City of Worcester declares climate emergency

Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts (Chelsea Ouellet / Discover Central MA)

City of Worcester declares climate emergency

WORCESTER, Mass. — The city of Worcester has unanimously approved a resolution declaring a climate emergency and committing to ending citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The resolution — one of the the first climate emergency resolutions passed in Massachusetts — was spearheaded by the Worcester Climate Action Circle and represented a broad coalition of environmental groups, local leaders and residents, according to the Worcester Telegram. It was approved by an 11-0 vote at the council’s Sept. 17 meeting.

“What we’re seeing is a growing wave of concern about the disruptions and disasters we can expect if we continue to ignore the climate problem,” Judy Diamondstone, of Renewable Energy Worcester, told the Telegram before the council approved the resolution. “More and more people care, because climate change forces us to see that the health of our communities and our planet is at stake.”

The resolution notes that the United States has disproportionately contributed to the problem of climate change and has a responsibility to act. It also calls for a just transition to a carbon-free economy, shifting to an economy that’s ecologically sustainable, equitable and just for all its members.

The call for a just transition has been echoed in the Green New Deal proposal in Congress and the work of groups such as the Sunrise movement. It recognizes that industries that harm workers and the environment must be phased out, and workers must have pathways into new livelihoods.

The resolution also recognizes that some communities have historically borne the brunt of the damages caused by the fossil-fuel economy, but they can also be the first to benefit from a renewable-energy economy.

The City Council called on the Massachusetts government to also initiate a just transition and mobilize for a climate emergency. The resolution calls for a mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II to rapidly and safely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and protect communities from the consequences of climate change.

Councilors requested that the city hold a summit within the next year to bring together officials, environmental groups and the public to discuss green initiatives. They also asked the city manager to draft a report outlining any financial or regulatory assistance that’s available to help meet the city’s climate goals.

As the federal government has turned away from addressing the climate emergency in favor of trying to extract as much fossil fuels as quickly as possible, cities across the country have taken up the mantle of leadership on the issue. After the United States withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, more than 400 mayors said they were committed to upholding the commitments of the agreement.

In Massachusetts, several cities have adopted sustainability initiatives and approved other climate-related resolutions. In 2009, a Cambridge resolution recognized the climate emergency and directed the city to do more to meet its climate goals. Amherst established an energy and climate resiliency committee, and Northampton has called on Congress to pass the Green New Deal. Worcester’s resolution is believed to be the first climate-related resolution structured as a climate emergency declaration.

The cities of Cambridge and Somerville have passed resolutions in support of a bill drafted by MassDivest (H.3662, S.636) that would allow pension funds across the state to divest from the fossil fuel industry.