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As weather starts to warm and Boston celebrates Earth Day April 22, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced a series of heat resilience solutions for Boston that are designed to better prepare Boston for hotter summers and more intense heat events.
“In the last decade alone, Boston suffered more hot days and nights than any decade in the last 50 years. We know, we feel, every summer that our weather patterns are changing, and that climate change is here right now,” Wu said at an Earth Day celebration at Auntie Kay & Uncle Frank Chin Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Chinatown.
The city’s Heat Plan presents 26 strategies to help the entire city cope with increasing temperatures while focusing on three main goals: reducing heat exposure, adapting to heat, and reducing sensitivity and fostering healthy, connected communities.
The plan also focuses on five environmental justice communities that are hotspots in Boston: Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury. Wu called this a “moment of great urgency” for Boston.
“We’re standing in a community that really has shaped the history of the city and the history of this country,” Wu said. “But what we know about this community also is that it is one that is confronted with great challenges — housing prices that are rising faster than anyone can follow, air quality issues that reflect the highways ringed all around, and a census tract that is the most polluted anywhere in the state.”
The Heat Plan is one part of Climate Ready Boston, the city-wide initiative to prepare for the effects of climate change. As the name implies, the Heat Plan specifically hopes to address heat preparedness as Boston is faced with increasing temperatures.
“Today’s plan and this task force are our latest steps forward, but they’re certainly not the last as we will continue to do everything possible to empower our communities to protect our residents and to continue collaborating towards a citywide Green New Deal and a thriving green economy,” Wu said.
According to a statement from the Mayor’s Office, Climate Ready Boston completed a redlining analysis to explore how historic inequalities are affecting communities in terms of climate change now, and found that redline areas are 7.5°F hotter in the day, 3.6°F hotter at night, and have 20% less parkland and 40% less tree canopy than areas designated as “A: Best.”
“The reality is that many decisions have been made over the years about what neighborhoods had to deal with the burdens of highways, which neighborhoods would be paved over, which neighborhoods would constantly be asked to sacrifice their health for the greater good of the larger community who benefited,” said Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, chief of environment, energy and open space for Boston. “This plan is not just about recognizing what is past but really to moving forward and doing things differently in how we take action.”
Wu announced some immediate action items the city is taking to better help those most affected by climate change. The projects include distributing 30 pop-up cooling kits that include a hose, misters, and tent to community organizations for public events this summer, a Cool Roof Grant program, and a community-wide design challenge to design a “cool bus stop” this fall.
Various other community leaders joined Wu in Chinatown Friday to speak about the initiatives, including City Councilor Kendra Lara, Greenway Conservancy Executive Director Chris Cook, and City Council President Ed Flynn.
“We have the highest asthma rate right here in this neighborhood. And we have very few parks, we have very few green spaces, we don’t have any trees,” Flynn said. “But we want to make sure that these young kids have the same access to open space, to parks, to playgrounds, to athletic programs as any other kid across the city. So I want to say thank you to the mayor’s team for investing so much in this community because these kids really deserve it. These families deserve it. Our seniors deserve it.”
To work to implement the Heat Plan, the city is launching the Boston Extreme Temperatures Response Task Force, whose job it is to prepare the city for extreme heat and address chronic high temperature conditions, according to the Mayor’s Office.
“Within the community, we don’t have a lot of opportunity to talk about the environment. So we’re really grateful that the city and the city councilor brought everyone here and the community together to talk about the environment,” Karen Chen, the executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association said. “We have so many challenges in our community, oftentimes the environment actually is put on the back burner.”
This announcement comes after Wu shared her administration’s first proposed budget, which includes investments in climate action. Wu is looking to use $31.5 million of Boston’s $350 million remaining ARPA funding toward climate-focused investments.
“Climate is the issue that is going to define the next 100 years in our country,” Wu said. “It’s what I think about raising two boys and counting every year that they grow up as another alarming milestone after another in terms of our warming planet and our rising sea levels. The very same steps that we need to take to create a world that is healthy and resilient that we’re proud to pass on to our kids, are the same steps to close gaps today in our city.”
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