MA - Mom Column: Brookline's Historic Climate Vote

A Mother's perspective on the historic Brookline, MA Warrant Article 21 prohibiting fossil fuel use in new construction and in renovations, published by Brookline Wicked Local:

Like any mother, I think about my children’s future all the time. I look at the world that they are inheriting from us and I feel great anxiety. As a mother, I want to protect my children no matter what. The looming reality of global warming and climate collapse is something that requires immediate action. I have realized that I need to do everything I can to urge individuals and communities to protect the future for all children.

Last Wednesday night, at the Brookline Town Meeting, our community took action. By an overwhelming favorable vote, we passed the broadest ban on gas and oil infrastructure in new construction and significant renovations in the entire country. From this decision alone, carbon emissions in Brookline will be lowered by about 10% over the next thirty years. Brookline is demonstrating that a clean energy future is possible, now.

In 2018, the UN International Panel on Climate Change issued a report stating that the world needs to reduce carbon emissions by approximately 50% by 2030 to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change. In Brookline, we have made a commitment to achieve zero emissions by 2050. If we’re serious about our climate goals, we can’t continue to install oil and gas infrastructure that moves us no closer to achieving these goals.

We are hopeful that this Warrant Article will act as both an inspiration and a model for other communities in Massachusetts, across the country, and around the world.

Practicality is the goal of this bylaw. Much of the construction that will be affected would be replacing this infrastructure anyway. Our research shows that in new construction and substantial renovations, this will be largely cost-neutral.

Warrant Article 21 resulted from an extended process of community building and collaboration between town administrators and concerned citizens. Last spring, Brookline, through a new Sustainability Director, held a town-wide climate symposium, in which residents of the town came together to generate ideas about how we could address the threat of our climate crisis. From this meeting, local teams were created to address different aspects of this issue.

The team addressing buildings in Brookline worked collaboratively with community members and Town staff to create and refine a Warrant Article that addressed the concerns of all stakeholders and would be successfully received at Town Meeting. This process included conversations with residents, outreach with community members on effects of the ban, and a significant education process as the Warrant Article made its way through the Town’s committees. This team-focused approach will continue to serve Brookline well in our future efforts to address our climate crisis.

This bylaw is a historic step not just for Brookline, but for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Instead of continuing on with business as usual or waiting for someone else to come up with solutions, we rolled up our sleeves, talked with our neighbors, and created a practical one. Now, the Municipal Law Unit of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office will review the bylaw, as required by Town law. We have a tentative effective date of January 1, 2021.

My children, and all children, deserve to inherit a better world than the one we now confront. They shouldn’t be facing the real and scary consequences of our climate crisis, a global threat that we are responsible for creating. With this historic step, Brookline’s Town Meeting has chosen to address the future with hope and a practical plan. It’s the first of many changes we’ll need to make as we transform our energy system for the 21st century. If Brookline can work together to take this action, every community in Massachusetts and the country, can too.

Lisa Cunningham is a local architect in Brookline and one of 11 co-petitioners of the adopted bylaw prohibiting the use of gas and oil infrastructure in major construction. She is also a local member of Mothers Out Front, a group of mothers and others working to preserve a livable future for all children.

If you live in Brookline MA, join me in “Opting Up” to 100% renewable electricity through our town’s Brookline All Green plan. It takes one minute, costs only a little extra, and doesn’t change your billing or electric service. Go to This is the easiest and most important thing you can do to reduce carbon emissions in Brookline.


See the original guest column piece, published by Brookline Wicked Local here:


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