The Barr Foundation, New England's largest private foundation, has announced a five-year, $50 million commitment to help make the metro Boston region a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing catastrophic climate change.
In metropolitan areas like Boston, buildings are responsible for two-thirds of the carbon emissions produced. To reduce building-related emissions, the foundation will support efforts to retrofit buildings and make them more energy efficient. It will also focus on transportation, which produces more than a quarter of Boston's carbon emissions and is the second largest source of emissions nationwide, by supporting the development of driving alternatives and comprehensive planning and zoning reform that will lead to more a walkable, bikeable city center with smarter development around existing transit hubs. According to Barr Foundation executive director Patricia Brandes, the effort will create local jobs, lower utility bills, increase transit options, improve public health, and enhance air and water quality in the region.
Several recent reports have found that Boston is vulnerable to the economic, social, and environmental ramifications of rising sea levels, more frequent and severe storms, and an increase in extreme heat days — all potential effects of climate change.
"If we fail to address climate change aggressively in the next five years, the consequences will be devastating to everything else we care about," said Brandes. "But if we act now, we have an opportunity to transform our economy and heal our planet at the same time. Global treaties and national legislation are necessary, but not sufficient. Real change must happen quickly on the ground, neighborhood by neighborhood, to create a sustainable and more equitable future."