New developments and major renovations in Brookline may no longer use fossil fuels for heating or cooking under a town ordinance that took effect on Tuesday.

The change is a long time coming for Brookline, which first voted on a fossil fuels ban in 2019 but was prevented by the state from enacting that plan. Since then, advocates and local officials have been working to overcome legal rejections from the state. Now, Brookline is included in a pilot program allowing 10 Massachusetts cities and towns to ban installation of natural gas and other fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction or major renovations.

Brookline is the first large community to move ahead with the policy. Cities like Cambridge as well as smaller towns like Lexington and Lincoln are also taking part in the pilot program.

“Brookline understands — and I think a lot of other communities understand, too — we have to play a part in the front line in combating climate change,” said Brookline Town Administrator Chas Carey. “We are responsible for fossil fuel emissions. And those have an impact on the environment around us. So if we're not trying to combat this at the local level, it's hard then for it to trickle up to the state and the federal level.”

Brookline also wants to demonstrate that phasing out fossil fuels isn’t a great hardship for communities, Carey said.

“There's going to be a period of adjustment. We're going to need to figure this out together. But we're not we're not aiming to throw homeowners and developers in the deep end of the pool,” Carey said. “We really want people to feel confident that this is being rolled out in a clear and well communicated way, and that we're working collaboratively with people to ensure that they're doing their part in combating climate change.”

Carey said he hopes the initiative will empower developers to find new ways to use renewable energy.

“We're hoping that this code generates some innovation,” Carey said. “What this does is it really requires developers to think critically about how to really build to scale fossil fuel–free projects. So we're excited to work with them in the community, to ensure that we're at the forefront of this new standard of development.”

Lisa Cunningham, co-founder of the statewide nonprofit ZeroCarbonMA, has lived in Brookline most of her life and spent years lobbying for the ban.

“This is an incredibly exciting day, on the one hand,” she said of the ban becoming official. “But it's been a long haul. It shouldn't have been a long haul.”

Brookline’s 2019 bylaw was ruled unlawful by then-Attorney General Maura Healey. The town then passed a home rule petition asking the state for authority to pass its own local ban on fossil fuels. Ultimately, the state Legislature passed a law creating the 10-community pilot program that Brookline is now participating in.

“What needs to happen now is the state Legislature needs to open up this program to any town or city that would like to participate,” Cunningham said. “Every town and city should be able to opt into this program on their own timetable.”

The state is not on track to meet its climate goals, Cunningham added.

“We are looking at a worldwide crisis, but we have to act locally and then influence state policy and also our national policy to act faster on this existential crisis,” she said.

Corrected: February 20, 2024
This story was updated to correct the spelling of Brookline Town Administrator Chas Carey's name.