State leaders joined members of the Environment Council of Rhode Island[note]ECRI is a coalition of organizations and individuals whose mission is to serve as an effective voice for developing and advocating for policies and laws that protect and enhance the environment.[/note] (ECRI) at a rally on the statehouse steps on Thursday to urge the General Assembly and the state government to act on climate change and to introduce important environmental legislation.
The rally was held ahead of a hearing of the House Committee On Environment and Natural Resources, where several environmental bills were to be heard.
“Climate change is the most urgent threat facing Rhode Island today,” said Amy Moses, Vice President and Director of Conservation Law Foundation Rhode Island. “In just the last few months, several international reports have illustrated the dire need for immediate and bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every state must do its part, and we are here today to call on Rhode Island’s leaders to commit to climate action before it’s too late.”
Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick), the Senate sponsor of the “Ask First” Straw Bill (S0202, H5314), described his concern about plastics pollution in Rhode Island and throughout the world.
“Single-use plastic straws pollute our sidewalks, shoreline, and oceans,” said McCaffrey. “Plastic straws, although small in size, have a big impact on marine life and are they seventh most common waste found during beach cleanups. Requiring consumers to request a single-use plastic straw will curtail their use, improve our environment, and cause everyone to think twice about their own carbon footprint.”
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“We may not immediately make a connection between plastic straws and climate change,” said John Berard, Rhode Island Director for Clean Water Action, “but plastics are made from petroleum and plastics constitute more than 6 percent of global oil consumption. In addition to their climate impacts, plastics never degrade and they all break down to microplastics which are found throughout Narragansett Bay.”
Representative Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2, Providence) and Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport and Jamestown) have introduced the Global Warming Solutions Act (H5444) to make the state’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions both mandatory and enforceable.
“The Global Warming Solutions Act provides a clear roadmap for addressing our shared responsibility to reduce emissions and combat climate change. We must continue to work together to take bold action to protect our environment and meet the challenge of climate change head-on,” said Blazejewski.
“We recognize that state agencies need to redirect existing resources to meet the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Euer. “Emergencies always force us to reconsider priorities. And climate change is an emergency.”
The transportation sector is a critical component of the state’s existing greenhouse gas emissions. The Rally noted the postponement of the State Planning Council Transportation Advisory Committee’s hearing to consider amendments to the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) which would allocate funds for bike and pedestrian infrastructure to roads and bridges.
“This victory is just the start. Preserving bike and pedestrian funding is only the beginning. We need to seriously invest in our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure moving forward to build a safe network that makes biking and walking for transportation a reality. Biking and walking are truly zero emission modes of transportation,” said Sarah Mitchell, Board Chair of the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition.
“As a young person who calls this beautiful state home, I am deeply saddened and angered to see this place and the people I love here continually threatened by climate while the government continues to discuss building new fossil fuel infrastructure projects rather than envisioning and enacting a just transition to a clean energy economy that would work for all of us,” said Lauren Manus, representing Sunrise RI.
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