NECEC rallies business, labor and climate activists at Massachusetts Statehouse

Members of the business, labor and environmental advocacy communities rallied on Monday on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse to push for maximum investment in a rapid, just and equitable transition to a diverse climate economy. The coalition was brought together by the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) to demonstrate the widespread support for moving with a purpose toward a clean energy future.

The event brought together the Conservation Law Foundation, the Acadia Center, SparkCharge Inc. (a mobile rapid EV charging startup based in Somerville), Green Roots, the Mass Renews Alliance, Browning the Green Space, IBEW 103, Ceres, 350 Massachusetts, Mothers Out Front, Transportation for Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, the Jewish Climate Action Network, the Massachusetts Sierra Club and the Northeast Energy Efficiency Council.

Currently the State Legislature is reviewing a $750 million investment in clean energy proposed by Governor Charlie Baker. It also has a bill before it that would put Massachusetts on track to have zero-carbon electricity by 2035. NECEC President Joe Curtatone noted that a $1 billion investment in life sciences in 2008 has unleashed propulsive growth in that industry, and called for the Legislature to match that investment in clean energy.

“We have a generational opportunity to invest in clean energy,” he said. “The state has the money to spend right now. We have the solar potential to power every home in Massachusetts. We have the offshore wind potential to power the entire northeast. Massachusetts can become energy independent and unleash a wave of energy industry jobs all across the commonwealth, but it will only happen if we make the needed investments. The stars will never be in better alignment to make necessary investments to avert the most grievous existential threats of climate change . We have no time to waste. Now means now.”

Many of the organizations at the rally drew a direct connection between climate action and social action, noting that clean energy jobs and environmental justice can do a world of good in lower income communities and communities of color that have been left out of previous economic booms.

GreenRoots is rooted in Environmental Justice, a movement that cannot be separated from race or income,” said Sam Montaño, Director of Organizing for Chelsea-based environmental justice organization Green Roots. “All too often, we hear elected officials tout their racial equity bonafides. The work they will do to uplift black and brown folks and low-income folks. This is that chance. We are standing at the edge of it.”

"A just energy transition means that technology gets to the people who truly need it the most, not just the rich, white, green, and vain,: said Kerry Bowie, President of Browning the Green Space. “We need to be intentionally inclusive as we fund programs, projects, and people to get this vital work done."

And the business community also sees the opportunity in increasing activity in states that can unlock all the facets of the climate economy.

“Companies in all industries and across all sectors of the economy are major consumers of energy and transportation but are still setting ambitious climate goals of their own,” said John Carlson, Manager of State Policy for Ceres. “Ceres works with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, and they are clear about one thing: they want to do business and invest in places that are making it easier to access clean energy, that are emphasizing the transition to clean transportation and that are encouraging cleaner buildings.”

Curtatone pointed to the unlikely coalition of business, labor and advocacy groups as an indicator of how well state investment and climate action will be received if the Legislature makes major commitments.

“The people of Massachusetts are ready for something big,” Curtatone said. “Labor is ready to do the jobs and workforce development. Business is ready to build out the whole ecosystem of a diverse climate economy. We’re ready to go. State leaders will not find a more popular public initiative.”

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