The value of clean air and the devastation of climate change are highlighted this year like never before. On Tuesday, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy published its 2020 City Clean Energy Scorecard, grading 100 major US cities on their clean-energy initiatives (or lack of them).
Boston came in second.
This was the first year Boston was not at the top since ACEEE debuted the chart in 2013. The Hub’s ranking of No. 2, with a score of 73 out of 100, left Boston in a tie with Seattle.
New York took the number one spot this year.
“Boston is still doing great, but there is room for improvement,” said David Ribeiro, ACEEE policy director. “Boston has a strong, comprehensive approach, but there could be some tweaks around the edges that could be done to raise the score. New York improved its score this year with its building performance standards.”
New York leap-frogged to a score of 77.5.
This is the fifth report produced by the ACEEE, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, which acts as a catalyst to advance energy-efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors to protect the environment and promote well-being.
The 2020 report analyzed the efforts of 100 major US cities, up from the usual 75. It is also ACEEE’s first annual report, instead of the hitherto biannual scorecard.
“When we were doing it every other year we saw lots of progress,” Ribeiro said. “We decided to try it every year to see if that still held up. We are still encouraged by the results this year.”
This comprehensive national measuring stick for metropolitan climate progress also evaluates which cities are aiding low-income communities and communities of color to access and afford clean energy.
“Cities that do well engage community input and assert all residents,” said Ribeiro, noting Boston’s high score in community outreach. “The cities who scored highest were the ones with leadership developing policy and building support in the community, something that can take years.”
That is worrisome for those cities at the bottom of the scorecard. Though Augusta, Ga., took last place, Ribeiro said the same cities sit at the bottom each year and show little interest in clean energy.
“It’s a wide gulf between the top scores and the bottom,” he said. “We found some cities are accelerating their programs; some are lagging far behind. For whatever reason, it is usually leadership that is not interested in clean energy.”
The good news for bottom-ranked cities is that trailblazers like Boston and New York have already ironed out the kinks in planning.
“We see leadership pushing the envelope in some cities and doing a lot of good work,” said Ribeiro. “The others won’t have to start at the bottom when they start taking different actions and begin pushing the right levers.”
Given climate change acceleration this century, and even over the past decade, Ribeiro said there is no time to waste to reach the greenhouse gas-reduction goal of 80 percent by 2050.
“What is needed is a comprehensive approach tackling all aspects, and meeting interim targets is important,” he added. “Stringent measures should be taken earlier, rather than backloading everything to 2050.”