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8/1/2014 Lawmakers join Gov. Chafee in ceremonial bill signing for climate change law
NORTH KINGSTOWN – Local and state officials joined Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee today to witness a ceremonial signing of recently enacted legislation that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island.

The event took place at the site of one of climate change’s many vulnerable targets, North Kingstown Town Beach. On hand were Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), lead sponsors of the bills (2014-S 2952A, 2014-H 7904A), as well as Senate cosponsor Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, R.I. Emergency Management Agency Director Jamia McDonald, University of Rhode Island President David Dooley, North Kingstown Town Manager Michael Embury and North Kingstown Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan..

The new law creates a nine-member Climate Change Council, charged with coordinating efforts among the state’s agencies and public institutions of higher education to ensure Rhode Island is doing everything in its power to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while advancing the public’s understanding of changes in sea level, severe weather events and critical infrastructure vulnerability.

“This law 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 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.
“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,” Senator Conley added. “That’s why our plans for outreach and public education are such important elements of this law. 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 law, which codified Governor Chafee’s previous executive order, 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. Those benchmarks, 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.
“Climate change continues to threaten some of our most precious natural resources,” Governor Chafee said. “As we continue to experience more frequent and intense storms, it has become increasingly important to use our resources and talents in all sectors to develop real solutions. This legislation presents a great opportunity to bring our communities together, make informed decisions, mitigate harms to our natural environment and emerge stronger and more resilient than before.”

For more information, contact:
Brenna McCabe, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457