Climate activists celebrate new leaders, highlight work ahead

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-13-2023 1:45 PM

On her fourth day in office on Wednesday, Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer joined legislators and climate activists from across the state, including many from western Massachusetts, who gathered to celebrate the efforts of the new administration and highlight the work ahead.

“We’re at a very unique moment in our history,” said Hoffer, speaking to the nearly 190 people who attended the virtual rally. “We’re now faced with the task of doing very rapid decarbonization while we’re also simultaneously building resilience for a world that’s changing around us.”

The hourlong event was primarily hosted by the Massachusetts chapter of Elders Climate Action, according to Greenfield resident Glen Ayers, a member of the group. Other groups that were most involved were 350 Mass, the League of Women Voters, the Massachusetts Sierra Club, and Climate Action Now Western Massachusetts.

Hoffer, who is Massachusetts’ first climate chief, credited the activists for playing a “leading role” in the fight against climate change.

“The work you do is not easy work, and I think you know that,” she said. “It’s hard to wake up every day and understand the stakes. It’s hard to wake up every day if you really understand the science.”

Under Gov. Maura Healey’s leadership, she said, the state will continue to work together. Hoffer emphasized the importance of viewing the climate issue as more than an environmental issue. It’s a transportation issue, a housing issue, a public safety issue and a land use issue, she said.

“Part of this effort is to help everybody understand that climate change is an issue that affects all these areas of our lives,” Hoffer said.

Organizers emphasized that among the imminent priorities for the new administration are:

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■Ensuring equitable distribution of Inflation Reduction Act funding to Massachusetts.

■Ensuring funding for the clean energy and offshore wind law.

■Establishing programs to allow equitable decarbonization of buildings.

■Establishing a state green bank this year.

“Along with policy, awareness is key to this campaign,” added Launa Zimmaro of the League of Women Voters, who co-hosted the rally.

Posed with the question of what’s next, several senators and state representatives spoke about building decarbonization and building resilience as priorities.

“I think we need a superfund for resiliency,” said Rep. Steve Owens, D-Watertown. “As weather gets worse, we’re going to have more issues. It’s going to cost us more money to clean up after large storms and disasters that we know are going go to come from rising temperatures and rising seas, particularly here on our coastal commonwealth.”

Others pushed for the creation of a green bank, which Sen. Paul Mark, D-Becket, has also advocated for in recent years. Green banks, he previously explained, are public or quasi-public entities established to facilitate private investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure.

Sierra Club State Political Director Jess Nahigian echoed the enthusiasm legislators expressed for the Healey administration.

“I’m so excited about the new administrative leadership,” Nahigian said. “We’re so excited to be working with new partners.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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