Climate change adaptation bill pressure grows on House

State House News Service
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

While crews shore up seawalls and coastal infrastructure and residents brace for another powerful storm, a coalition that includes architects, engineers, planners and downtown Boston businesses is putting pressure on the House to pass a bill requiring the state to plan for the effects of climate change.

The Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition sent a letter Monday to all state representatives urging them to reach out to House leadership and ask for action on a bill requiring the state to develop a comprehensive adaptation management action plan in response to climate change.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill in November and has passed it in previous years as well.

The coalition — which includes dozens of organizations that represent architects, engineers, planners, and conservationists — said that while Massachusetts has taken steps to address the economic risks of climate change, “we lack an integrated approach to resiliency.”

Rep. Frank Smizik, who chairs the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, plans to send a similar letter to his House colleagues this week, the coalition said. Smizik’s office did not return a call from the News Service on Wednesday.

One member of the coalition who represents more than 100 Massachusetts businesses gave voice in a new op-ed to the importance of having a comprehensive plan to address the effects of climate change.

“Lack of climate adaptation across our community can cost businesses a lot. The price tags are in the billions for damage from flooding, extreme temperatures and sea level rise combined with disruptions to business continuity and lost outputs,” Rick Dimino, president and CEO of A Better City, wrote in Banker & Tradesman on Sunday. “This past fall, Moody’s announced that it would be giving more weight to climate risk mitigation measures coastal communities are undertaking in its bond credit rating analysis. We can’t afford to suffer these financial losses.”

The coalition pointed to a 2013 study led by a World Bank economist that found Boston loses $237 million in economic activity each year due to coastal flooding — the eighth-highest amount of any metropolitan area in the world.

And if storms continue to get stronger and more damaging, the potential losses could be even greater. There are 4.2 million residents — or about 66 percent of the total population — living within 10 miles of the coast and parcels of land within 10 miles of the coast total $750 billion in assessed value, 73 percent of the state’s total valuation, according to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Dimino said A Better City in January formalized its first-ever energy and environmental policy agenda that included “strong and unequivocal support” for the bill filed by Sen. Marc Pacheco.

The bill would require key state agencies to develop a comprehensive adaptation management action plan in response to climate change and update it every five years. It would also continue a grant program that provides technical assistance for communities.

The damage left behind by the strong nor’easter that lashed the Massachusetts coast over the weekend led Pacheco to take to the Senate floor Monday to call for action on his bill. The bill passed the Senate unanimously in November and has been pending before the House Ways and Means Committee since.

“We should see the writing on the wall. If gone unchecked, severe weather will wreak immense havoc on Massachusetts, it is already happening. It continues to happen. Our communities, our cities and towns, are facing serious financial risks. Homes are being destroyed, properties are being ravaged,” he said. “We have the ability to protect ourselves, our communities, but we need the political will in place to take action. Climate adaptation recommendations need to become requirements in state law.”