The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Environment and Agriculture Chairwoman Dawn Euer to update Rhode Island’s climate-emission reduction goals and to make them enforceable.
The 2021 Act on Climate (2021-S 0078A) would make the state’s climate goals outlined in the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 more ambitious and updated with current science. Under the bill, the state would develop a plan to reduce all climate emissions from transportation, buildings and heating, and electricity used economywide in the state to 10 percent below 1990 levels this year, 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2040 and net-zero by 2050.
The sponsor says the climate crisis poses too grave a threat to the earth and to Rhode Island in particular to treat climate emissions reduction as an aspiration rather than an obligation.
“The Ocean State is particularly vulnerable to the effects of sea rise caused by warming temperatures. Communities like mine in Newport are already inundated more regularly and severely by storm surges, and face loss of public and private property, historic sites and businesses. Climate change isn’t something that will happen at some nebulous future time – it is wreaking havoc on our communities right now,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) in a statement. “As a state with so much to lose, we cannot afford and have no excuse to be anything but totally committed to negating our carbon emissions. This is, without question, our battle and our responsibility.”
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. The House Environment and Natural Resources has scheduled a vote Thursday on the House companion bill (2021-H 5445), sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).
The act would require the state’s Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council to update its plan for carbon reduction every five years, and include in it measures to provide for an equitable transition that addresses environmental injustices and public health inequities, as well as supports to ensure strong and fair employment as fossil-fuel industry jobs are replaced by green energy jobs. It also adds food security as an element to consider as the state continues to evaluate its plans to address climate change.
The act also requires the creation of an online transparent public dashboard to track emissions reductions and sources of energy annually.
After 2025, if the state does not meet its targets and comply with the act, the people of Rhode Island would be able to seek action in Providence Superior Court.
Under the existing Resilient Rhode Island law, the state can reduce emissions by offering market-based mechanisms, expanding financing and investment tools, modernizing the electric grid and improving incentives for combined heat and power systems.
Senator Euer said, besides being an imperative for human survival, reducing carbon emissions also creates a wealth of new economic opportunities for Rhode Island – opportunities that the state is already well-positioned to capitalize upon.
According to Commerce Rhode Island, the offshore wind sector will create between 20,000 and 35,000 jobs along the East Coast by 2028. Rhode Island is already developing such jobs through wind companies and educational programs at its universities. President Joe Biden has vowed to double offshore wind production by 2030. Rhode Island could capitalize upon that commitment and its experience as home to the nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm, while putting thousands of Rhode Islanders to work in the clean energy sector, Senator Euer said.
“Rhode Island has been on the leading edge of offshore wind in the United States, and is also at the forefront of other renewable generation and efficiency programs. With Washington now also shifting toward support for the important work of adopting clean energy solutions, we have everything we need to do our part to slam the brakes on carbon pollution while revolutionizing our economy at the same time,” said Senator Euer. “Rhode Island was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. We can seize this moment and become America’s leader in the new green economy, creating plentiful green jobs that support families and a clean environment.”
Climate Jobs Rhode Island Celebrates the Passage of the Act on Climate in the Rhode Island State Senate
Climate Jobs Rhode Island, a coalition of environmental and labor organizations, released the following statement after the Act on Climate (2021-S 78 SUB A) passed the Rhode Island State Senate this afternoon.
Climate Jobs Rhode Island commends the vote in the Rhode Island State Senate today to pass the Act on Climate. This important piece of legislation takes meaningful steps to ensuring Rhode Island establishes a just transition to a net-zero emission economy. We applaud Senator Dawn Euer, Chairperson of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee, Senate President Ruggerio, Majority Leader McCaffrey, Senate Majority Whip Goodwin, and all of the Senators who voted to support the bill.
Patrick Crowley, Co-Chair of Climate Jobs Rhode Island and Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, said, “This bill is a critical step forward for Rhode Island. Our state can lead the way for the rest of the country towards establishing a just transition to a net-zero emission economy centered on racial & social justice and the voices of the people who are most affected by pollution—frontline workers and frontline communities. We encourage the House of Representatives to move quickly to pass the Act on Climate and hope Governor Dan McKee will sign the bill on or before Earth Day this year!”
Priscilla De La Cruz, Co-Chair of Climate Jobs Rhode Island and Rhode Island Director of Green Energy Consumers Alliance, said, “Thank you to the Rhode Island State Senate for taking the next step towards ensuring our state leads by example and holds itself accountable. We need a solid foundation and a comprehensive plan to address the climate crisis. A plan that is economy-wide, enforceable and sets us on a path to a just and equitable transition to a green and sustainable economy that leaves no one behind. So, we hope the Rhode Island House of Representatives moves swiftly to pass the Act on Climate and urge Governor McKee to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.”
Climate Jobs Rhode Island was formed in 2021 as a coalition of labor and environmental organizations to work together to establish a Just Transition to a Green Economy in Rhode Island. We commit to work together to make Rhode Island a national leader in the development of a 21st Century economy grounded in the principles of economic, environmental, racial and social justice.