Massachusetts Clean Energy & Climate Plan for 2020: The Commonwealth’s 10 year plan to 25% emissions reductions

By Eugenia Gibbons

On December 29, 2010, to the delight of environmental advocates across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) set the state’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target at 25% below 1990 levels – the maximum allowed under the landmark Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA was passed by the Legislature in 2008. Along with this announcement, the state also released the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020.

The unveiling of the state’s plan and the 25% reduction target underscore why Massachusetts is a national leader of climate policy. The Environmental League of Massachusetts worked hard with its partners to get the GWSA passed. Through the Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP), ELM and project members diligently pursued determination of a robust target. Now that this has been done, we will continue to work with our collaborators to achieve maximum implementation of the state’s climate plan.

Source Reductions

The 136-page Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020[1] outlines a strategy for achieving 25% economy-wide reductions by 2020 focused on targeting the emissions sources. These sources are grouped into four categories – Buildings (9.8%), Electricity Supply (7.7%), Transportation (7.6%), and Non-Energy Emissions (2.0%). The plan includes new measures and the expansion of existing policies and programs with a high potential for “generating significant energy cost savings and to create clean energy jobs.”[2]

In total, the report contains more than 20 policy solutions. Some strategies are regulatory, others require legislation or executive action, while still others can be led by local or municipal efforts, but all combine to create opportunities for clean energy growth and GHG reductions.

Next Steps – Plan Implementation

A variety of approaches can be taken to implement the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan. For example, building energy rating and labeling can be incorporated into the existing code governed by the independent Board of Building Regulation and Standards, or requirements can be advanced through legislation. Other measures may be implemented through Executive Order (e.g. sustainable development principles) and codified through legislation (e.g. an expanded smart growth package).

EOEEA is currently developing a legislative and regulatory agenda that will help reach the 25% target by 2020. ELM and its project partners are focusing on several pieces of legislation that were developed in part through the GWSP, including a transition to a coal free economy that implies increased investment in renewable energy and expanding energy efficiency programs. Other approaches include zoning reform that would help communities plan and develop in ways that promote walkability, support for more efficient vehicles, and more funding dedicated to transit alternatives.No matter the course of action, if Massachusetts is to achieve the emissions reductions targets mandated by the GWSA, full implementation of all the measures outlined in the plan and adoption of many not contained therein is imperative. 

The release of the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 and the Patrick Administration’s commitment to reduce emissions represent a significant step in the right direction; proof that the state is committed to tackling one of the most important issues of our time. But it is only the beginning. It provides a blueprint, an exciting starting point from which to move forward on a path towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future.

To find out more about implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, or to read the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, visit the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website.

- Eugenia Gibbons is ELM’s Program Coordinator -


[1] The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 was developed by an interagency technical team at EOEEA and informed by extensive scenario modeling conducted by a team of expert consultants.  It also reflects recommendations made by the state’s Climate Protection and Green Economy Advisory Committee, whose members were appointed by former Secretary Ian Bowles.  It should be noted that this plan is separate from a climate adaptation plan also generated by EOEEA per the GWSA. The adaptation plan, the release of which is forthcoming, will be informed by the recommendations made by the Climate Change and Adaptation Advisory Committee.

 [2] Former Secretary Ian Bowles, as quoted in the December 29, 2010 Press Release: “Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Clean Energy and Climate Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 25 Percent by 2020”

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