Green Marblehead Committee drafting net zero roadmap

Charting a course to meet the town’s goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, Green Marblehead Committee members met with Metropolitan Area Planning Council, or MAPC, clean energy specialist Brook Winner last week to discuss Marblehead’s draft net zero roadmap.

The committee previously worked with the MAPC to complete an inventory of community-wide greenhouse gas emissions to establish a baseline. The inventory calculated emissions from buildings, transportation, waste, and other sources in Marblehead from 2017, the most recent year for which complete datasets are available. It found that in 2017, total emissions in the town equaled 161,130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The current draft roadmap lists several suggested actions to meet the town’s 2040 net zero goal. They include the committee providing annual progress updates to the Select Board, periodically updating Marblehead’s greenhouse gas inventory, and the town hiring a sustainability coordinator. The coordinator would work full-time to support local sustainability efforts and the implementation of climate action plans.

“The hiring piece is the only thing that has a ‘town should spend money on ‘x’’ component,” Winner said. “Largely, the roadmap is about policy, sharing information, making changes to existing zoning ordinances, or writing new ones.”

Sustainable Marblehead representative and committee member Eileen Mathieu said that existing town staff members are stretched too thin to educate the public, coordinate between town departments, and apply for grants to help Marblehead meet its 2040 net zero goal.

According to the draft roadmap, the Marblehead Municipal Light Department recently hired an employee to coordinate the utility’s sustainability efforts, but budget constraints have kept the town from hiring its own. The document went on to say that the town will continue exploring ways to hire a sustainability coordinator, including through regional or multi-town collaboration.

Winner added that while hiring a sustainability coordinator is the only suggestion that would require the town to allocate money in the fiscal year 2024 budget, the draft roadmap does imply town spending down the road. He said, for example, Marblehead may need to spend money to retrofit buildings or purchase electric cars.

The draft roadmap also suggests Marblehead municipal and school staff “lead by example” by purchasing zero-emission fleet vehicles, increasing town buildings’ energy efficiency, and adding solar panels to new roofs as they are replaced or constructed.

Several of the actions suggested in the draft roadmap include observations about how the action should be implemented to advance equity in the community. Winner noted that energy efficiency programs often disproportionately underserve low-income people and communities of color.

He said, for example, the town should potentially address the prohibitive costs of solar installation and provide information related to Marblehead’s sustainability goals in as many languages as possible.

“In other communities, I have gotten questions about why we need to be talking about equity when we are talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Winner said. “To that, I say, climate change is going to be affecting low-income people of color first. …We need to be working with those populations and considering what they’re going to need to be part of the solution going forward.”

Committee members now have the chance to make changes to the draft roadmap which they will then review at their next meeting on Nov. 22.