Sponsored by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), the legislation (2014-S 2952A, 2014-H 7904A) commands attention to the often disastrous results of climate change to the country’s economy, health and ecosystem.
“This bill sets the stage for a more resilient and stable economy for our state in the 21st century,” said Representative Handy, who also serves as chairman of the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. “The leadership we are showing today by moving this legislation forward is the first step on a path where we look to prepare rather than react, where we rebuild stronger and smarter rather than blindly and foolishly, where we are taking control of our future rather than meekly taking what comes.”
Some have linked rising sea levels, the massive floods of March 2010 and Hurricane Sandy, which waged war on Rhode Island’s shores in 2012, to climate change. Lack of preparation for further changes could leave Rhode Island on the hook for billions of dollars in the future, Senator Conley said. The new plan calls for collaboration among the state’s agencies and public institutions of higher education to assist Rhode Island’s leaders.
“We have taken a great step forward today in commanding attention to this issue and instituting a process to comprehensively address it,” Senator Conley added. “In order for this to work, we must also have the support from the public and from the scientists who have been closely studying this issue. That’s why our plans for outreach and public education are such important elements of this bill. Rhode Island’s institutions of higher education can play key roles in how the state battles natural disasters and transforms its environmental policies, which also positions our colleges and universities to become active leaders in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and natural disaster planning.”
Provisions of the legislation require the council to submit a mitigation plan to the governor and General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2016 in order to meet phased-in targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The phased-in targets, which came at the suggestion of state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) officials, take aim at an 80 percent reduction from 1990 greenhouse gas levels by 2050:
- 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020;
- 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035; and
- 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Senate cosponsors include Senators V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), Catherine Cool Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Exeter, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston). Representatives Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), Cale P. Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester) and Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) serve as cosponsors of the House bill.