WINCHESTER - How does Winchester combat climate change/global warming? The town may not have a Green New Deal on the horizon, but it has a committee and that committee has a plan.
Ruth Trimarchi from the Climate Action Plan Committee unveiled a draft summary of the Climate Action Plan that will help the town deal with reducing its carbon emissions or greenhouse gas emissions.
Why is this plan so important? Trimarchi told the Select Board the town “needs to prepare for various climate impacts such as extreme snow, ice and wind storms.” Of course, while this winter doesn’t fit into those categories, everyone remembers the winter of 2015 when Massachusetts saw more than 100-inches of snow in some areas. Not to mention how “100-year storms” tend to happen more frequently than every 100-years.
Trimarchi said the final plan should be completed this spring and praised the Select Board, Town Manager, town staff, and the community for their help.
She outlined two overall goals: reduce climate emissions and increase climate preparedness. She also mentioned hiring a Sustainability Director, something Town Manager Lisa Wong has mentioned leaving space for in her budget.
Select Board Chair Mariano Goluboff, too, pushed for the position. He felt it was time to hire a professional who can “work full-time across all departments.”
The position would need the approval of the Finance Committee and then Town Meeting. It already received the approval of the Personnel Board.
This director would help improve coordination between departments, improve climate preparedness and apply for and implement grants (the money saved through these grants would be four to eight times the salary and benefits paid to the Sustainability Director, according to Trimarchi).
“The town is leaving money on the table without a Sustainability Director,” Trimarch stressed, adding how 82 percent of communities in Massachusetts already have a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness plan in place.
The director could also achieve carbon emissions goals set by the Select Board, collaborate with staff across departments, nearby municipalities and regional and state agencies and engage the public.
Another goal includes aligning the Climate Action Plan with the Master Plan and with state directives.
While it’s been a long process, the committee hasn’t gone it alone. According to Trimarchi, a young girl, after hearing about climate change, set up a lemonade stand and raised $40 to give to the committee to go toward the Climate Action Plan.
Other young people could get involved, as well, as Select Board member Susan Verdicchio encouraged the Climate Action Plan Committee to find a role for high school students as the plan moves forward. She also suggested adding information about the work set to start at the Winchester Center Commuter Rail Station to improve its quality and remove cars from the roadway.
Trimarchi said that’s mentioned in the larger 84-page summary. As for the students, some have interned with the committee over the years. She called them amazing and hoped to wrap them into the plan.
This isn’t the town’s first attempt at a Climate Action Plan. Select Board member Michael Bettencourt called the first one a few years back “extraordinarily successful.” He also praised the students’ involvement.
“I’m really appreciative of the students’ engagement. It’ll be them in 2050 sitting here and not us.”
Although, like with the Green New Deal pushed by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, people may inquire about the cost to implement this plan, Golobuff said it would be “more expensive to do nothing” when it comes to climate change.
The plan (draft summary) notes how most of the carbon emissions come from residential buildings and transportation (73 percent), along with municipal buildings (2.8 percent), fugitive emissions from natural gas systems (6.3 percent) and waste (two percent).
While combating climate change may seem a daunting task, the Climate Action Plan Committee writes in the draft summary: “But in Winchester we’re not burying our heads in the sand. We know that the choices we make today will directly impact the Winchester of tomorrow.”
They note how Winchester residents are “determined to make a difference” for their businesses, ideas and community.
“We aren’t a community that will let climate change define who we are; in Winchester we know who we are and we’re up to the challenge, starting with this Climate Action Plan.”
The plan outlines goals and the actions necessary to achieve them. With energy, the goal includes increasing the supply of carbon-free electricity, and some actions involve: convert municipal energy supply to 100 percent renewable by 2035, study the potential for district geothermal heating and cooling, advocate for a five percent increase in the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Portfolio standard, and determine opportunities to increase WinPower default electricity supply to 100 percent renewables by 2035.
For buildings, the goal includes transitioning to more energy efficient all electric buildings. Some actions to achieve this include: electrify with 100 percent renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, transition from oil and gas to electricity in new and existing buildings, and produce more onsite solar energy.
For solid waste, the goal includes reducing the town’s waste disposal by 30 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Actions to achieve this include: educate and engage residents and businesses regarding waste reduction strategies: reduce, reuse, recycle, rot, and reject; regionalize waste management solutions so that proximate towns can also achieve operational efficiencies; advocate and promote at the state and regional levels through our elected representatives and engaged citizen groups for sensible solid waste legislation and resources; and urge town officials to implement town-wide programs to achieve waste reduction goals.
The plan also outlines ways to reduce emissions for transportation (walk more, drive less; shuttle; more electric vehicles; bussing for all students). Finally, it lists ways to increase climate awareness and preparedness through:
• Full-time Sustainability Director
• Establish Climate Action Committee to implement this plan
• Develop comprehensive communications strategies
• Incorporate sustainability objectives
• Involve climate experts on town boards and committees
With sustainability, the plan calls to complete three other goals, as well: reduce health risks due to climate change, prioritize and incentivize green infrastructure practices and develop sustainable funding mechanisms to ensure ongoing climate-preparedness.