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Mass. House Votes To Commit State To Goals Of Paris Climate Accord

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The House on Wednesday voted 145-10 to pass a bill its sponsor said would send a message that "a handful of climate deniers in Washington, D.C." do not speak for Massachusetts.

Rep. Dylan Fernandes' bill (H 3994) would commit Massachusetts to meeting the greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement, the international pact President Donald Trump withdrew from this summer.

Trump's decision was widely criticized within Massachusetts and spurred Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and other governors to commit to goals of the Paris deal by joining the United States Climate Alliance.

Fernandes, a first-term Democrat from Falmouth, told his colleagues on the House floor that his bill goes one step further by making Massachusetts a "non-party stakeholder" to the agreement and allowing state officials to document their emissions reductions efforts through an online data-gathering tool developed by the United Nations with the French and Peruvian governments.

"Our bill partners us with the global community in holding ourselves accountable for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through transparent, international reporting," Fernandes said. "The rest of the United States looks to Massachusetts for leadership and environmental stewardship, and it's time that we send a message to our country and the world that the commonwealth stands in solidarity with our global community in combatting climate change, and that a handful of climate deniers in Washington, D.C. do not speak for the people of Massachusetts."

Trump said compliance with the Paris accord could cost the United States as many as 2.7 million jobs by 2025, with American workers and taxpayers left "to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production."

The bill says, "The General Court hereby finds and declares that the commonwealth recognizes the importance of international cooperation in addressing climate change and the importance of the global initiative to provide an up-to-date, transparent global picture of efforts to tackle climate change from state and regional governments."

Republicans were divided on the issue, with 23 of 34 GOP representatives joining the Democrats and one unenrolled lawmaker to vote in favor. Ten Republicans voted against the bill.

No one spoke against the bill on the floor, but it drew a note of caution from the Senate, whose point person on energy issues said it amounted to "running in place" on emissions reductions. The bill next heads to the Senate for consideration.

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the co-chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, issued a statement before the House vote saying the state's share of the U.S. emissions goal for 2025 is "almost identical" to the 2020 target set under the state's Global Warming Solutions Act.

"By 2025, Massachusetts will need to have progressed well beyond this point, or we will have little chance of meeting our ultimate emissions goal set for 2050," Barrett said.

Fernandes did not disagree: "Should we also be expanding our renewable energy portfolio, heading towards carbon pricing and heading towards more aggressive goals for climate change? Absolutely," he said before the debate.

The Senate on Thursday plans to take up a bill (S 2196) that calls for the state to develop a climate change adaptation plan to prepare for the effects of climate change. Baker ordered officials to put together an adaptation plan last year.

Rep. James Cantwell, who represents the coastal communities of Marshfield and Scituate, said he's already begun to see "the great complexities of climate change" play out in his district, including sea level rise and more frequent storms.

"The hurricane season we just had is the exclamation point for why this legislation is necessary today," Cantwell told his colleagues.

This report was originally published by the State House News Service.

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