What is Cambridge’s Net Zero Action Plan?

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Last month, Cambridge ratified a plan to propel itself into a net zero future.

What is this “net zero” you speak of? “Net zero” means that all greenhouse gas emissions are offset by carbon-free energy. This essentially means the energy from nonrenewable sources=the energy from renewable sources. Simple enough. However, bringing a community to net zero requires more than just utilizing renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy. It also requires changing policies, increasing efficiency, and raising awareness.

So how exactly do we make this happen? In order to accomplish the lofty goal of net zero, the Net Zero Task Force group was created to help put Cambridge on the path to success. The Task Force outlined numerous strategies tailored for all the different types of buildings in Cambridge. Because each business and each home is unique, it is important that policies and deadlines take into account these differences. Also, the Task Force is exploring every path to make sure no stone is left unturned. The Task Force’s recommended actions can be broken down into 5 main categories:

  1. Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings

This is an important part of the plan because buildings that aren’t operating efficiently are wasting valuable energy. For example, poorly insolated buildings let heat escape, forcing them to use more energy than necessary. This part of the plan not only involves retrofitting buildings, but also creating the right incentives and guidelines for renovations.

  1. Net Zero New Construction

This section is all about creating building requirements and policies that support the goal of net zero. This is anything from improving the green building requirements to creating incentive programs. New buildings will start achieving net zero starting in 2020.

  1. Energy Supply of Low Carbon and Renewable Energy

Of course, renewable energy is a huge part of going net zero, and since we love solar energy here in the Boston area, there is a strong focus on solar, in particular.

  1. Local Carbon Fund

For some buildings, going net zero is just too challenging. In these cases, a local carbon fund offers an alternative to going net zero by allowing a building to pay to offset its emissions. The money gathered through the fund goes towards supporting green initiatives.

  1. Engagement & Capacity Building through Communication and Resources

This part of the plan is concerned with maintaining open and consistent communication in order to keep all of the different sectors unified and in the loop throughout the 25-year plan.

Cambridge’s groundbreaking net zero plan is among the first in the US, making Cambridge a national example. If all goes as planned, Cambridge will reach a 70% emission reduction by 2040. A success of this magnitude will demonstrate that it is possible for other cities to take on the challenge. For more information, visit http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/NetZeroTaskForce.


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