To mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino released plans on Tuesday to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to prepare the city for natural disasters.
“Over the past two decades, we have achieved a remarkable amount of success in our climate preparedness and mitigation work here in Boston,” he said in a Tuesday press release. “With the release of our Climate Ready Boston report and with the update of our Climate Action Plan starting, I’m proud of our continued progress towards being the greenest city in the United States.”
Changes proposed in the report include expanding the review of new buildings’ climate preparedness by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, setting guidelines for a new wetlands ordinance that will protect Boston’s coastal areas and increasing awareness and enforcement of flood proofing.
George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said the changes are a good step for Boston, but there is still much to be done if the city is to be completely ready for natural disasters such as Sandy.
“If Superstorm Sandy had hit Boston with the same force it hit New York City at high tide, Boston would’ve been flooded up to City Hall,” he said. “We would’ve faced the same paralysis as New York … We need to both work to prevent it and work to protect us should it happen.”
In February, Menino challenged his administration and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, a collection of officials and businesses involved climate change advocacy, with continuing to ensure that Boston is adapting to the changing environmental needs of the city.
Brian Swett, chief of Boston’s Department of Environmental and Energy Services, said over the past several months, the department has made substantial progress in researching how to prepare Boston for a potential environmental crisis.
“While climate preparedness is an ongoing long-term effort, the city has made significant advances this past year,” he said in a Tuesday release. “We now have a deeper understanding of how climate change will impact Boston and what the public and private sectors can and should do to prepare.”
David Kimbro, a professor in Northeastern University’s department of marine and environmental sciences, said cities can work within existing structures to prevent flooding, but finding more nature-based solutions is the most effective method for disaster prevention.
“The big thing is greening shorelines as opposed to hardening shorelines,” he said. “The goal there is using natural landscapes to buffer storm erosion, and that’s going to gradually attenuate a storm surge whereas hardened shorelines are only going to amplify a storm like Sandy’s effects.”
In addition to storm preparedness, Menino addressed the city’s carbon emissions progress and cited the improvements Boston has made in order to curb its emissions. Since 2005, he said Boston has cut its carbon emissions by 26 percent, ahead of its goal of 25 percent cut originally planned to be reached by 2020.
Bachrach made a speech following Menino’s address, in which he outlined key points on which the city of Boston needs to continue improving its carbon emission sustainability efforts after Menino leaves office this January.
His plan challenges the new mayor to continue increasing the sustainability of Boston’s buildings and utilities, to expand and incentivize the use of public transit and to engage Boston citizens through an annual climate summit.
“We’ve worked with [the Menino] administration, which we think has done very good things, and we support this administration,” he said. “But, we are advocates. We are not the government, and our job is to keep pressing for more.”
This plan comes a week after Massachusetts received almost $7.5 million in U.S. Department of Interior funds to restore natural coastal defenses in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.