Guest columnist Tom Bassett: How to tackle the climate crisis close to home

  • The new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street in Easthampton features seven electric vehicle charging stations with 14 hookups. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 9/28/2022 9:53:51 AM

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report in 1990, which led to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The first Conference of the Parties (COP) in Berlin in 1995 was attended by 154 nations to discuss climate change solutions.

Over 30 years have passed since the first IPCC report and many have embraced the “inconvenient truth” that our CO2 emissions are leading to devastating impacts to life on Earth, but actions have lagged behind the need.

This year the federal government (finally) passed legislation, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, that includes funding for the transition to renewable sources of energy. In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature passed (by override of Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto) HB. 5060: An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind. Among the goals of these bills are efforts to create healthy living environments for all by reducing and ultimately replacing fossil fuel use with noncarbon emitting sources.

Members of climate change organizations in the Pioneer Valley have been working for many years to encourage the passage of this legislation. There remains a lot more to do. How can we in the Connecticut River valley support local efforts to implement solutions to climate change?

This column intends to connect you to people, volunteer organizations, government entities and events that can empower you to demand action at every level to quickly draw down atmospheric CO2 and ensure a just and sustainable living for future generations on our fragile and precious planet.

Many communities in western Massachusetts have official commissions or citizen groups tasked with advising city and town governments on sustainability efforts, while other climate action organizations work toward making our energy future safe for a livable planet. Among these groups are:

The Northampton Energy and Sustainability Commission (NESC) (https://bit.ly/3SvQPWL), which provides advice to advance the city’s Climate Resilience & Regeneration Plan. The city’s energy and sustainability officer, Chris Mason, coordinates the implementation of actions approved by the NESC. The commision meets on the second Tuesday of the month from 4-6 p.m.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby Pioneer Valley chapter (https://bit.ly/3BKnC3z) is an Amherst-based nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization that works to create the political will for a livable world. The local chapter’s focus is to pass market-based carbon fee and dividend legislation, which economists and climate scientists say is the “best first-step” to prevent the worst impacts of a warming world.

Climate Action Now Western MASS (climateactionnowma.org/) is the local chapter of a national grassroots, all-volunteer group. The purpose of CAN is to help build a climate justice movement through organizing, action and public education. The group is working to oppose Eversource’s proposed Springfield-Longmeadow gas pipeline project. Meetings are the fourth Monday of the month on Zoom at 7 p.m., with the next meeting scheduled for Oct. 3.

Local Energy Advocates (LEA, localenergyadvocates.org) generates ideas and facilitates plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity, transportation, public infrastructure, and building sectors in western Massachusetts. The group also aims to increase the resiliency of our local energy systems, and to promote environmental justice. A key action is to support the Joint Inter-Municipal Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) to obtain more energy from renewable sources. A contract is being drafted with MassPowerChoice, an aggregation services company that will implement a CCA for Amherst, Pelham and Northampton to help reduce the local and state carbon footprint.

Mothers Out Front Northampton and Amherst (www.mothersoutfront.org/team/massachusetts/northampton/) and (www.mothersoutfront.org/team/massachusetts/amherst/) are local chapters of a national organization. The Massachusetts campaign on Clean Heat/Clean Air seeks to provide clean air and a livable climate for all children in ways that center on environmental, racial and economic justice. Join the next meeting or learn more by contacting the Northampton chapter with an email to info.ma.northampton@mothersoutfront.org.

Check out the website (www.mothersoutfront.org/state-based-campaigns/?state=massachusetts) to receive notices about a monthly climate action call. These calls are generally one hour at noon on Thursdays and focus on activities to encourage progress on pending legislative actions.

There is an exciting “Recharge Northampton” event to learn more about electric vehicles this Saturday from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at the Armory Street parking lot in downtown Northampton. The city of Northampton owns 18 electric vehicle charging stations, and there are 40 more within nine miles. Attendees will have a chance to speak with EV experts at the event, which will feature a mixture of all electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles including sedans, SUVs, trucks, buses and other electric equipment.

The climate crisis demands faster implementation of solutions, new ideas, and the involvement of more people. Together we can take actions locally that make positive changes here in the Pioneer Valley and beyond.

Tom Bassett is a member of the Northampton chapter of Mothers Out Front. He encourages ideas and topics for future columns about the climate crisis at shawbass@comcast.net.
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