Climate Change Council outlines action plan for state policymakers
THE R.I. EXECUTIVE CLIMATE Change Council's preliminary report, released Thursday, recommended statewide actions such as adopting emissions reduction goals and assessing key infrastructure for vulnerabilities to climate change.
PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Executive Climate Change Council on Thursday released its preliminary report, outlining key objectives and recommended actions aimed to help the state prepare for the environmental and economic impacts of climate change.
The report, “A Resilient Rhode Island: Being Practical about Climate Change,” represents the council’s first report since Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee signed an executive order in February creating the council as an advisory body on the topic of climate change. During the months since, the council also has launched a website and created a logo.
In a letter accompanying the report, R.I. Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, who also chairs the Executive Climate Change Council, said the recommendations are intended to make Rhode Island better able “to not only ‘weather the storms,’ but also to prepare and recover in an adaptive manner that makes us stronger” and plays to Rhode Island’s strengths and assets.
“The draft action plan shows there are a surprising number of actions state government can take, many in relatively short term, to improve performance and get us on track to mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change,” said Coit.
She added that the majority of the recommended actions outlined in the report do not require additional funding or resources, “although we will need to change from ‘business as usual’ to new ways of coordinating, pooling resources and forming partnerships” to achieve a higher return on investment in priority areas.
The major actions recommended in the council’s report included:
Lead by example through establishing climate change as a decision-making principle for all state agencies and developing a strategic five-year climate change plan by the end of 2014.
Collaborate with local and federal governments as well as the private sector and higher education institutions to disperse timely and accurate scientific information to the public and develop financial strategies to fund climate change mitigation.
Bring public and private-sector leaders together to identify and develop economic opportunities in the science and technology, engineering, infrastructure and renewable energy fields that can help the state build up greater resiliency.
Assess geography areas and key infrastructure (such as water, wastewater, storm water, waste management, transportation, energy, health care, housing and food supply) for vulnerabilities and potential means to mitigate those vulnerabilities.
Incorporate clean energy standards and strategies in the State Energy Plan, including adopting emission reduction targets, optimizing energy efficiency in electric and transportation sectors, increasing the use of clean fuels and encouraging clean energy industry growth.
Improve emergency preparedness by adapting infrastructure, public health and natural resource entities to include climate change considerations.
Establish a Science and Technical Advisory and Coordinating Committee to coordinate data collection, analysis, mapping and other technical functions among public and private organizations for the purpose of supporting policy development.
Develop an interactive communications and outreach program through which citizens, businesses, planners and decision-makers exchange information and ideas about the challenges and opportunities associated with climate change.
Following its release Thursday, the Executive Climate Change Council’s action plan will be circulated for public comment, Coit said, before being finalized with a formal report later this month.
Coit emphasized the importance of collaborating with leaders of the R.I. General Assembly to further the legislative initiatives associated with the council’s report, which include adopting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and passing legislation to encourage growth and procurement in the local renewable energy sector.
Chafee said in a release announcing the report’s findings that he welcomed the council’s focus on “realistic recommendations, rather than further debate about climate change.”
“We are currently experiencing more frequent and intense storms, as well as higher tides and storm surges, creating major challenges for our cities and towns, businesses and residents,” said Chafee. “It is important to use our resources and talents in all sectors to develop real solutions so that our communities and our economy can weather these storms, and ultimately come out stronger.”