Findings offer a framework for state, city and town officials
Providence, R.I. – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today joined Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit and Bristol Town Administrator Antonio A. Teixeira at Bristol Town Beach to announce the preliminary report by the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council (EC3). The Governor established the EC3 in February to advise him, the General Assembly and the public on how the State and its communities can best prepare for the impacts of climate change.
The initial report, A Resilient Rhode Island: Being Practical about Climate Change focuses on what state government can do to adopt problem-solving strategies with emphasis on both mitigation and adaptation to improve coordination, collaboration and communication between state agencies, as well as both the public and private sectors.
Governor Chafee welcomed the report'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," Governor Chafee said. "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."
DEM Director and EC3 Chair Janet Coit acknowledged that by joining regional initiatives, Rhode Island has already helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power generation by 40 percent from 2005 levels. "This program not only demonstrates that we can use market mechanisms to bring down greenhouse gases," she said, "it has also produced significant revenues to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, and boost the green economy sector. Plus, we know that expanding these efforts can be cost-effective." In addition, Coit noted that Rhode Island's Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is a national leader when it comes to adaptation science and planning, and this report recommends ways to utilize that strength, as well as other programs in the private sector, to help communities become more resilient.
The report recognizes that cities and towns are on the frontline, and at times ahead of the state, in dealing with rising water levels and extreme weather events. Jon Reiner, Director of Planning and Community Development in the Town of North Kingstown, believes the report contains useful recommendations that can help municipal officials who are trying to address current and future impacts on their communities. "We need a statewide policy that produces consistent, scientific and technical information, as well as clear standards and guidance, that we can use in our planning, but also in communicating with residents and businesses that still have difficulty understanding the long-term challenges we are facing," he said.
The study also calls for partnerships with the private sector and the state's academic institutions. In addition, it endorses several legislative proposals that have been introduced in the General Assembly during the current session.
Allan Klindworth, project manager for climate adaptation with AECOM Technology Services in Providence, confirmed that, in his company's experience, resilience is indeed good for business as shareholders and citizens demand that corporations include it in their strategic planning and business practices. "Being better prepared and taking practical measures that reduce risks and damages makes business sense," he said, " and it saves money, reduces business interruption and community breakdown, and gets people get back to work more quickly." As a result, he notes new business opportunities are opening worldwide for AECOM in areas including architecture, engineering, planning, environmental restoration, energy, transportation, and economics.
The EC3 includes representatives of several state agencies including the Department of Administration; Department of Transportation; Department of Health; Emergency Management Agency; Office of Energy Resources; Division of Planning; Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).
Public comments on the report may be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20, to firstname.lastname@example.org