Sustainability committees join forces

By Kelly Walters Correspondent
February 23, 2023

Two of Concord’s sustainability committees have chosen to join forces to better tackle the town’s ambitious climate goals. The Comprehensive Sustainability and Energy Committee (CSEC) and the Climate Action Advisory Board (CAAB) will merge in the coming months to create an overarching group called the Climate Action Committee.

The new committee will work alongside Sustainability Director Eric Simms in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 and transition to 100% non-emitting power supply by 2030, among other objectives. Members of CSEC and CAAB voted unanimously in support of the union last month and the Select Board drafted a charge for the new committee on Jan 30. 

Select Board Chair Matt Johnson first suggested the consolidation last year, when he noted the need for increased coordination between the groups.

“I saw that the town had tremendous talent across the membership, with a vision that was largely aligned,” Johnson said, “and while CAAB and CSEC were formed to address different needs – policy vs. programs – they ultimately depended upon one another to succeed.” 

The effort to streamline the groups comes as no surprise in a town where as many as 300 residents currently hold service positions, requiring a great deal of coordination.

“It is challenging for the Select Board and Town staff to support 60 town boards and committees,” Johnson explained, “…we continually evaluate whether committees have fulfilled their mission, or could be better aligned, but only rarely does it make sense to make a change.”

Simms explained that CAAB has largely fulfilled its founding mission. In 2017 the town overwhelmingly voted in support of Article 51, which set a host of lofty climate objectives for the town and created the position Simms now holds. The Select Board then tasked CAAB with shaping policies and creating a roadmap to help meet those objectives, which it accomplished via the town’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan.

“Now that we have solid policies and plans in place the natural progression has shifted more towards implementation,” Simms said. “Some areas of interest that I expect the Climate Action Committee will work on include the proposed development of a Town Climate Vulnerability Assessment, researching models for a Home Energy Score program, evaluating progress on town GHG emissions and climate goals, and adopting new building codes that position Concord to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in new construction and major renovations.”

“To achieve the goals outlined in Concord’s Climate Action Plan, residents, businesses and the town will all need to upgrade systems and change the way they operate,” Johnson added. “An enlarged Climate Action Committee may be able to form subcommittees that focus on these different constituencies to accelerate the transition to carbon neutrality.”