Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Cambridge’s King Open and Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex was built with solar panels covering its roofs and 190 geothermal wells. (Photo: City of Cambridge)

Cambridge may soon get a training program that focuses on jobs building out the green economy, from installing solar panels or wind turbines to urban agriculture and transit operations. A “green jobs” ordinance was discussed during a Wednesday hearing of the City Council’s Ordinance Committee, where it was generally well received.

The measure, which was introduced by councillor Quinton Zondervan in April in a Health and Environment Committee meeting, would support the creation of green jobs in Cambridge by certifying training programs that would be free for Cambridge residents. A minimum living wage must be provided for programs with work components, under the law, and the program must be transportation accessible.

The ordinance lists who might provide programs, including nonprofits, labor unions and educational institutions; it does not limit who can provide programs, which would be advertised on the city’s website.

Ultimately, “the goal is to create green jobs, economic opportunities for low-income and minority residents who’ve been traditionally left out of our economy,” Zondervan said. “And of course, we need that workforce in order to refurbish our buildings and reshape our economy to deal with climate change.” The ordinance would mandate an annual report on green jobs in the city.

City staff at the hearing had suggestions and concerns. Though the ordinance suggests the city could provide direct funding to the programs by using Alternative Compliance Credits, assistant city manager for community development Iram Farooq said other funding sources may need to be considered. Those credits, which would operate wholly in Cambridge similar to one that is run within Boston, are specifically for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, not workforce efforts that might help reduce emissions down the road. The credits were proposed around a year ago for the city’s Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance, along with other amendments yet to be voted; Zondervan said it was just one possible funding source, along with tax revenue and grants.

Sue Walsh, the assistant director of adult and family services at the Department of Human Services, suggested that requiring that the programs are public transportation accessible may be unrealistic. She instead suggested supporting residents who will need to travel.

The measure remains in committee, where city staff will recommend amendments.