HomeEnvironmentSecond version of net-zero emissions roadmap released

Second version of net-zero emissions roadmap released


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WESTFORD — The Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee recently unveiled the second iteration of its Westford Climate Roadmap. 

During an October 2020 Special Town Meeting, a majority of voters approved a Climate Action Resolution that charged the town to limit its carbon footprint to net zero by 2050.

Roadmap to Net Zero

WCA was started three years ago by residents Carol Morse, Beth Perkins, Barbara Theriault and Lynn Cohen. WCA “is all about ending fossil fuel use over a period of time and reducing greenhouse gasses. [Massachusetts] has been at work guiding the process with their expectations,” Morse tells WestfordCAT. They advocated for CEASC’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 to serve as an organizing framework for Westford’s path to net zero. 

The road map consists of four parts: Buildings, Transportation, Land Use, and Electrification. According to Morse, buildings are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Key changes will need to be made in those areas while not disrupting anything economically.

For buildings and electrification, this category includes solar, nuclear, hydro and wind power sources to power residential homes, businesses and town buildings. Heating and cooling systems should be electrified, which immediately will reduce carbon emissions and make heating and cooling bills more affordable. According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, residential buildings account for 29.1%0 of all emissions in Westford. 

For transportation, the plan calls for an increase in hybrid and electric vehicle usage.  According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, transport accounts for 40.7% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Westford. Passenger vehicles account for the bulk of those emissions, with 38.4% of total emissions in Westford originating from passenger vehicles. 

Second version releases

In November 2021, CEASC released the Roadmap framework to jump ahead of the Select Board’s approval. The Roadmap will need a commitment from the Town, residents, and businesses for the next 30 years. As years are forthcoming and technology changes, the Roadmap will be updated.

The Select Board held a hearing with the Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee to discuss the second version of the roadmap. 

“We are here to seek your endorsement. We’re looking for your acknowledgment and support, we’re not looking for a holistic pre-approval of everything we have thought of and have yet to think of,” Mike Berlinski, chair of the Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee said in a March 28 meeting

The second version of the roadmap incorporates more specific goals and targets and incorporates inputs from participating stakeholders and community members. 

The Select Board will formally vote to adopt the new roadmap at a future meeting.

Land stewardship to reduce emissions

The land will be protected, specifically Westford forests, wetlands and turf. Protecting natural resources will enhance carbon sequestration.

“The road map acknowledges that we need native land. It can also reverse some of the damage we’ve already done. Land conservation is to be expanded and protected, ” Sue Thomas, Westford’s Sustainability Coordinator, toldWestfordCAT.

Thomas also noted the resiliency provided by conservation land, and how the natural resources protect Westford from natural disasters.

After a survey and public outreach, there was a positive response from residents to protect natural resources. Thomas says there are differing opinions from residents on how conservation land will be sustained, but all agree it should be.

Outside the Roadmap, Westford has two Conservation Trusts and a Trail Committee that set out to protect the land.

We are part of a system and we contribute to it, whether we acknowledge that we are only a part and not the whole end in itself, or not.  We evolved with other life and, back to those studies, we are not thriving without engaging with it.

Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 does not mean ending all carbon emissions. Rather, measures are in put in place to offset current emissions.

“We haven’t left ourselves enough time,” Thomas says.  Thomas encourages residents to rely on and enhance the ability of natural systems to help with “environmental services.”

Those services include cleaning the air and water, mitigating and preventing erosion, and supporting the natural food webs that are relied on for food and other inputs for physical health, and mental health.

“We have a huge task ahead of us with the Roadmap… The conservation piece of [the Roadmap] will outlast the other pieces… It’s the most enduring part,” Thomas says.

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Aubrey Benoit
Aubrey Benoit
Aubrey is a fourth-year English/Journalism student at the University of New Hampshire and is interning as a staff writer with WestfordCAT. When Aubrey isn’t photographing, she’s writing. When she’s not writing, she’s photographing (or spending time with her siamese cat, Walter– named after her favorite show, Breaking Bad).

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