RI’s climate law is feasible, affordable and necessary
Gillian Kiley is a resident of Cranston, a parent and a volunteer with Climate Action Rhode Island.
The Climate Bill awaiting Gov. Dan McKee’s signature is a practical bill that addresses residents’ concerns about climate change while providing economic and health benefits to the people of Rhode Island.
Ninety-two percent of the people of Rhode Island are in favor of limiting greenhouse gas emissions because right now Rhode Island is suffering from the impact of these emissions: we have the strongest temperature rise in the lower 48 states, and we see an increase in hospitalizations and heat stress cases every summer. Climate change and rising sea levels are putting Rhode Island’s 400 miles of coastline and billions of dollars in real estate at risk. Warming ocean temperatures are causing the species that make up Rhode Island’s fishery to move north and encourage the growth of toxic bacteria that lead to shellfish bans and beach closures. It affects our way of life and hurts the summer tourism industry.
Act on Climate creates a manageable timeline to reduce emissions at the state level over the next 29 years, so that we reach net zero by 2050. This goal is scientifically sound and was enacted in Massachusetts by the Republican Governor Charlie Baker. Here in Rhode Island, emissions can be significantly reduced over the next decade if the state focuses on energy efficiency and the power generation and transportation sectors.
The key to Climate Action is that it forces the state to act. It does not impose any change on the part of individuals or companies. Do you like your heating system or your car? Great, you will keep it! If residents or businesses wish to adopt greener practices, the bill offers a way to support those choices through incentives such as discounts or low-cost loans.
The bill presents major economic gains for Rhode Island. Instead of sending $ 3-4 billion out of state each year through spending on fossil fuels, Rhode Island can keep its energy dollars local and generate tens of thousands of high-paying jobs that will benefit electricians, builders. , solar and wind power installers, and others. Currently, the prices of wind, solar and geothermal energy and major energy storage are falling rapidly, creating opportunities for businesses and greater choice for consumers.
And these two groups – businesses and individuals – are immune to litigation with Act on Climate. The very limited prosecution provision in the bill only allows residents or entities of Rhode Island to sue the state government of Rhode Island for failing to meet state objectives. This focus on compliance means the bill is focused on positive outcomes, not penalties.
As Rhode Island cuts emissions through climate law, the state will reap public health benefits. Mitigating climate change will mitigate its many negative health effects, ranging from the increased incidence of insect-borne diseases, to increased precipitation and temperatures associated with toxic algal blooms and heat stress, poor air quality which causes unusually high asthma rates and endangers children, the elderly, people with health problems and those who work outdoors, in areas ranging from construction to landscaping.
The Act on Climate bill has passed both the House and the Senate, is supported by a coalition of Rhode Islanders, and allows us to reduce our emissions in a transparent and accountable manner, in accordance with the best practices and principles of our participatory democracy. The bill reflects everything we have learned from years of studies documenting the multifaceted negative impacts of climate change that the people of Rhode Island are currently experiencing. We have the know-how and the capacity to act on the climate now. All we need is Governor McKee’s signature.