For the past week, countries across the globe have come together in Glasgow for COP26 to discuss how the world will address our climate crisis. Before the conference began, I joined with state legislators from across the country calling on the federal government to rise to the challenge and strengthen our national climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. The time to act is now, and as the largest historical contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the United States has a moral and practical responsibility to reach net zero emissions by or before 2050.
Across the country this year we have seen historic damages from hurricanes and wildfires, droughts and flooding, heat waves and cold snaps. In Rhode Island we are facing more frequent and intense storms. Last year tied as the hottest on record – and Rhode Island is the fastest warming state in the lower 48. Changing temperatures in Narragansett Bay have driven our traditional commercial fish species north while replacing them with warm water species. Our municipalities are dealing with the cost of adapting public infrastructure such as water systems and drainage infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels and increased flooding events. The devastation of these climate-induced events will only continue growing if we don’t take action.
As a state with so much to lose, we cannot afford and have no excuse to be anything but totally committed to negating our climate emissions. This is, without question, our battle and our responsibility. That’s why the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the Act on Climate this year, updating Rhode Island’s climate targets with the latest science and making those targets transparent and enforceable. Recognizing the dangers that climate change is already posing, the legislature also established the Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resilience Fund.
The Rhode Island Senate’s commitment to this critical issue didn’t stop this year with the Act on Climate and Climate Adaptation Fund. We also passed Senator DiMario’s Transportation Emissions and Mobile Community Act to tackle transportation related emissions, President Ruggerio’s 100% renewable energy standards bill, Senator Anderson’s bill to expand parking spaces for electric vehicles, and the Environmental Justice Act to designate environmental justice areas in the state. The Rhode Island Senate remains focused and committed to strong climate action.
While I’m proud of the progress we’ve made and will continue to make here in Rhode Island, we can’t do this alone. Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation is fortunate to include Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who has continued to be an aggressive champion for climate action at the federal level. However, the U.S. government has been notably absent in global climate negotiations since 2017. The newly established U.S. 2030 climate target shows the Biden administration understands the urgency of the climate crisis. But more action is still needed to limit warming.
The bold steps taken by states can serve as a roadmap for further federal action. To date, nearly two-thirds of U.S. states and territories have some form of Renewable Portfolio Standard or Clean Energy Standard, and more than a dozen have committed to 100% clean energy. States are also transitioning fleets to zero-emissions vehicles, making buildings more energy efficient, and protecting natural landscapes to enhance carbon sequestration.
In this critical moment, we must stand united on all fronts. Our future and survival depend on it. Together, with strong international, national, and state action, we can take the steps that are needed to avoid further climate catastrophe. That is why I encourage President Biden to consider this your mandate from Rhode Island. Match and enhance our ambition and dedication in every negotiation room. The US federal government must lead by example in committing to and achieving full decarbonization, just as we strive to do so in our own states.
Senator Dawn Euer
Rhode Island Senate District 13 – Newport & Jamestown