On April 12 at 3pm the Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island will present an online symposium titled Ours to Embrace: Climate Federalism The implication for Rhode Island of Four Biden Executive Orders, a presidential memorandum and two Fact sheets of January 2021.
This is particularly important given Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee’s hesitancy in signing the 2021 Act on Climate legislation. If he does not sign the bill into law, Rhode Island is expected to not be in the running for billions of dollars in infrastructure, climate resiliency and climate change projects. Many of us believe that this one bill may make the difference in Rhode Island moving ahead or moving back to business as usual.
The hour long symposium brings scholars, agency heads, advocates together to discuss what Rhode Island must do to take advantage of President Joe Biden’s agenda. Many governmental entities take their direction from Federal authority. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, for example, performs functions on the basis of delegated authority from the Feds. And they receive funds and support for their work.
“With Biden’s directives and given the full weight of the Federal government, Rhode Island could benefit significantly from down-stream impacts,” said Rhode Island environmentalist Ken Payne. “But it’s up to us. There is no longer an option of continuing business as usual. Doing business as usual puts us on a trajectory to severely worsening conditions.”
The symposium is directed towards legislators, government leaders, agency and department heads. But President Biden’s executive orders has implications for all levels of government and activists. While the event is focused on Rhode Island, it will be beneficial to folks in every state as Rhode Island can be used as a case study for other states.
Executive Order 14008 in Section 219, for example, elevates environmental justice to the White House level and gives power to State’s attorney generals for taking action. It specifies that the Attorney General, “shall… ensure comprehensive attention to environmental justice throughout the Department of Justice… and coordinate environmental justice activities among Department of Justice components and United States Attorneys’ Offices nationwide.”
“This is not your grand father’s environmental policy directive,” said Paul Roselli, secretary of the Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island and organizer for the April 12th event. “Our goal is to jump start this conversation. We should not underestimate how transformational Climate Federalism will look in 10 years. It’s taken nearly seven years of hard work in moving the Rhode Island legislature to enact the Act on Climate legislation. Biden’s executive orders gives us a small window of opportunity. Waiting or doing nothing is no longer a viable option.”