Last Tuesday, Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced new planning and policy initiatives to better prepare Boston for Hurricane Sandy-like storms and other effects from the changing climate.
“The government and private sector need to be proactive in planning for a future with rising sea levels and future storms like Sandy,” Menino said. “The steps that I am announcing today will help make our waterfront and the rest of Boston better prepared to handle future storms and get the city back in business as quickly as possible.”
In the wake of Sandy’s devastation on the East Coast, Menino is raising the profile of the City of Boston’s ongoing efforts and taking further actions to better prepare the city for future storms and other natural hazards associated with climate change. Menino also heralded the release of The Boston Harbor Association’s report “Preparing for the Rising Tide,” which outlines vulnerabilities of Boston’s coastline and recommends how the private and public sectors can work together to address them.
Menino is tasking his cabinet to accelerate the implementation of climate preparedness outlined in the City’s climate action plan, and he is asking the private sector to become an active partner in this work. In the next six months, the city will review the status of its own preparedness activities and explore new measures to ensure that all areas of Boston are prepared for the changing coastal climate.
“Boston has a vibrant and growing waterfront, with millions of square feet of development planned over the coming years,” Brian Swett, chief of environment and energy, said. “The realities of climate change and associated sea-level rise and natural hazards have become increasingly clear, and the city and private sector need to make sure that our current and future buildings and infrastructure are prepared. The initiatives the mayor announced today are a critical next step in ensuring that Boston is a dynamic and resilient city for decades to come.”
The Boston Harbor Association’s Preparing for the Rising Tide provides property owners and planners with site-specific examples of how to assess vulnerability and prepare for the projected changes in sea level and coastal flooding for the next 90 years. This report is the next step in moving from the general framework for preparedness in Boston’s climate action plan to the concrete and specific on-the-ground actions necessary to increase Boston’s resilience.
“This report highlights, for the first time, the challenges facing specific areas of Boston that are at risk from flooding due to rising sea levels and storm surge,” said Vivien Li, president of The Boston Harbor Association, a waterfront advocacy organization. “Now we know what will happen if we do nothing. The Mayor’s climate preparedness agenda will go a long way to make Boston more resilient over the long term.”
Menino is instructing the Office of Environmental and Energy Services to focus the next update of Boston’s Climate Action Plan, due in 2014, on developing more specific and concrete strategies and actions on climate preparedness and expanding the public-private partnership necessary for successful climate action.
As preliminary steps in that planning process, Menino is: convening a Cabinet level Climate Preparedness Task Force to review climate change preparedness activities and policies and provide guidance for their further development; and requesting the Green Ribbon Commission to recommend actions that institutions and businesses can take to reduce their vulnerability to climate change and actions that the City of Boston can take to support those efforts.
The mayor is also directing his administration to implement the following specific initiatives within the next six months in order to better prepare Boston for climate change:
* The Boston Redevelopment Authority will survey the preparedness of all buildings and other assets (e.g. MBTA stations) likely to face climate change-related vulnerabilities.
* The Boston Redevelopment Authority will increase climate preparedness in new development by, among other actions, including climate change preparedness as a required design component under the Article 80 Development Review Guidelines and developing climate-preparedness guidelines and checklists.
* The Boston Conservation Commission will draft a Wetlands Ordinance that incorporates best practices for protection against sea-level rise and storm surge and develop new floodplain maps that incorporate projected changes in sea level and storm intensity and frequency.
* Inspectional Services Department and Boston Public Health Commission will develop guidelines and prioritization for better enforcement of flood proofing standards for buildings in currently designated flood hazard.
* Office of Emergency Management will lead an interdepartmental review of emergency operation planning for storms and flooding.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for a changing climate are equally critical components of the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan. Menino has established