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Global Warming Solutions Act brings teeth to combating climate change in Rhode Island



The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture heard testimony Wednesday evening on the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), Senate Bill 2747, introduced by Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown).

The bill, said Euer, “is ambitious, but it’s also, I think, the next logical step for the General Assembly to take towards trying to reduce overall carbon emissions and address the causes of climate change.”

Modeled on a Massachusetts statute, the Rhode Island GWSA would require reductions in carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. To get to these goals, the bill divides emissions into three broad categories, electricity generation, buildings and transportation. Each category will be overseen by a government agency that will set goals and the regulations required to achieve those goals.

Unlike the Resilient Rhode Island Act, which sets aspirational but unenforceable goals, the GWSA requires the government to take action and to meet the goals set in the statute.

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Massachusetts passed its version of the GWSA ten years ago. Since then, according to the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF):

  • Massachusetts has made huge gains in solar, installing more than 2,000MW of power and rising to second in the nation for solar jobs.
  • Massachusetts enacted a Clean Energy Standard regulation requiring 80 percent of electricity sold in Massachusetts to be carbon-pollution free by 2050.
  • Massachusetts set a declining annual cap on carbon emissions from all large, commercial in-state power

Here’s CLF senior attorney Jerry Elmer testifying on the bill:

Brown University professor Timmons Roberts also spoke in favor of the bill. Roberts has been a long time advocate for the EnergizeRI carbon pricing bill. The GWSA is a different way of accomplishing the same goal as the carbon pricing bill by reducing carbon emissions state wide.

Roberts noted that the bill is not good enough, under current science, to effectively mitigate the worst aspects off climate change, but it is a good start.

As is usual with these kinds of bills, the entirety of the Rhode Island environmental community is in support, while business concerns such as the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce are in opposition.

Here is the rest of the testimony from the committee meeting:

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.