The panel charged with assessing state efforts to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, catalyzing government agencies to do their part in cutting GHGs, and strengthening the resilience of Rhode Island communities to prepare for the effects of climate change voted today to accept the 2022 update to the state’s 2016 GHG emissions reduction plan. The product of a 14-month process involving over 20 public listening sessions and nearly 400 sets of written comments submitted by members of the public, the update identifies specific priority actions to reduce GHGs in the electricity, transportation, and thermal sectors.
It also prioritizes equity, noting that although the 2016 plan did not mention environmental justice (EJ), this and all forthcoming plans will acknowledge that the adverse impacts of a warming climate are not felt equitably among people and commit the state to correcting historical systemic inequities in delivering climate-related policies and programs. The 2022 update is the first of the climate plans required by the Act on Climate, which mandates that the state achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. The Act on Climate requires the RI Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) to lead state efforts to reduce GHG emissions.
“Our office is fully focused on and committed to putting Rhode Island on a more sustainable pathway to create a future of net-zero GHG emissions, and all executive branch agencies are too,” said Governor Dan McKee. “The EC4’s updated climate plan and action today are a strong start.”
“One of the biggest challenges to confronting climate change is talking about it, and under Governor McKee’s leadership, the EC4 meets more frequently and holds meetings throughout the state, instead of just at DEM, to allow more Rhode Islanders to participate in these critical conversations,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “We think this contributed to Rhode Islanders submitting nearly 400 written comments to inform and shape the plan. We are in the process of developing public metrics and an online public dashboard, allowing the public to see how the state is tracking both emissions reductions and sources of energy consumed.”
“Today’s EC4 vote on the 2022 updates to the 2016 GHG emissions reduction plan is an important step with the Act on Climate law,” said Acting Energy Commissioner Christopher Kearns. “We have significant long-term emission reduction program and project efforts in 2023, including the pending $25 million heat pump program; significant home electrification funds from the federal Inflation Reduction Act; and the pending 400 megawatt Revolution Offshore Wind project. All of these investments will play a major role in meeting our objectives with Act on Climate.”
Over the past 14 months, the EC4 heard from stakeholders about their priorities and proposals for how Rhode Island can meet its emissions reduction targets. The report says the state’s EJ work “has just begun and there is much more work necessary to ensure that (the voices of disadvantaged communities and communities of color) are heard in our policy and program discussions.”
The report says that communication and outreach will be crucial to Rhode Island meeting mandated GHG emission reductions. “We must expand our communication channels to effectively tell our story and get broader engagement across the state,” it says.
Click here to review the working draft of the 2022 update. For more information on the state’s efforts to combat climate change and to find ways to participate, please visit www.climatechange.ri.gov.