Commentary

A new climate chief for Massachusetts

The state's first climate chief to oversee climate policy across every state agency.
Massachusetts State House Photo by Aubrey Odom-Mabey on Unsplash
Published on
January 6, 2023
Contributors
Allies and Partners
No items found.

ACES Leadership and Youth Corps

 

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guestopinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinatedby ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

On the Monday before Christmas, thenGov-Elect Maura Healey announced that she’ll appoint Melissa Hoffer to become the state’s first “climate chief.” Hoffer currently serves as the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency’s principal deputy general. In her new role she will be responsible for overseeing climate policy across every state agency and“ensuring that climate change is considered in all relevant decision-making.”

 

She’s going to need collaboration and support from all the state’s agencies to reach the Commonwealth’s aggressive climate goals. Whether committing to powering the electrical grid with more renewables or electrifying public and personal transportation, Massachusetts has ambitious short- and long-term climate goals and it’s going to take all hands-on deck to achieve them. In making this appointment Governor Healey said, “The creation of this position sends a clear message that Massachusetts is a global leader in the fight against climate change and that it will be central to all of the work we do across the administration.”

 

ACES sees this new cabinet position as an exciting prospect, which can serve as a model for every city and town in the state. Ms. Hoffer is an accomplished environmental lawyer and administrator, who spends her spare time raising Nigerian dwarf dairy goats at her farm in Barre, northwest of Worcester and just east of the Quabbin reservoir.

 

Every community ranging in size and density from highly urbanizedLawrence to bucolic Boxford will need everyone’s participation to make the needed changes. Coastal Newburyport, Ipswich, Salem, and Gloucester have made progress on climate and the environment in a variety of ways. But there is a lot more that can be done from electrifying school buses to readying our infrastructure for electric vehicles charging. Advancements such as those will provide business opportunities with clean tech innovators, wave and wind energy and green sea “carbon farmers” seeking coastal places to grow. All those changes will challenge the resources and traditional ways of doing things by mayors, city councils, school boards, public works, police, and harbor masters.

City planners and planning boards will need to adjust their focus and shift gears to reflect state initiatives. Maybe a community allows a bit more housing to be built while the town sets aside more green space, thus achieving both environmental and housing goals? With new focus and energy in a new Massachusetts administration, could there be more flexibility for small regional solutions? Could initiatives be developed so towns like West Newbury would be incentivized to collaborate with cities likeHaverhill or Newburyport to develop new ideas to achieve climate goals? State, regional and county agencies like the MassachusettsDepartment of Conservation and Recreation, the MassachusettsDepartment of Transportation, Mass Fish and Wildlife, Merrimack Valley DistrictCommission and the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority may also need tore-conceive their roles and methods to contribute to the governor’s new climate urgency. Essentially, every element of governmental structure that can help address our climate crises must get creative and collaborative to include all environmental stakeholder organizations. This is a key to foster the needed push for a livable climate for future generations.

ACES is looking forward to hearing details from our new climate chief. Then we will do our best to support her and the Commonwealth to help lead the country with climate solutions.

Commentary

Diversity is Strength

Members of the ACES Leadership Team
Commentary

Newburyport Four Years Later

by Jack Santos
Commentary

A Student’s Perspective on Composting

by Sadie Aiello – Student at Nock Middle School
View all