Debunking Baker’s 6 reasons for climate veto

Lawmakers should ignore governor's calls for doing less

ON THURSDAY,  Gov. Charlie Baker announced he would veto the Next Generation Road Map climate bill, a bill that would take a big step forward in advancing Massachusetts’ response to a public health emergency.

Since his first failed run for governor as a climate denier, Baker has generally positioned himself as someone who is pro-climate action. And indeed, his administration just released an updated climate action plan that has much in it to celebrate.

Yet Baker’s decision to veto the bill seems incongruous (to put it politely) with his supposed aspirations for climate leadership, and his stated rationale, detailed below, is not persuasive.

First, he claims this bill works against housing choice, claiming that by addressing climate change in the manners prescribed, housing prices would continue to rise. Yet the folks lobbying against this bill were not advocates of fair and affordable housing, but the real estate industry. This begs the question, whose “choices” does he care about? In fact, advocates for affordable housing have been increasingly seeing the connectionsbetween affordable housing and climate change, and broadly, if not loudly, supporting this bill.

Second, he names how the bill does not address climate resilience. True, but it also should be noted, fails to address the opioid epidemic, domestic insurrection, or drunk driving. Vetoing an otherwise good bill because it does not address everything you want the Legislature to address is just bad governing. He could have, can, and should continue to advocate for more funding for climate resilience. Indeed, many climate groups support and stand ready to work with (in amended form) the governor on his push for climate resilience funding. But that’s no excuse to veto a much-needed climate mitigation bill.

Third, Baker claims to celebrate the fact that the bill seeks to address environmental justice, but says that it does not give him the tools needed to achieve environmental justice. Environmental justice advocates stand united behind this bill, and for him to reject it in their name is crass and unfair.

Fourth, Baker tclaims “certain provisions” [unspecified] will “endanger” work being done regionally on clean energy. It’s hard to see how Massachusetts being stronger on clean energy hurts regional efforts. It should lift those efforts. We cannot afford to have lowest-common-denominator regional climate and energy policy, and if Massachusetts increasing our climate ambitions irrevocably damages regional policies, those regional policies don’t seem worth protecting.

Fifth, Baker claims that the bill’s goal of 50 percent reduction in climate pollution by 2030 aren’t backed up by science, unlike the 45 percent reduction he favors. And he’s half right. But the problem is that those targets are still too weak, not too aggressive. Now is not the time to lower our ambitions.

Finally, he concludes by arguing that the economy is recovering from COVID, so we cannot afford climate action. Society’s failed response to COVID-19 showed the dangers to our society and our economy of ignoring scientific warnings. Climate change, not climate action, is what will hurt the economy. Climate action stimulates economic activity by requiring the renovation of homes and businesses, increasing the deployment of solar and wind energy and other polices that create jobs. Inaction, on the other hand, will only create jobs in the form of clean-up crews following in the wake of increasingly powerful climate disasters.

Thankfully, newly-installed House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka have shown leadership, courage, and vision by making clear they will work to immediately refile and pass the bill, which already passed with veto-proof majorities and broad public support.

Meet the Author

Craig S Altemose

Senior advisor, 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future
This bill was the result of the leadership of countless legislators and policy advocates and backed up by the vocal support of thousands of Massachusetts residents asking for a better future. It is damning that Baker chose to listen to the short-sighted objections of real estate lobbyists instead.

Baker will yet work to spin this in his favor, and try to negotiate a climate bill more to his liking. But legislators should be proud of what they passed and use the democratic supermajority present in the House and Senate to ignore his calls to shrink our climate ambitions.

Craig S. Altemose is the executive director of Better Future Project, a Massachusetts-based climate organization and the home of 350 Massachusetts, Divest Ed, and Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW).