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Somerville Mayor calls for divestment

Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 08:01

In his sixth inaugural address, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone outlined his goals for the city, with many pertaining specifically to the environment and divestment from fossil fuels.

“Our environment, in fact, is priceless,” Curtatone, Somerville’s mayor since 2004, said in his inaugural address. “Around the world, cities are taking the lead in sustainability. As we have done in so many other areas, Somerville will lead the way there, too. So, let’s advocate together for the city’s retirement system to divest from fossil fuels.”

Many students expressed interest in the mayor’s stance. Devyn Powell, a member of Tufts Divest for Our Future, said that Curtatone’s call for divestment shows Tufts students that divestment is spreading to communities around the world.

“I think that now that the mayor is coming out in support of [divestment], there’s going to be a lot more movement around divestment in Somerville [and] within the community in general,” Powell, a senior, said. “I’m sure that that will attract some students because divestment is an international movement.”

Sophomore Will Pearl, also a member of Tufts Divest, said that Mayor Curtatone’s vocal support of fossil fuel divestment is valuable in informing others about the benefits of finding renewable energy solutions. 

“[Curtatone] has some pretty awesome, ambitious goals in the area of climate policy,” Pearl said. “If the federal government could be at that level that would be great because he’s got some seriously progressive climate related goals.”

In a Jan. 16 op-ed in the Somerville Times, Curtatone elaborated on his economic and ethical reasoning for supporting city-wide divestment.

“There is a looming $20 trillion carbon bubble, according to a report by London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, in collaboration with nonprofit organization Carbon Tracker,” Curtatone wrote in the op-ed. “Divesting from fossil fuels is not only the moral choice; it’s the financially responsible choice.”

Pearl said that Curtatone’s goals and vision are important in creating a link between the objectives of divestment on a college level and divestment as it pertains to cities like Somerville.

“We want to see that our institution isn’t investing in polluting corporations, and we don’t think we should be profiting from that,” Pearl said. “If a politician like Curtatone is on board with that as an investment policy ... that really strengthens our hopes for big climate legislation because divestment is really a tactic towards engaging the public in pressuring those in political positions to enact real, solid climate legislation. And he already has kind of set his sights on that for Somerville.”

In laying out his environmental vision for the City of Somerville, Curtatone also noted that the city has already made progress in encouraging environmentally friendly programs.

“Our community has already led the way on taking responsibility for our environment, from increasing recycling and installing solar panels on our schools, to green building incentives in the rezoning of Union Square and Boynton Yards, to energy-efficient LED lights for our streetlights,” Curtatone said.

According to Somerville Ward 7 Alderwoman Katjana Ballantyne, Mayor Curtatone is working on additional legislation, called the “Plastic Bag Act,” which is currently under discussion in the Somerville Legislative Matters Committee.  

“[‘The Plastic Bag Act’] deals with the idea that after a certain amount of square footage for a particular business, you should find something alternative to plastic bags,” Ballantyne said. 

In his inauguration address, Curtatone used specific goals to encourage all Somerville citizens to work together to reduce their carbon footprint.

“I’m calling on you tonight to make our citywide goal no less than to reduce our net carbon emissions to zero — zero — by 2050,” he said. “It’s an investment in our people. It’s an investment in our children. And in their children. They deserve no less.”

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