Climate change

How the Mass. should it fight against climate change? Here’s what the gubernatorial candidates are saying

Curious to know how the next governor will handle climate change? Get ready to go through a jungle of jargon:

Terms like carbon free, net zero, electrification and distributed energy.

The two leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates, State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz and Attorney General Maura Healeyunveiled ambitious but complicated plans.

To help voters, we’ve summarized the Democrats’ plans below. We’ll also cover Republican pledges later in the article.

Emissions targets

Healey’s plan calls for 100% clean electricity by 2030 while Chang-Díaz wants 100% renewable, carbon-free energy by the same date. The terms largely mean the same thing – no electricity in the state will come from fossil fuels by 2030. However, Change-Díaz’s wording suggests she would try to get utilities to move away from nuclear energy, unlike Healey. Massachusetts no longer has any nuclear plans in the works, but gets some electricity from plants elsewhere in New England.

Solar panels in a field at Knowlton Farm, Grafton, Mass. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Investment in renewable energies

Both Democrats want more investment in wind, solar and offshore energy storage projects. They also say the state must prioritize installing solar panels in low-income neighborhoods and communities that already face heavy pollution. They also promise to force utilities to come up with plans to buy more renewable energy.

But the plans also have a lot of differences.

Healey’s plan is similar to the Senate bill passed last week in that it requires the state to purchase 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 (that’s nearly double what the State has already committed to purchase). She also wants the state to spend $200 million to upgrade ports and other infrastructure to handle more wind projects. And Healey called for quadrupling the amount of solar power to 10,000 megawatts by 2030.

In contrast, the Chang-Díaz plan does not list specific offshore wind or solar targets. But his plan to rely entirely on renewable energy would require a colossal investment in new solar panels and wind turbines. Her too supports the adoption of building codes that will require new structures to include solar panels wherever possible.

Power Grid Updates

Both candidates recognize the need to upgrade the power grid for an influx of power from new renewable sources, though Healey’s plan provides more details.

Healey says she will convene a regional task force to plan transmission and other infrastructure upgrades. She also promises to continue her work pushing New England’s grid operator ISO New England to change its power purchasing rules so it doesn’t unfairly discriminate against renewable sources.. Healey says she will also work to find ways to encourage people to use electricity during times when demand is low so there is less stress on the grid during peak hours.

A gas lit flame burns on a natural gas stove.  (Thomas Kienzle/AP)
A gas lit flame burns on a natural gas stove. (Thomas Kienzle/AP)

Natural gas and other fossil fuels

Chang-Díaz promises to “use full executive powers to block future fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Massachusetts.” This would not include new gas pipelines or building connections. Similarly, Healey promises to “dismantle existing fossil fuel infrastructure and work with communities to reallocate the lands they occupy.”

The two Democrats also want to overhaul the state’s $20 billion program to fix or replace leaking gas pipelines and force gas utilities to change their business models to be consistent with state climate goals.


Both candidates are calling for more investment in energy efficiency programs for homes and other buildings; replacing fossil fuel heating systems with non-carbon emitting systems such as heat pumps or geothermal systems; and setting strict emission limits for large buildings, similar to rules Boston passed last year. They also promise to prioritize work in low-income and polluted communities and in schools.

The plans differ a bit in detail. Healey promises it will ensure one million heat pumps are installed by 2030 and give cities and towns the option to ban fossil fuels in new construction. Chang-Díaz, meanwhile, promises that the building sector will achieve net zero emissions by 2045, five years earlier than the current state goal.

Commuters board an MBTA bus.  (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Commuters board an MBTA bus. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)


With 42% of state emissions coming from the transport sector, it is a top priority of both climate plans.

Healey wants all buses for schools and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to be electric by 2030 and the entire public transportation system to be electric by 2040.

Chang-Díaz also wants MBTA’s bus fleet to be fully electric by 2030, and she says she will work to immediately cancel all existing government contracts for fossil-fuel-powered buses. Its plan also calls for making all regional transit authorities and commuter rail vehicles electric by 2040. It also promises to electrify three commuter rail lines within three years and expand rail between Boston and Springfield. Unlike Healey, Chang-Díaz supports making the MBTA free and says his first budget will include funds to make buses free to encourage people to use public transportation.

The two candidates also want to encourage residents to use electric vehicles more through discounts. While Chang-Díaz would also create a rebate program for e-bikes, the details of Healey’s proposal are similar to the bill the Senate passed last week.

Both plans would also increase the number of public and private charging stations. and prioritize investments in low-income communities or neighborhoods that have been disproportionately affected by air pollution from cars, fossil fuel power plants or other industries.

The Chang-Díaz plan also indicates that any new infrastructure will need to be built to withstand more extreme weather conditions that are expected to accompany climate change.

Environmental Justice

A Healey and Chang-Díaz administration would create stronger environmental justice policies. It’s the idea that everyone – regardless of race, class, background or neighborhood – is entitled to equal environmental protection and should have the chance to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their communities.

To that end, both candidates say they will change the way state agencies assess the need for and impacts of energy projects. They will also do more to help community members and groups have a say in the approval process, and they will create new advisory groups to help shape policies.

Both candidates also promise that federal and state dollars spent on clean energy technology, workforce development or environmental cleanup will benefit marginalized communities.

Technicians repair a turbine blade at the Block Island Wind Farm, (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Technicians repair a turbine blade at the Block Island Wind Farm, (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Innovation and jobs

Both candidates say their climate plans will create jobs. And they will focus on providing opportunities for people of color, women, low-income communities, or neighborhoods disproportionately affected by pollution.

Both plans include significant investments in training people, including current fossil fuel work, for green energy jobs through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and public universities. Chang-Díaz also says his administration would require state contracts to include strong diversity provisions. And she promises to provide women and minority-owned businesses with resources to help them bid for contracts.

The candidates also promise to spend state and federal dollars on emerging technologies such as batteries, geothermal energy and green building techniques. A Healey administration would also invest in nuclear power and hydrogen technologies.

Natural lands

Although both candidates call for protecting mature trees and planting new ones, Healey’s plan is more comprehensive. She calls for stronger wetland protections to help keep carbon in the soil and provide incentives for farmers to manage their land in ways that reduce emissions. She also promises to develop a new forest management plan during her first year in office.

A wave crashes over a house in Scituate during a 2018 northeasterly. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A wave crashes over a house in Scituate during a 2018 northeasterly. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)


Both plans also address the need to prepare for sea level rise, inland flooding, extreme heat and other catastrophic weather conditions. The plans would create commissions to tackle these issues and include affected communities in the planning process.


Republicans Chris Doughty and State Rep. Geoff Diehl are also running for governor, but have yet to release their own climate change plans.

Diehl’s website says it will focus on two things: “revolutionizing energy” through renewables and energy independence, and “protecting the environment” by safeguarding coastal and other environmentally sensitive areas. A campaign spokesperson called it a “comprehensive climate and environmental response”.

Doughty, a businessman, declined to provide details of his plan to tackle climate change.