Boston 2020: The City’s Course of Action for Reducing Carbon Emissions

Back in April, the U.S. announced its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce carbon emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and each state, city and town’s efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions will contribute to reaching such goals.

The City of Boston is playing its role in combating climate change and has set its own goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 25 percent by 2020.

As the Greenovate Boston 2014 Climate Action Plan Update points out, Boston has already made major progress towards its GHG reduction goals. Since 2005, citywide GHG emissions are 17 percent lower than they were and emissions from city government operations have dropped by almost 25 percent.

In order to reach Boston’s 2020 goals, the city will have to improve efficiency in a number of areas, including building, transportation and energy reduction. Let’s examine the initiatives in place to ensure we reach these goals:


Boston’s biggest step towards building efficiency came in 2007, when Mayor Menino and the Boston Redevelopment Authority implemented Article 37 to the municipal zoning code, requiring all large-scale properties meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification standards.

The policy change has led to large buildings and institutions in Boston reducing GHG emissions by 21.6 percent between 2005 and 2013. It has also contributed to increased installation of solar citywide.

Currently, Boston is powered in part by 14.3 megawatts of solar, and the community initiativeRenew Boston Solarize is ensuring that number continues to rise. The partnership between City of Boston and Next Step Living allows qualified homeowners to affordably install solar systems and contributes to the city’s goal of increasing solar energy by another 10 megawatts by 2020.

The 2013 Building Energy and Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) has also encouraged building owners and tenants of medium- and large-sized properties to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. In looking ahead to 2020 GHG emissions reduction goals, City of Boston envisions BERDO being responsible for another 7 percent drop in energy consumption.


According to the City of Boston website, one-third of the city’s GHG reduction goal will come from the transportation sector and immediate action has led to immediate results.

The City’s 450 diesel vehicles now all run on a cleaner blend of biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur fuel, reducing emissions by 12-17 percent, and a large-scale retrofit of the City’s school bus fleet has equipped 500 school busses using ultra-low sulfur diesel with pollution control technologies to reduce tailpipe emissions by more than 90 percent.

To ensure Boston reaches its 2020 goals, the City has placed an emphasis on reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMTs), promoting a bike-friendly city, and creating jobs and housing within city limits for Boston’s workforce.

The City aims to reduce VMTs 5.5 percent below 2005 levels, and to reach this goal, several initiatives are in the works:

  • Go Boston 2030 estimates 15,000 drivers must shift to other modes of transportation to get to work.

  • The Boston Bike Network Plan has detailed actions to reach nearly 200 miles of bike lanes by 2020 while reducing the number of accidents by 50 percent.

  • To reduce the number of VMTs generated by drivers whose trips originate outside of the city, Boston is encouraging further development of mix-used buildings and transit-oriented systems to provide more housing near jobs and public transit.

Energy Reduction:

Two of Boston’s successes in energy reduction have come from Lights Out Boston and the installation of LED street lights.

Lights Out Boston is a voluntary program in which building owners and managers agree to turn off or dim all architectural and internal lighting between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. during the fall migratory bird season. Participating buildings can ultimately reduce their electricity use by 25 percent and reduce GHG emissions.

As of 2012, 40 percent of Boston’s 64,000 street lights have been converted to LED lights. The LED lamps can produce a 60 percent reduction in energy use and carbon emissions, and the fact that they last three times longer than traditional street lights reduces replacement costs.

With numerous initiatives and strategies in place, Boston has put itself in a strong position to not only reach its own GHG reduction goals by 2020 but also set an example for other cities looking to contribute to the national goal of reducing carbon emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Original Article on BostInno