Net-zero target gets mixed reviews

Senator calls it 'silly math' on Earth Day


ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides used the occasion of Earth Day on Wednesday to finalize the state’s new net-zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, but some environmental groups and legislators were disappointed.

The new policy, which was announced by Gov. Charlie Baker in his State of the Commonwealth address back in January, accelerates the state’s decarbonization efforts under the 12-year-old Global Warming Solutions Act.

The new limit calls for statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to be equal to or less than the amount of carbon dioxide or its equivalent that is removed from the atmosphere and stored annually in Massachusetts. Under no circumstance, however, should the level of emission be greater than 85 percent below 1990 levels.

“Adopting a more aggressive, science-based emissions limit for 2050 and backing it up with a plan to get there sets us on the best path to avoid the worst impacts of climate change while investing in our communities and growing our clean energy economy,” Theoharides said in a statement alongside release of a letter of determination.

The previous emission limits required an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is expected later this year to publish a plan to achieve the new emission reduction requirements. It’s known as the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap.

Senate Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Chairman Michael Barrett of Lexington said he had “big problems” with the administration’s announcement.

“All they’ve done today in celebration of Earth Day is moved from 80 percent to 85 percent,” Barrett said. “It’s not what the state Senate wants. Silly math on Earth Day is a letdown. I think they can do better.”

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Matt Murphy

State House News Service
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Barrett said he hopes the House and Senate can still reach agreement this year on a net-zero bill, noting that House Speaker Robert DeLeo identified climate change as an issue he still hopes the Legislature can address this year, even if it means extending the session beyond July 31.

The Environmental League of Massachusetts expressed similar concerns with the new targets. The group said it had advocated for an emissions limit of at least 90 percent below 1990 levels.