Climate action plan presented to Westborough selectmen


By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer

Climate action plan presented to Westborough selectmenWestborough – Sustainable Westborough Chair Peter Dunbeck sought feedback from the Board of Selectmen Sept. 22 on a climate action plan (CAP) written by the Climate Action Task Force.

The plan’s goal is to achieve a 40-percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 and an 80-percent reduction by 2050.

Other goals include defining a set of actions for the town which will guide the community in a transition that will address climate change-related issues and addressing municipal, residential, industrial and commercial sources of GHG emissions.

Dunbeck said one of the starting points was to evaluate current GHGs and identify the top areas of emissions to be able to measure the progress the task force makes toward its goals.

What they found through the evaluation is that 83 percent of emissions are created through four main sources. Residential transportation is the highest contributor at 27 percent; commercial/industrial/manufacturing electricity and heating/cooling are each at about 20-21 percent each; and residential heating/cooling is at 15 percent.

The task force has identified 17 sector goals and 50 strategies to meet these goals. Dunbeck said it will be critical for the town to align with National Grid as people move toward renewable sources of energy.

“It is important we understand their views and timing on the change so we are partnering with them during this transition,” he said.

The task force is also looking to increase awareness of energy efficiency programs available to residents and businesses. As for municipal plans, they will be encouraging the town to electrify the town fleet, encourage pedestrian and bike traffic, and create a traffic reduction and modification proposal. It will also promote open space, conservation of trees and forests, and continued waste reduction through composting and recycling.

However, proper implementation of the CAP is something else the task force is working on.

“One of the key needs going forward is to have good clear roles and responsibilities for carrying out this plan over time,” Dunbeck said. “It is a community-wide change that is needed, so we need awareness and ongoing effort to communicate with residents.”

In the coming months, the task force will present the CAP to different stakeholder groups and gather feedback. The presentation will be available on the Sustainable Westborough website.

Dunbeck noted that there has been a lot of action regarding climate initiatives at the state level recently and that the town’s task force is trying to stay closely aligned to be well-positioned for funding and incentive programs. He noted that in January the governor issued a formal determination letter establishing net zero GHG emissions as the commonwealths new legal emissions limit for 2050. 

Dunbeck has attended some Global Warming Solutions Act implementation committee meetings and said they are totally focused on the next decade.

“Every scientific report shows this decade is when we have to make the most significant changes and we have to move quickly,” he said.

Dunbeck said the goals of the committee are aggressive. For example, one goal is to have one million, or 23 percent, of all registered vehicles be electric. For heating/cooling, the goal is to have one million electric heat pumps installed in residential units by 2030 so that 40 percent of units would be electric.

“This is relevant in the Eversource discussion,” Dunbeck said, pointing out that with the conversion of heating systems from using fossil fuels to electricity, the need for new infrastructure is eliminated.

Advocacy at the state level for the town’s interests is something Dunbeck noted will be very important to achieve the goals of the action plan.