New RI Bill Would Mandate Goals Set To Address Climate Change

Mar 14, 2018

Rhode Island lawmakers will hear public testimony Thursday on a bill that would put teeth into Rhode Island’s carbon emissions reduction goals.

In 2014, Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law the Resilient Rhode Island Act, which sets out to cut greenhouse gas emission levels recorded in 1990 by 80 percent by the year 2050.

However, the state's carbon pollution reduction goals are currently not legally enforceable, meaning there is nothing mandating the state actually meet those targets. 

Jerry Elmer, president of the Environment Council of Rhode Island, said the new Global Warming Solutions Act would change that. 

"This new bill would actually make (those goals) happen by requiring government regulations that would have the effect of reducing carbon emissions over time," Elmer said. 

The bill would require state agencies to issue regulations for the electricity, transportation and building markets to reduce each sector’s carbon footprint. 

Right now, Rhode Island's energy-efficiency policies only address carbon pollution from the electricity sector, which Elmer says is a problem. 

"The largest source of carbon pollution (in New England) is not from electricity, it’s from the transportation sector, and in fact, the transportation sector is both the largest and the fastest-growing source of carbon pollution," Elmer said. 

The bill would also allow citizens or nonprofits to sue the state if carbon emission reduction goals are not met.

Critics of the Global Warming Solutions Act say they’re concerned the bill could end up boosting the cost of gas and electricity.

Testimony on the bill will be heard in Providence at the Statehouse today starting at 4 p.m.

Massachusetts and Connecticut have enacted similar statutes.