Positive sustainability news 2021

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This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Last year Massachusetts’ Republican Governor Charlie Baker kicked off an ambitious goal to get the state to net-zero emissions by 2050. That goal became a formal plan this week and appears headed to Baker’s desk for signature, according to local outlet WBUR, after state lawmakers penned a legal agreement that both parties signed onto.

This is a huge win all around, for residents, travelers, and for the planet. For one, Massachusetts was already among the nearly two dozen states which had enacted strict greenhouse gas targets, aiming to reduce its emissions by 80 percent by 2050. This proposal ramps up that commitment while providing investment in scaled renewable energy development as well as incentives for homeowners opting to go solar (namely, a guarantee that the decision won’t ramp up their property tax bill).

But it’s also a big deal because the bill could spur similar measures across the country, even among states that already have targets in place. The Massachusetts plan is laid out to progress in phases rather than all at once. It tightens emissions targets every five years, earmarks revenue for environmental justice initiatives, and directs the state’s Department of Energy Resources to develop net-zero building plans for new construction.

What the Massachusetts plan doesn’t do is call for a specified move to 100 percent clean energy, a fact that has angered some environmental advocates. However, economic factors appear poised to shift American society toward renewable energy by 2050 anyway, meaning it will head in that direction regardless. Moreover, the plan could be adopted in part or in near-copy by other states led by Republican governors or conservative lawmakers hesitant to enforce a set policy on utility companies.

For travelers, the state’s forthcoming efforts to green public and private transportation, and to provide clean heating in residential spaces, could lessen the environmental impact of a trip to Boston or other parts of Massachusetts. It could also make getting around Boston cheaper and more efficient. For example, the city plans to have EV charging stations available in every neighborhood by 2023, Boston.com reported. Meanwhile, the MBTA, which manages public transit in Boston and its surrounding metropolitan area, is negotiating a new contract to power its services, including its stations, entirely on renewable energy, a deal that could save the agency $3 million per year in costs, Streetsblog reported in October.

More climate wins

Locals in Bali kicked off 2021 by cleaning up Kuta Beach, a popular destination for tourists and expats and a place that had become increasingly riddled with trash in recent years. Global press coverage of the cleanup effort has called attention to the “trashing” of beachfront spaces, and will hopefully inspire similar efforts at popular beach spots around the world.

Solar power — already the cheapest form of power available — is set to become even more affordable. A UK-based company is developing solar panels that convert blue wavelengths from the sun into energy, in addition to the silicon already common in panels and that converts red wavelengths into energy. The increased energy development is expected to make solar panels up to 40 percent more efficient.

And finally, the ambitious climate agenda put forth by the incoming Biden administration took a major step toward enactment following the Senate run-off elections in the state of Georgia. Incoming Senator Jon Ossof favors Biden’s ambitions toward an infrastructure plan to include funding for clean energy development and jobs, while incoming Senator Raphael Warnock laid out support for a clean energy transition and for proper “stewardship of our children’s planet.”