What steps is Rhode Island taking to mitigate its contribution to climate change?
The crux of climate change mitigation is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly those of the most potent contributor to climate change—carbon dioxide. Rhode Island has unveiled a variety of approaches to achieve this end, including legislative action, gubernatorial directives, interstate programs, and executive guidance.
I. The General Assembly passed the Resilient Rhode Island Act (2014) which i) established the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4), ii) set emissions reduction goals, and iii) enlisted consideration from state agencies to address resilience .
II. Governor Raimondo has been outspoken about climate change, i) issuing Executive Orders 17-10 (a comprehensive environmental preparedness strategy), 15-17 (“Lead by Example in Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy”), and 17-06 (“Reaffirming Rhode Island’s Commitment to the Principles of the Paris Climate Agreement”); ii) instructing agencies to improve energy efficiency; iii) fighting for the inclusion of a green economy bond in the state budget; iv) forming the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank dedicated to clean energy financing; and v) announcing a goal to incorporate 1,000 MW of clean energy by 2020 .
III. The EC4 submitted the “Rhode Island Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan” to the Governor and General Assembly. This document included Resilient Rhode Island Act attainment strategies to i) reduce by 10% the total emission levels of 1990 by 2020, ii) reduce by 45% by 2035, and iii) reduce by 80% by 2050 .
IV. Rhode Island collaborates with northeast states on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which organizes a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants . Revenue generated from auction is re-invested into renewables, energy efficiency, and improved affordability. Although detractors of the program expressed concern about the possible stifling of economic growth, the regional GDP has risen 8% between 2005 and 2013 while power plant emissions have declined by 40% .
V. The Rhode Island State Energy Plan, “Energy 2035,” was adopted by the State Planning Council and highlights thematic goals of security, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability, as well as reviewing policies and strategies to meet these thematic goals .