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Carbon Headache

If you want your city to kick carbon by 2050, be prepared for some tough choices

If Boston wants to rid its air of carbon by 2050, it’ll need to take drastic action. Carbon Free Boston, a 2019 report based on research led by the Questrom-based Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE), has recommended several ways the city—and others like it—could reach that goal. Directed by Peter Fox-Penner, a professor of the practice, markets, public policy, and law, the ISE worked closely with stakeholders from the Boston Green Ribbon Commission and the city of Boston. Among the recommendations:

1. Create support programs for socially vulnerable populations to make sure that everyone has equal access to energy efficiency and clean energy.

2. Retrofit around 86,000 buildings—residential and commercial—with improved insulation, energy-efficient lighting, and efficient electric power systems.

3. Shift people to public transit, biking, and walking; increasing development in areas well serviced by public transit; and converting most cars, trucks, buses, and trains to being powered by zero-carbon electricity.

4. Discourage use of gasoline-powered vehicles by creating a reliable system of charging stations for electric vehicles, offering financial incentives to people who adopt electric-powered cars, and imposing fines/charges for driving personal vehicles into the heart of the city.

5. Stick with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Standard, a 2017 set of regulations that requires the state’s electricity grid to be 80 percent powered by clean energy by 2050.

6. Greatly reduce waste-related emissions by increasing food reuse, recycling, and composting. Generating methane gas from the city’s food waste can further offset emissions.