MCC urges state leaders to find common ground on climate policy legislation

BRAINTREE -- The Massachusetts Catholic Conference is urging the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker to "find common ground" on sweeping climate policy legislation to ensure "a healthy future for all Massachusetts residents."

The bill under consideration, "An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy," closely resembles a bill from the last legislative session. The previous bill was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives but was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker. Because it was the end of the session, there was no time for the legislature to vote on whether to override the governor's veto.

The bill once again passed both branches of the legislature on Jan. 28, giving Gov. Baker 10 days to decide whether to sign it, veto it, or send it back with amendments.

In a Jan. 27 letter sent to several legislators involved with the bill, Massachusetts Catholic Conference Executive Director James Driscoll said that the governor and the legislature "share a common goal," namely "to fight the climate crisis starting as quickly as possible," but they have "some differences on the means to achieve that goal."

Driscoll said the current bill is expected to set standards and goals for developing clean energy and reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions. It would also impact environmental justice, natural gas pipeline safety, and energy efficient appliance standards.

The goal of the plan is to have the state reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with interim goals along the way. The governor, however, is worried that the bill's standards would have detrimental effects on the economy, such as increasing the cost of housing and preventing the construction of affordable developments.

In his letter, Driscoll pointed to Pope Francis' words in his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si," where he spoke of the warming climate and its impact on the environment.

"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it," the pope said in his encyclical.

Driscoll urged the state's political leaders to "find common ground in the days that follow and enact a bill that is vital in providing for a healthy future for all Massachusetts residents and the generations that will follow."