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As climate change and environmental sustainability move to the top of the national policy agenda, Massachusetts and Boston are at the forefront at the state and municipal. Massachusetts has set targets for emissions reductions and renewable energy generation while Boston has established among the “greenest” new development standards is setting aggressive objectives for municipal systems reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, planting trees and increasing recycling. However, it is too early to evaluate progress. Meanwhile, progress continues on improvements to the region’s beaches, public parks and marine environment even in the face of reduced funding. 

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Greater Boston’s environment is shaped by the relationship among land, water, and air and the biodiversity and commercial uses these natural resources support.  The 47-square mile City of Boston sits on Boston Harbor at the confluence of the Charles, Neponset and Mystic Rivers, whose combined watersheds include 57 cities and towns and drain an areas of more than 400 square miles.   After the Boston Harbor clean-up, which took more than a decade and almost $4 billion, the region’s coast has experienced a renaissance, with 30 islands joined into the  Boston Harbor Islands National Park  and appreciated beaches..  Boston’s open space system also includes more than 7,000 acres of protected land, with more than 215 parks and playgrounds owned and managed by the  Boston Parks and Recreation Department , 2,200 acres managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and protected land owned by the  Boston Natural Areas Network , which manages 175 community gardens and more than 1,400 acres of urban wilds.   The intersection between energy and the environment encompasses energy supplies, generation, emissions and efficiency to support home heating and cooling, transportation, commerce and industry and also the local impact of and response to intensifying global climate change. These issues are tracked by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs , Boston’s Environment Department , the  Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Renewable Energy Trust , the  Metropolitan Area Planning Council , and local  planning departments, foundations and nonprofit groups. The sector also includes the environmental science departments of local universities, environmental education in schools and out-of-school programs, environmental justice through organizations such as Alternatives for Communities and Environment (ACE),   focused initiatives such as the  Charles River Watershed Association and  Boston Schoolyards Project ,  and advocacy organizations such as the  Environmental League of Massachusetts and  Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance . 


Key Trends

Boston continues continues to be a model city in addressing climate change, sustainable development and open space preservation.

Accomplishments & Developments

Boston was named the nation's 3rd "Greenest" city and the 6th "Most Sustainable" city in 2008.


As a costal city, Boston is one of the world's most-vulnerable cities to the impact of global climate change.

Refurbishes commercial and industrial wind turbines in Massachusetts
Aeronautica Wind Turbine1
  Boston Metro Innovations

National/International Innovations
New @ Indicators
Open Energy Info
Open Energy Info (Open EI) is a linked open data platform to connect the world's energy data and information in real-time to foster innovation in clean energy through transparency, collaboration & participation.  See a map of Greater Boston's clean tech clusters on OpenEI.

A Future of Innovation & Growth: Advancing Massachusetts' Clean Energy Leadership
This report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center finds the Commonwealth ranks 2nd among the leading clean-energy states, spurred by a skilled workforce, government policy and strong venture capital markets.  The state's largest barriers to growth are high living costs, few natural resources, permitting delays and a small manufacturing base.

Massachusetts announces nation-leading energy efficiency plans
Governor Deval Patrick along with the Massachusetts Departments of Public Utilites and Energy and Environmental Affairs announced new energy efficiency standards that will reduce electricity usagre by 2.24% and natural gas usage by 1.15% annually for three years.  As a part of the Green Communities Act of 2008, this new plan is estimated, in the long-term, to create or save 25,000 jobs, save customers $6 billion in utility bills and make Massachusetts the most energy-efficient state by 2012.

World Wildlife Fund-Allianz Report on Cities at Risk of Climate Change
World Wildlife Fund-Allianz, Major Tipping Points in the Earth's Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector (11/09): Finds that the Northeast Coast of the US--including the cities of Boston, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Providence may experience a sea level rise of .65 meters by 2050 with a total asset exposure of $1.3 to $7.4 billion.

Trust for Public Land 2009 Report on US City Parks

The Trust for Public Land , 2009 City Park Facts   (08/09): The 9th publication of the state of park land and open space in the 77 most populous cities in the US finds Boston has 5,040 acres of public parkland and ranks 5th among high-density cities in parkland as a percent of total land area (16.3%), 2nd in acres per residents (8.3), 9th in playgrounds per 10,000 residents (3.6) and spent $101 per resident on Parks and Recreation in FY07.

Environment America Provides Emission Reduction Strategies
Environment America,  Global Warming Solutions that Work  (06/2008): Describes 20 strategies being used around the world to reduce carbon emissions that can be implemented at a larger scale and in more areas.

The Greening of Boston

Boston Municipal Research Bureau, The Greening of Boston  (05/08): Popular Science Magazine recently ranked Boston as the nation’s 3rd Greenest city based on a series of factors such as renewable energy, public transit and green buildings.  This Bureau Update highlights the policies and strategies in place that make Boston a national leader in sustainability.

Urban Ecology Institute Assesses Boston's Tree Cover
Urban Ecology Institute,  State of the Urban Forest  (Spring, 2008): Provides the results of Boston's first-ever urban tree canopy analysis and street tree inventory. Boston's tree canopy cover 29% of the city's land area, and from 6% to 49% in individual neighborhoods.

Environmental League's Proposals for the FY2009 State Budget
Environmental League of Massachusetts, Green Budget FY2009  (02/2008): Outlines the Environmental League's state budget goals for FY2009, with a focus on fully funding existing programs that have been under funded since budget cuts earlier in the decade.

Germanwatch International Rankings of Climate Change Action
Germanwatch,  Results of the Climate Change Performance Index, 2008  (12/07): Among the 56 countries studied, the United States ranked 55th on this index, which combines emissions trends, emission levels, and climate policy.

New England Climate Change Coalition Grades Massachusetts Environmental Efforts
New England Climate Change Coalition,  Climate Change Action: Report Card 2007  (11/2007): Massachusetts' grade on environmental action increased from a C- in 2006 to a B- in 2007, but needs to do more to meet voluntary emission reduction goals set in 2001.

Logan Airport Environmental Impacts
Mass port,  Boston Logan International Airport 2006 Environmental Data Report  (09/2007): Annual report of environmental impacts of Logan Airport.

Massachusetts Clean Energy Census
Massachusetts Technology Collaborative,  Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Census  (08/07): Finds that the clean energy industry is poised to become the state's 10th largest economic cluster, driven by increased demand for renewable energy and Massachusetts' capacity for innovation.  The report also highlights California as Massachusetts' top competitor state as the leading developer of clean & renewable energy.

Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, 'Confronting Climate Change in the US Northeast: Climate, Impacts and Solutions'
Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, Confronting Climate Change in the US Northeast: Climate, Impacts and Solutions  (7/07): This peer-reviewed report on regional climate trends posits two potential scenarios for the Northeast by the end of this century -- one founded upon our continued dependency on high-emissions fossil fuels, the other based on the increased use of low-emissions clean energy.  In addition to showing how today's choices can affect tomorrow's climate, the report positions the Northeast as the ideal region to address global climate change through the development of innovative technologies and policies.

Metropolitan Beaches Commission, 'Beaches We Can Be Proud Of'
Metropolitan Beaches Commission,  Beaches We Can Be Proud Of  (04/07): Report examines the condition of 14 area beaches and found a $3.2 million annual shortfall in beach maintenance/operating costs.