The climate will continue to change even when greenhouse gas emissions come down. Some changes, such as sea-level rise, heat waves, and increases in storm intensity or frequency, pose major risks to Boston, its infrastructure, its tax base, its natural resources, and its residents, businesses, and institutions. For these reasons, Boston needs to prepare for climate change, even as we work to lessen its impacts. Climate adaptation-preparing for the different local environmental conditions that result from climate change-is an essential part of climate action.
The City of Boston has been committed to preparing for the changing climate since the 2007 Executive Order on Climate Action. The central theme then and now is that consideration of the changing climate must be incorporated into all planning, projects, permitting, and review that the City undertakes. Furthermore, Boston’s residents, businesses, and institutions must also take the appropriate steps to ensure that their homes, families, businesses, and employees are also prepared. Boston must plan, grow and thrive with the climate conditions of tomorrow in mind.
The City has introduced a many specific initiatives and policies to help prepare Boston. For example, Complete Streets and Grow Boston Greener promote green infrastructure throughout the City to reduce the urban heat island effect and mitigate flooding. The Boston Redevelopment Authority now requires all new large developments to complete a climate adaptation questionnaire as part of the Article 80 review process. The 2011 Climate Action Plan Update highlights many of City’s climate preparedness initiatives.
On February 5, 2013, the City announced new planning and policy initiatives to better prepare Boston for Hurricane Sandy-like storms and other effects of the changing climate. The administration was tasked to undertake the following actions by fall 2013:
Conduct a vulnerability assessment of municipal facilities and programs and recommend next steps through a Cabinet-level Task Force
Establish a climate adaptation Green Ribbon Commission working group to lead the private sector in preparing for climate change
Survey vulnerabilities of buildings and infrastructure through a Boston Redevelopment Authority survey
Better enforcement of flood proofing building standards and increased outreach around flood proofing strategies
Incorporate climate change adaptation guidelines into Article 80 review
Develop a local wetlands ordinance and new floodplain maps
Review emergency operation planning and evacuation routes
In October 2013, the City announced significant progress on these initiatives, which all contribute to the 2014 update of the City’s Climate Action Plan. In the meantime, residents, businesses, and institutions in Boston can start taking steps of their own to reduce their vulnerability. The Office of Emergency Management offers preparedness resources for a variety of hazards including power outages, floods, hurricanes and extreme heat.