discussed. The new building will have a pitched roof, so I asked that it be angled due south, have a standing seam metal roof, sufficient support to hold any snow load plus solar panels, and conduits in place to run the cabling. It looks like I’ll be getting my wishes! I also asked for a composting facility for food waste, it remains to be sen if I’ll get that.

  2. Implementation

    How do you expect to pass this agenda with the legislature as it is currently composed? Moreover, how do you expect to pass other portions of your agenda considering the legislatures hostility to much of the progressive agenda Gov. Patrick tried to pass?

  3. Financing Energy Efficiency

    It’s great to invest in new technology but there are thousands and thousands of existing buildings that need energy and emergency preparedness upgrades. Where are the funding mechanisms for that?

    As someone who has been proclaiming “Solar IS Civil Defense” for years now, I’d like to see a clearer linkage between renewables and emergency preparedness as well as preparedness here with raising the standard of living for the poorest in the world as explained in this short video:

    Climate change will not be stopped or even ameliorated even if MA magically stops emitting any greenhouse gases and begins to remove all the emissions we have historically thrown up into the atmosphere. We must not only do all that we can here at home and serve as a useful example to others but also help those who cannot help themselves and are suffering the effects of our previous thoughtlessness that has benefitted only us.

    • Solar + microgrids

      could be civil defense in case of natural disaster/large grid issues.

    • The funding mechanism

      is the efficiency surcharge on everyone’s electric bills.

      This could be expanded, and I like the way Vermont handles this better, but ratepayer-funded programs have gotten pretty good with time.

      • Sort of sad

        When researching policy positions on climate change I discovered that the 1988 Presidential campaign was the first to really have these issues discussed. In the primary all 7 Democrats favored phasing out greenhouse gases and protecting the ozone layer, to his credit, so did the first President Bush. We made tremendous strides in the early 1990s to combat CFCs and protect the Ozone Layer-which is now projected to make a full recovery ahead of schedule .

        The US took the lead in getting the world to ban the products that were killing our planet, and we solved that problem. Lack of American leadership, and the pathetic exercise of waiting for China and India to adopt Kyoto before we do, has crippled global efforts to reverse climate change. Imagine if we had combated this problem when we combated CFC’s-how far along we would be on reversing the damage. Instead, we have fiddled while watching the world burn. It is time for states to lead where the federal government can’t, and it’s time we ensure that this President and the next one has the cajones to tackle the changing climate. It only starts with Keystone, it doesn’t end there.

        • CFC's

          The big difference with CFC’s is that we found we could get along without them. Not everyone was aware they used them. With fossil fuels, everyone is implicated and knows it. So it’s critical that we make carbon-free energy as cheap, attractive, and widely available as possible – not as a boutique choice for the conscientious/ostentatious.

          • to a smaller degree...

            With fossil fuels, everyone is implicated and knows it.

            .. the same is true for acid rain, another widespread problem that we tackled and, largely, have solved. Against even greater opposition than that found in the fight to reign in CFC’s. Every last polluter was implicated and they knew it. They fought it and denied it but were ultimately unsuccessful.

            So it’s critical that we make carbon-free energy as cheap, attractive, and widely available as possible

            To be perfectly honest: I’m not sure that this type of thinking isn’t the same type of thinking that got is into the problem space to start… All that is to say that, somewhere, in the early 20th century someone likely once said “it’s critical to make energy as cheap, attractive and widely available as possible” specifically with regard to coal fired electrical plants … and, Lo, it came to pass.

            What they didn’t take into account, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, is the total cost and so “cheap” and “attractive” wasn’t really all that cheap and attractive might be less so in hindsight. We certainly got our moneys worth out of widely available…. ‘tho. But the cost of storing the waste products in the atmosphere was just as certainly not part of the initial ‘cheap’ model and, had we had the foresight, would have made it far less ‘attractive’, I think.

            And even if we went from total coal to zero emissions overnight, the deleterious effects aren’t going to shake out… maybe not until we take steps to actually remove a lot of the excess carbon from the atmosphere and the oceans.

            • Acid Rain

              The mechanism for reducing acid rain, the pollution trading scheme, was the model for Waxman-Markey which went down to defeat a few years ago.

