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About Somerville's Carbon Neutral Goal

What exactly does it mean to be carbon neutral?

Generally, we can think of carbon neutrality as the net-zero release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere by the built and natural ecosystem within Somerville’s borders. To achieve this, Somerville will need to drastically reduce its energy use in buildings, transportation, and waste disposal, and transition to clean, renewable energy sources—which release no GHG emissions. GHG emissions that cannot be fully eliminated will need to be offset in order for there to be net-zero—or neutral—GHG emissions.


The Goal

“To do our part to reduce our city’s contribution to climate change, Somerville has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050." –Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone

Mayor Curtatone dons an orange tie and orange sunglasses at the Somerville Green Tech introduction.

"Some might call that ambitious. But those paying attention know this commitment is absolutely necessary. The National Climate Assessment shows that climate change is already having concerning effects on the nation with heavier rains, rising sea levels, decreasing snowpacks, longer droughts, more intense storms and potential future impacts for our food production, water supply and economy. We as a community can—and must—commit not to simply abandon our children to this future. We must choose to do our part now. And we must aim high. SustainaVille is a call for the community to come together to develop the most ambitious, creative, effective plan for both reducing our carbon output and developing our city’s ability to weather potential climate impacts. Somerville can thrive if we make the right choices now and help spark change in our region and the world. So I ask you to join us. Let’s roll up our sleeves and take on perhaps the greatest challenge of our time Somerville-style—with true determination, a whole lot of imagination, a good dose of stubbornness and with our neighbors at our sides. ”   Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone

How do we get there?

As a community, Somerville releases approximately 620,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year from driving our cars, disposing of waste, and heating and powering our homes and buildings. Nearly two-thirds of our community-wide emissions come from buildings, one-third come from transportation, and only 3% come from waste-related emissions. City government operations account for only 2% of total community greenhouse gas emissions, which means that to reach our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, everyone in the Somerville community must be involved. We need to make sure that all Somerville residents and businesses can access opportunities to reduce their own carbon footprint and take action on climate change.

To do this, the City of Somerville is working to bring cleaner energy to Somerville; making it easier and safer to walk, bike, or ride the T; connecting residents with low-cost and no-cost opportunities to increase energy efficiency in their homes; helping homeowners go solar; and much more. The Office of Sustainability and Environment is also leading a climate change planning process called Somerville Climate Forward to identify actionable, short- and medium-term solutions to both reduce our GHG emissions and respond to anticipated climate change impacts. Together, we can help slow climate change and build a healthy, safe, and thriving Somerville.

Want to learn more about where Somerville’s GHG emissions come from and how we can work toward carbon neutrality?
Check out Somerville’s 2014 GHG Inventory , 2016 GHG Inventory, and Carbon Neutrality Pathway Assessment.

Addressing Climate Change Locally

It may seem counterintuitive to spur action on the global problem of climate change at the local level, but cities are well positioned to take on this challenge. More than 70% of global GHG emissions come from cities and the impacts of climate change will be most acutely felt at the local level. This means that cities, like Somerville, need to be at the forefront of climate action and can lead by example to demonstrate how to successfully transition to a low-carbon and resilient future.

The good news is that cities around the world are already taking action and Somerville is a leader in this effort. Somerville has joined over 600 cities around the globe in committing to reduce GHG emissions by signing onto the Compact of Mayors—an initiative launched by the UN to harness the collective action of cities around the world to demonstrate climate leadership and make a significant impact on climate change. Read more about Mayor Curtatone’s commitment here.

On a more local level, Somerville is working regionally to address climate change. In late 2016, Mayor Curtatone successfully urged mayors of the 14 cities in the Metro Mayors Coalition to commit to make the Boston metro region carbon neutral by 2050. They also committed to regionally coordinate preparing for the impacts of climate change. By working with our neighboring communities, we can have a more significant impact on mitigating climate change and can better prepare for climate-related impacts that extend beyond municipal boundaries.


Did you know?

Somerville residents, businesses, and the city government collectively spend $135 million on fossil fuels a year! View this graphic to find out where this money goes and what clean energy solutions it could otherwise fund.


Programs & Initiatives

MWRA and the Cities of Cambridge and Somerville have implemented a system for rapid reporting of CSO discharges to the Alewife Brook.
Get your flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster at a City of Somerville clinic this fall. Both are strongly recommended to protect yourself and others from serious illness.

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