Climate plan calls for personal, municipal changes

After years of work, Belmont finally has a climate action plan. A draft of the plan, written by the Sustainable Belmont task force, has been released for review online and calls for big changes in both personal and municipal energy use in order to cut Belmont’s net carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Sustainable Belmont is a task force of the Vision 21 Implementation Committee.

The plan, which can be downloaded as a PDF file online,  is designed to be a roadmap for the town to reduce its enviornmental footprint — in particular by reducing its emissions of Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, says Sustainable Belmont member Ian Todreas.

The report finds that changes in Belmont’s carbon footprint will require major changes in domestic energy use, as residences account for more than 75% of  the town’s carbon dioxide emissions. Automobiles, electricity use and home heating using gas and oil account for almost all of the town’s CO2 emissions. But the draft climate action plan says that the town’s political and municipal leaders will have to take the lead in shaping domestic energy use, with a particular focus on The Belmont Municipal Light Dept. (BMLD).

Among the CAP report’s findings and recommendations:

The town should hire an Energy Manager and establish an Energy Committee to oversee CAP implementation town wide, be a liason for climate issues within the town and with other communities, and act as a reference for all CAP related issues in bids/contracts, etc.

Belmont should take aggressive steps to reduce heat loss and increase energy efficiency in Town-owned buildings. The town should also foster energy conservation in its town fleet of vehicles and by town employees.

At the level of policy, Sustainable Belmont’s CAP recommends big changes as well. The town should make the needs of pedestrians, public transportation and bicyclists a bigger part of road planning and design.  The CAP plan also recommends incorporating state zoning exemptions for renewable energy into the local zoning codes.

Trees, which help scrub CO2 from the air and provide a natural source of cooling in hot weather,  end up being a frequent target of policy changes. The town is encouraged to restore its street tree maintenance program, require the planting of trees in close proximity to new or substantially renovated structures and require builders of private property (new or substantial renovation) to replace any tree whose removal is required by the construction with a newly planted tree.

For residents, Sustainable Belmont takes a safe path — urging town residents to use energy efficient heating and cooling systems and appliances and to be mindful of energy use in transportation by walking, taking public transit or car pooling to work. A “ten step” program for reducing energy consumption is available here.

CAP authors say that the town’s municipal sector must take the lead in changing behavior. The BMLD is encouraged to implement a rate structure that discourages electricity consumption during periods of peak demand, provide incentives and rewards for BMLD staff to work toward reduced greenhouse emissions in town and do a better job of disseminating of information to the community