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Boston’s Air Pollution Control Commission recently approved the first phase of regulations for the newly passed BERDO 2.0 ordinance, a piece of legislation that’ll curb Boston’s carbon emissions more than 60% by 2050.
BERDO 2.0, or the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance 2.0, requires Boston’s largest buildings, those 20,000 square feet and over, to decrease their emissions gradually over the coming years, hitting net-zero emissions by 2050.
For perspective, 20,000 square feet is about as big as a moderately-sized grocery store.
The ordinance’s first phase sets official guidelines for buildings’ requirements to report emissions, energy consumption, and water usage data, along with requirements for third-party data verification.
Building owners must report data via the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, the EPA’s online tool for reporting energy data. Future phases of BERDO’s implementation, which will be nailed down and ratified over the coming year, include organizing a review board to keep tabs on buildings’ emissions, and later setting up individual compliance schedules and an equitable emissions investment fund.
In 2013, the city council and Mayor Thomas Menino passed BERDO 1.0, requiring large buildings to simply divulge their energy consumption data.
BERDO 2.0 requires all large buildings transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Those buildings account for over 60 percent of the city’s emissions, making this new legislation what acting mayor Kim Janey’s office called “the single most impactful initiative to curb Boston’s carbon emissions.”
Not only will the ordinance significantly reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions — it also encourages more efficient use of resources like energy and water.
The City Council passed BERDO 2.0 unanimously in the fall, which former City Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley called one of the most important pieces of climate legislation “that we’ve seen any city in the United States pass.”
The ordinance found success because “we were able to build broad based coalitions with environmentalists, with business groups, with labor unions,” said O’Malley, “I mean we really cast as wide a net…as we could have hoped.”
The city held hearings and accepted comments for two months before passing Phase 1 of BERDO 2.0, and will do the same for future phases.
Spearheading the movement were O’Malley, Mothers Out Front, and the Green Justice Coalition, a local activist group comprising organizations like Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN), Boston Clean Energy Coalition (BCEC), and Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE).
“[BERDO] is one of the most forceful and progressive large building legislations in any city,” said BCAN advocacy director, Sophie Cash.
“It’s an enormous accomplishment,” she said, both because of its potential to cut Boston emissions by two-thirds, and because of the framework it provides to other large cities around the country.
Just like the spearheaders of BERDO hoped, the law is providing a precedent-setting framework for policymakers in other municipalities to take a look at, according to O’Malley.
“We have had so many cities from across the country reach out to me in my office saying we want to get a copy of what you’ve done in Boston, we think this is the right call,” he said.
Two of the bill’s major points, said Dwaign Tyndal, executive director of ACE, include not allowing carbon offsets — “if you pollute in an area, fix it in that area,” said Tyndal — and a “very transparent, radical, democratic” two-thirds community review board that’ll make sure buildings are staying on track with emissions reductions.
Organizing the review board is part of BERDO’s next phase, which will be drafted in the coming months.
“[BERDO] is significant because of the level of community education and organizing that went around it,” Tyndal said.
According to Tyndal, it started in the neighborhoods with conversations between residents, housing advocates, developers, and so on.
One such conversation included 100 residents of buildings 20,000 square feet and over, who will be directly affected by this policy, he said.\
“This was a great model of the city partnering with community organizations to equitably involve residents in the decision-making process and centering the most impacted,” said Mark Liu, operations and development director of the Chinese Progressive Association, in a statement.
The Medical Academic and Scientific Community Organization (MASCO), supporting development in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, worked alongside the city on the BERDO legislation.
“Longwood shares in the commitment to make Boston a carbon-neutral city by 2050,” said Tom Yardley, MASCO’s vice president of area planning and development, in a statement, adding that Longwood organizations deeply understand the public health impacts of climate change.
Everyone wins when building emissions are reduced, said Rickie Harvey, steering team member for the BCEC.
Reduced emissions mean “better health for all residents, lower energy bills, and an increase in jobs needed to ensure the new standards and requirements are adhered to,” she said.
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