              The enviro community has been trying to figure out why that happened and what to do next. Theda Skocpol’s paper, “Naming the Problem: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight Against Global Warming” and another by Petra Bartosiewicz and Marissa Miley, “The Too Polite Revolution: Why the Recent Campaign to Pass Comprehensive Climate Legislation in the United States Failed,” both reports commissioned by the Rockefeller Family Fund in consultation with the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism are available (PDF alert) at

          • Absolutely

            I think Elon Musk has a fair share of deserved criticism, but he was smart to shift the focus from a six figure sports car to a five figure family sedan. He just needs to figure out trucks, suvs’, and the like. I also heard that we could have fuel cells powered by fossil fuels and it seems like a conversion that wouldnt be too expensive for the automakers while not threatening the oil companies or requiring conversions for our fueling infrastructure. Like hybrids (which, again should be easy to make mandatory rather than opt-in at this point), it would drastically reduce emissions.

            I wonder at this point if the automakers fear mandatory hybrids since they enjoy charging more for it as a boutique alternative-sort of how whole foods wouldn’t want organic to get cheaper than conventional?

            • supporting links

              While it wouldn’t help on the energy independence front or the extraction front, it would be a better stop gap than electric in the short term and would significantly reduce emissions at the last stage of consumption.

            • Don't rquire hybrids

              just require increasingly higher mpg standards. How the auto gets to that standard… let the motorheads and the green energy nerds and the engineering geeks figure that out.

          • I'm not picking up what you're putting down

            Not everyone was aware they used them.

            But everybody with a refrigerator or a car with A/C *did* use them.

            The big difference with CFC’s is that we found we could get along without them.

            I don’t think that’s the big difference. I think the big difference is that jes’ folks owned a small handful of devices which emitted CFCs and HCFCs, and those emissions weren’t a fundamental result of the product — it was all “behind the scenes, don’t have to do anything.” Which is why energy efficiency requirements for appliances and high MPG requirements for autos are so popular. Regular people don’t have to do anything — we make the big companies make a better product, and they do. It’s also why renewable portfolio standard policies are so popular — popular enough that GOP states AZ, KS, TX, MT, and MO have them (and UT, ND, SD, OK, and IN have relatively-binding “goals”).

            Ask me to change my behavior? Nawp. Change the supply chain without me having to do a damn thing? Yup. America is all about collective inaction. That’s why I disagree with

            So it’s critical that we make carbon-free energy as cheap, attractive, and widely available as possible

            After all, that implies consumers choosing carbon-free energy. Don’t make it a choice. Just make it the way it is through regulation. Require more renewables. Require more efficiency in new construction, new applicances, and new vehicles. Don’t ask me to think or consider or choose. Just sell me stuff.

            • Exactly

              That is where I was going with hybrids-though higher CAFE standards could make it mandatory de jure. But opt-in is always a terrible way to do choice architecture. It’s why Social Security and Medicare are successful while Obamacare is not. Change the regulations, make everyone enroll, and limit choices rather than expanding them. People don’t want more choices in healthcare, they want someone else to make the right choice for them. Ditto the environment. I’ve seen scores of market research confirming this.

              But I am still interested to learn about the Whole Foods/hybrid dynamic. If the automakers and the organic giant think it’s more profitable to commodify social responsibility rather than socializing it through regulation?

            • It's not either/or

              I still maintain that getting off fossil fuels, being more pervasive in society and tangible to end users, is a harder lift than quitting CFCs – QED, right? I don’t really imagine you disagree.

              That being said, you are right in that you gotta go upstream from the consumer to really make the change stick. People want minivans, and they’ll be happier when they get 40mpg instead of 22. We want the lights to turn on and mostly don’t much know or care where the juice comes from.

              But even at the elite, government/corporate/institutional, mega-decision-making level — they still want and need cheap. They’re consumers.

      • Vermont PACE Funding

        I’ve heard that Vermont is one of the few states using PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) funding to retrofit residential buildings. We should study their process and progress.

        The efficiency surcharge on our utility bills does not do enough and there are other problems such as rental housing which need to be addressed. Deep energy retrofits which can reduce energy consumption up to 90% are expensive and difficult but that is what needs to be done. And even 90% reductions in built environment energy consumption are not enough.

        Cambridge’s zero net energy efforts should serve as a roadmap to the rest of the Commonwealth, if, if, if Cambridge does it right.

        • Vermont?

          Vermont is the home of the energy-efficient mortgage, which has something in common with PACE.

          I was referring to the way Vermont implements ratepayer-funded efficiency, via an energy-efficiency utility that is bid every few years. It’s something we might emulate.

          However, even Vermont’s program is artificially capped (as ours is).

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