Newton Drafts Climate Action Plan

Newton has set itself on a track to be carbon neutral by 2050. The city drafted a five-year Climate Action Plan in August with the motto, “use less, green the rest.” 

The residents of Newton feel that they are already experiencing the effects of climate change, such as frequent flooding and hot days. The City of Newton is aiming to lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

Limiting fossil fuel use and conserving energy overall will accomplish this, according to Ann Berwick, the Newton director of sustainability. An energy coach is being hired to help Newton residents better understand how to cut down on their personal carbon emissions. Newton hasn’t decided how many people will be hired as coaches, or how much funding will be allocated toward the position.

Residents are encouraged to use LED light bulbs instead of incandescents, in addition to turning off the lights and avoiding driving in single occupancy vehicles. Residents should switch to more “efficient electric technology,” such as electric vehicles rather than gas-powered ones, according to Berwick. The city has purchased 28 electric municipal vehicles and plan for 100 percent of its cars to be electric or zero-emission vehicles. 

In 2018, there were 396 electric vehicles purchased in Newton, compared to 32 in 2014, according to the plan. Newton plans to add to the 11 electric vehicle chargers already installed and implement preferred parking for electric vehicles throughout the city. 

The building sector emitted 64 percent of Newton’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, followed by residential buildings at 35.2 percent. To reduce emissions, residents will be advised to electrify the heating and cooling systems in their homes. Currently, most households use natural gas and oil to heat their homes.

By using electricity from a sustainable source, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced. The city plans to promote residential conversion to 100 percent renewable energy through Newton Power Choice’s “opt-up” campaign. This campaign encourages residents to switch to 100 percent renewable energy via city signs, emails, and a publicized competition between Newton and Brookline for the most opt-up customers.

New building standards will be set in place for all new residential and commercial buildings. Existing buildings will also be forced to meet these new standards requiring them to reduce their use of natural gas and heating oil. 

New infrastructure will use low-embodied carbon materials and be built to low energy use standards. Municipal buildings will also be required to optimize energy use by transitioning away from fossil fuels. For example, the city will continue the process of installing rooftop panels on municipal and school buildings, as well as parking lots.

The main sources of funding for the plan are yet to be determined—Berwick said she isn’t worried because becoming more energy efficient saves money. The people in Newton understand the climate threat, she said, and will act accordingly to reduce their own emissions. 

Some costs are expected to rise as new programs are being implemented and new staff hires are required. To accommodate for such costs, the city does not plan to remove funding from other city initiatives to provide funding, the plan said.

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / For the Heights