Sunrise Cambridge Activits Endorse Proposal for Green New Deal

Sunrise Cambridge Activits Endorse Proposal for Green New Deal

Hannah Erickson, Contributing Writer

The environmental advocacy group Sunrise Cambridge held a student-led demonstration at City Hall on April 8th, days before the possible passage of Cambridge’s Green New Deal (GND). 

This package of legislation has the potential to initiate a 50% decrease in Cambridge’s annual carbon emissions. “We want to show to the city council that there’s support for these policies, specifically from the young people that emissions impact most,” Miriam Stodolsky ’23, a leader of Sunrise Cambridge and organizer of the rally, told the Register Forum. “If Cambridge claims to have progressive values, it absolutely has to pass the strongest version of the GND.”

This package of legislation has the potential to initiate a 50% decrease in Cambridge’s annual carbon emissions.

Attendees of the rally emphasized why this GND is so impactful. “I think there’s more showmanship than actual action taken against climate emissions in Cambridge,” Cameron Boros ’25 told the Register Forum. Cherace Lin ’23 agreed: “Certainly in Cambridge we’re not putting our money where our mouth is … Cambridge can be doing so much more, especially with so many huge corporations in its back pocket.”

City councilor Quinton Zondervan, who spearheaded the initiative, explained to the Register Forum that, “The Cambridge GND seeks to rapidly reduce our emissions [that cause] climate change in Cambridge, while creating jobs for our most vulnerable residents.” 

The GND is composed of three parts. The first two, both previously adopted by the city council, were a zoning petition requiring large non-residential buildings to calculate their expected annual emissions every year until 2050, and the Green Jobs Ordinance—a program establishing free green jobs training programs for low-income residents in Cambridge. 

However, April’s final legislation is more contentious, with more at stake. “The city’s powerful corporate interests have all aligned against our ordinance,” Daniel Totten, aide to councilor Zondervan, told the Register Forum. “They, including MIT, Harvard, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce, are pushing for amendments that would completely weaken the proposal in what would amount to nothing less than greenwashing.” 

In essence, this third piece of legislation, called the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) targets the large commercial buildings that, while making up the bulk of Cambridge’s wealth, drive gentrification and income inequality—and significantly, account for over 50% of the city’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. BEUDO would require these commercial buildings to become net zero as soon as the legislation is passed, with a fee of $234/ton of excess emissions. There’s a lot on the line: “If Cambridge can’t pass bold climate legislation without it getting completely watered down by powerful corporate interests, where on the planet are we going to be able to get it done?” Totten told the Register Forum.

Sunrise Cambridge members hope to continue their activism, with or without a potential  GND. Natania George ’25, a member of the club, told the Register Forum that “I hope that Sunrise can continue to hold rallies and take action against climate change—it’s not going to be fixed overnight.” 

Quinton Zondervan reiterated that the GND rally should not feel like a conclusion: “Continue to engage with the policy makers and fellow activists and remind those in power that you will not stand idly by while they destroy your future.”

This article also appears in our April 2023 print edition.