By Scott O’Connell
WAYLAND – Several substantial measures aimed at combating climate change are queued up in the Legislature, but it will take a big push from advocates to get them passed, state Sen. Jamie Eldridge told a regional environmental group Thursday night.
The Acton Democrat urged the approximately 50 people at the 350MA MetroWest Node’s meeting at Peace Lutheran Church to not only tell their own representatives in government to support the bills, but also get behind candidates in the upcoming state election who have shown a commitment to the environment.
Overall, the effort to enact meaningful legislation will take an organized, concerted campaign to convince people on the fence, particularly lawmakers who are not always eager to take up the often controversial political topic of global warming, Eldridge said.
“The challenge with a lot of legislators is there’s an assumption of ‘If I support … a more aggressive approach, it will have a negative effect on jobs,” he said, adding the fight for change in the political arena must also be accompanied by a more broad change in cultural attitudes and behavior.
Eldridge noted that a more progressive approach to environmental issues is already well established in parts of MetroWest, which has a history of supporting candidates – Eldridge included – who are more liberally leaning on the subject. The region is also the latest to start a “node” of the state’s 350 campaign, which is part of a global initiative aimed at stopping man-made climate change.
The number 350 represents the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is considered to be the highest level still considered safe; the earth is currently at 400 parts per million, according to the organization.
Formed last October, the MetroWest group now has around 60 members and meets twice a month. The fledgling node has also been active in statewide 350 action efforts, joining recent protests of the Keystone XL pipeline and a proposed power plant in Salem.
“We’re ready to do a lot more,” MetroWest node member Sabine von Mering said at Thursday night’s meeting. “We’re serious about climate change – we know it’s happening, and we want to do everything we can to curtail its disastrous effects.”
Several bills in the Legislature, including a proposed state carbon tax and a measure that would divest the state’s pension plan of any holdings in fossil fuels, likely won’t pass this year, but could gain traction next session, Eldridge said. Some other pieces of legislation he has sponsored, like a move to put a surcharge on oil bills to fund renewable energy programs, are also picking up momentum, he said.
Eldridge said there are also positive changes happening beyond Beacon Hill, like the recent creation of a new grant program intended to help towns hire an energy efficiency manager – a position Eldridge said he’d like to see become as ubiquitous as town planners or building inspectors. The senator also said a group called Project Green Schools is leading an effort to bring more environmental and climate change curriculum into the state’s public schools.
As far ahead on the problem as Massachusetts may be compared to other states, “there’s a lot more to be done” about global warming, Eldridge said, and this November’s election could be a critical piece in that fight.
“Who you elect is so important,” he said. “The positions that candidates take really matter.”
Scott O’Connell can be reached at 508-626-4449.