Wu pitches a localized 'Green New Deal'

Michelle Wu, WBUR photo

At-Large City Councillor Michelle Wu last week released a city-level “Green New Deal and Just Recovery” plan, calling for Boston to take a leadership role in championing environmental justice. The 49-page report outlines 15 policies that Wu says demonstrate the potential for swift and transformative city action to address climate issues.

“Climate justice is racial and economic justice. Cities have tremendous power to lead the charge, and we must recognize this moment as a call to action,” Wu, who is widely viewed as a likely candidate for mayor of Boston next year, said in a statement last week following the release of her plan. 

The initiatives include plans to accelerate decarbonization, achieve “just” and “resilient” development, transportation and food justice, de-commodify housing, provide resilient stormwater infrastructure, grow the urban tree canopy, harness coastal and ocean resources for decarbonization and “blue jobs,” and more.

“Most of all this is about the need for widespread mobilization for progress. It’s meant to kick off a way for everyone to plug-in, support and move forward across these areas,” Wu told the Reporter Thursday during a phone interview. 

“It pushes for an even more urgent response to the climate vulnerability that we’re seeing. Dorchester, for example, is already regularly flooding— right off of Morrissey Boulevard— that will just get worse and worse.” 

The city’s current climate resiliency effort’s outline plans for Boston to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Wu said that waiting that long would mean taking a gamble on being able to keep the planet “livable. We know the science says that if we want to stay within the range of what will keep the planet livable, getting to carbon neutrality by 2050 only gives us a 50/50 chance of doing that as a society. And, so, cities that can do more, need to do more,” she said.  

Her plan sets an accelerated timeline for carbon neutrality by 2040. It also sets intermediate steps, including 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, and a net zero city municipal footprint by 2024.

Wu said she wanted to highlight the intersectionality of climate justice issues in her plan. 

“We can’t just talk about environmental issues separate from housing and small business, transportation, our water infrastructure and all of the ways that the same communities are bearing the burden of our crises right now,” she said. 

“Covid-19 has really shown just how deep the disparities in Boston already were and they’ve gotten even deeper now.” 

Wu’s ideas for her plan began a year and a half ago, after the City Council passed a resolution in support of the Federal Green New Deal legislation, offered by US Sen. Ed Markey and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

When asked if she plans to endorse Markey, who is being challenged by Congressman Joe Kennedy III in a tight Sept. 1 primary battle for his US Senate seat, Wu said she “has not gotten involved.” 

“Certainly this plan follows the same themes outlined in the Green New Deal and we need action now in the federal government, but one of the principals in this report is that cities have unique powers that are especially impactful when it comes to making a difference,” she said. 

“Locally we can look at zoning, budgets, and transportation. Those are things that we can uniquely affect at the city level.” 

Wu says she plans to partner with climate justice organizations and different types of local activist groups across the city, including Sunrise Boston, Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), City Life/Vida Urbana, and more. 

“We’re trying to bring together and support efforts that have been going on for a long time organizing across all of these different areas,” she said. 

Wu filed a hearing order to advance her plan in the City Council last week, beginning a legislative process that she said will start by engaging the community to identify priorities and details for each of 15 policies outlined in the plan. 

“We want to understand how to make every policy really local, and there’s also a number of items specifically referenced in the report that we’ll be looking to work with some of these groups and activists to nail down details,” she said.