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New Bedford Rolls Out First-Ever Climate Action Plan

New Bedford has just joined a small number of Massachusetts municipalities to develop its own city-wide climate action plan. 

The plan, known as “NB Resilient,” is the city’s first-ever climate action plan. It establishes a framework to rely exclusively on renewable energy, reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions, and become a zero-waste community all in the next 30 years.


“New Bedford has established itself as a leader in offshore wind, as well as in municipal solar, and energy conservation,” explained New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell on Thursday. “And what this plan represents is our determination to continue our leadership for the benefit of New Bedford and really the entire region of southeastern Massachusetts.”  


To reach its goals, the plan calls for a long-term adaptation strategy for the port, seeks to reduce overall energy and water use, and promotes electric vehicle adoption, city-wide composting, and community solar projects.

“The largest emissions sectors are the Built Environment (57.5%), Transportation (31.2%), and Wastewater Treatment (10.1%),” according to the plan. 


These new goals are among 45 directed at city staffers and individual residents. 


“City government can’t do it alone,” Mitchell said. “Residents have to do their part, and providing options to them to use renewables over fossil fuel-based sources of electricity will continue to be important.” 


The plan follows a statewide bill that the Legislature passed on Monday to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It's on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk, awaiting action.


Meanwhile, cities and towns including Boston, Brookline and Cambridge have established their own climate action plans in recent years, and the Cape Cod Commission is working on one, as well. 


The plans are all driven by a stark reality: climate change will make the region wetter, hotter, and susceptible to more intense storms. New Bedford could see as much as a 5.8 degree increase in air temperature and a sea level rise of 1.6 feet in the next 30 years, according to the plan. 


“Climate change is upon us. Even though our attention has been pulled in the general direction of the pandemic," Mitchell said, "we know we can’t slow down on the work of adapting to a climate crisis.”  


Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.