Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer watches Gov. Maura Healey at her first press conference on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 in the governor's suite. Sam Doran GBH News

MA - Massachusetts climate chief calls for sweeping actions to reduce emissions

Massachusetts needs to shift from an era of statewide planning for climate policy to the key details of implementing it, according to a new report from the state's top climate official, which includes sweeping recommendations to accelerate the state's progress toward its emissions reduction goals.

Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer recommends some more drastic measures, such as having Massport look at limiting the amount of "short hop" flights in and out of Bay State airports to reduce aviation emissions, decarbonizing new public school construction, and developing a Climate Service Corps to prepare young people for jobs in clean energy and climate resilience.

One of the main pillars of Hoffer's report, released Wednesday morning, is a call for an economic analysis of the state investment needed to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions mandated by the Clean Energy and Climate Plan, which includes the statutorily-required target that Massachusetts be net zero by 2050.

State officials have made some effort to move towards these goals, but there is no comprehensive analysis of an important aspect of the journey: how much decarbonization will actually cost.

Though there's no Massachusetts-specific estimate, the report says the cost to decarbonize the total U.S. economy by 2050 may be in the range of $25 trillion to $30 trillion.

Hoffer says federal funding from a handful of new laws such as the Inflation Reduction Act and Chips and Science Act could contribute somewhere in the range of about 8 to 30 percent of required decarbonization spending, meaning 70 to 92 percent will need to be financed "by other means." She recommends convening the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, Climate Office, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and MassDOT and the MBTA to complete this analysis by the end of 2024.

The climate chief's 86-page report takes a step toward fulfilling one of Gov. Maura Healey's early promises in office. Healey signed an executive order on her second day on the job to create Hoffer's position, and tasked her with analyzing the state's executive offices and recommending ways to bring their operations more in line with the state's climate goals.

The plan represents suggestions that Hoffer is making to the administration, and it's unclear which ideas Healey may try to implement administratively and which ones might require legislative proposal.

In addition to getting a handle on the overall price to decarbonize the state, Hoffer strongly discourages any state spending that would undermine climate policy progress. The Climate Office said it does not support new natural gas infrastructure, though necessary repairs may need to be made while residents transition to cleaner energy.

To help facilitate that transition, Hoffer recommends major reforms to Mass Save -- a collaborative of Massachusetts' natural gas and electric utility providers meant to increase energy efficiency in residents' homes and save people money through tools such as rebates.

"The Mass Save program currently is administered by electric and gas utilities. It has become increasingly clear, particularly in light of the successes of sister-state entities Efficiency Maine and Efficiency Vermont, that, under the current statutory framework, the Mass Save program is failing to take the steps necessary to achieve the transformative levels of building decarbonization required," the report says.

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