It’s Monday, March 29, and Massachusetts is committing to net-zero emissions by 2050.

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On Friday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed a long-debated climate bill into law, making the Bay State the latest state to commit to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The bill is expansive, setting emission reduction requirements for six sectors and aiming to boost wind and solar power, clean energy jobs, and electric vehicle adoption. 

The law also updates Massachusetts’ “stretch code,” which was first adopted in 2009 and gave municipalities the option to mandate more efficient buildings. Now, cities can require  net-zero buildings — a term that will be defined by the state’s Department of Energy Resources. 

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The new law also establishes an environmental justice advisory council and requires state agencies to consider cumulative impacts — meaning they have to take into account the pollution that already exists in a community before issuing a permit for a new project. “By signing this bill, Governor Baker has taken the first step in addressing this injustice, giving communities of color and low-income communities more effective tools to protect their health and environment from pollution,” Sofia Owen, a staff attorney for the Massachusetts environmental justice group Alternatives for Community and Environment, said in a statement.

The law is proof that Baker has come a long way since his 2010 campaign, when he argued that climate change wasn’t the effect of human activity and wouldn’t confirm if he believed in climate change. 

— Jena Brooker

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Emily Pontecorvo