UMass Boston’s Sustainable Solutions Lab Provides Recommendations on Financing Climate Resilience

Colleen Locke | April 14, 2018
The HarborWalk flooded in March 2018.

The HarborWalk flooded in March 2018.
Image by: Boston Harbor Now



We need to invest a lot of money, but it will have large benefits and offers the potential to transform the region.



Report Finds Mix of Public and Private Funding Needed

UMass Boston’s Sustainable Solutions Lab (SSL) released a report today with recommendations on how to finance solutions to one of the most pressing issues facing the Boston region, and the world, today: climate change.

“It’s important to point out the high costs of inaction,” said David Levy, lead author of Financing Climate Resilience: Mobilizing Resources and Incentives to Protect Boston from Climate Risks. “We need to invest a lot of money, but it will have large benefits and offers the potential to transform the region into a model of sustainability, resiliency, and prosperity, and revitalize neighborhoods with improved housing and transportation.” 

“We know that climate change will disproportionately impact low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, so any successful approach to climate adaptation should keep these communities front and center,” said Rebecca Herst, director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab. “As we have the hard conversations about how and where investments are made, we need to ensure that we aren’t amplifying inequities that already exist.”

Levy and the SSL team say both private and public sources of funding need to be leveraged at the federal, state, municipal, and district levels. They suggest funding could come in the form of a statewide carbon tax, a tightened Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap, and/or a 5-cent gasoline tax increase. The authors estimate that the latter item alone could generate more than $156 million a year. Should a statewide carbon tax be enacted –there are currently two legislative efforts to do so – Massachusetts would be the first state to have one.

Other recommendations outlined in the report include the creation of a Climate Resilience Finance Implementation Working Group for the Boston metro area, the establishment of a state-level Climate Resilience Fund, and the expansion of the Mass Save program to incentivize building climate resilience improvements.

“There is no single simple financial solution for climate resilience,” said Levy, a professor of management at UMass Boston who directs the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Regional Competitiveness.

Recent history shows the need for financing climate adaptation in the City of Boston is great. Just this year, parts of Boston were flooded when two winter storms produced storm-surge of nearly 3 feet. Major storms can disrupt power, transportation, communications, and supply chains, leading to lengthy recovery times and long-term economic impacts for residents and businesses, Levy and his coauthors write. FEMA data indicates about 40 percent of small businesses never open their doors after a disaster, and another 25 percent fail within a year.

The full Financing Climate Resilience Report is available on the Sustainable Solutions Lab’s website.

The Sustainable Solutions Lab report is sponsored by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission with generous support from the Barr Foundation.

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve more than 16,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.

Tags: climate change , climate resilience , sustainable solutions lab

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