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Boston’s stake in climate change fight

President Obama’s announcement this week of several federal climate change initiatives will reduce greenhouse gas emissions nationwide and help prepare the country for the impacts of climate change.

As a coastal city, Boston is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Without significant national and international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Boston and many other cities could face potentially catastrophic impacts within the next 100 years. Boston has set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals-25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050-and we are working hard with residents and business to achieve them in order for Boston to lead by example.

Greenovate Boston and the Green Ribbon Commission are demonstrating how collective actions can help meet these bold climate goals. However, our success as a leader is hinged on having partners beyond the city limits. President Obama’s message indicates the federal government is listening to the cities that are leading the way on climate change.

The President’s announcement of the development of regulations that will reduce emissions from some of the oldest, dirtiest power plants in the country, as well as the new investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate preparedness, provide encouragement and reinforcement to the City of Boston. Through long-standing programs like Renew Boston, the incubation of clean-tech companies and new policies such as the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance, Boston is simultaneously reducing its carbon footprint and investing in its green economy. As a result, we have a rapidly growing Innovation District with thousands of new jobs.

We are also working hard to ensure that the Innovation District and other new developments, as well as our entire existing waterfront, are prepared for more severe storms and other impacts of climate change. The new tools and assistance from the federal government will help support these efforts. Finally, the President announced new efforts to engage the international community in finding equitable strategies to reduce emissions.

Climate change is a global issue and we must work together; however the U.S., like Boston, must lead by example. We need action from Congress that demonstrates to the world that we have a long-term commitment to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. The City of Boston has an aggressive plan to reduce our emissions and simultaneously prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change. Yet these efforts will not succeed over the long-term without collective action. We need a range of efforts - from national policies such as those announced today, to individual and business climate actions - to once again reach safe levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. On behalf of all those who live, work and play in Boston, as well as the City’s future generations, we are grateful to President Obama for his leadership in the fight against climate change and look forward to working together on the implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan.

Brian Swett is the Chief of Environment and Energy for the City of Boston.