Providence, Rhode Island - Climate Justice Plan: Creating an Equitable, Low-Carbon, and Climate Resilient Future

Co-created by the Office of Sustainability and the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC) of the City of Providence, Rhode Island, this Climate Justice Plan lays the foundation for socially equitable climate mitigation and adaptation. Providence Mayor Elorza has set a goal for the city to become carbon neutral by 2050, with frontline communities to “lead the charge.” The Plan includes seven key objectives and over 50 mitigation as well as adaptation strategies developed to concurrently achieve carbon neutrality, climate resilience and social climate justice in Providence.

A number of steps were taken to ensure this climate plan supports frontline communities and leads with equity - including: the development of an agreement on a community-centered process; education and training in environmental justice and energy democracy; peer-led interviews of frontline community members; identification of key priorities and concerns based on community interviews; reflection of developed policies and actions back to community members for feedback; and refinement and finalization of policies based on community feedback. This process ensured that those who are most impacted by climate change are included in the design and decision-making process of the Plan’s development and implementation, resulting in solutions that are transformative.  

The Plan is organized in seven sections - Lead by Example, Collaborative Governance and Accountability, Housing and Buildings, Community Health, Local and Regenerative Economy, Clean Energy, and Transportation - all of which incorporate environmental justice concerns addressing issues such as access, equitable policies, anti-displacement, and participatory processes and community empowerment. Each section includes background, objectives, targets to measure and track progress, specific strategies and actions, key stakeholders and decision-makers identified, and implementation timeframe.

Adaptation strategies are found in the following sections:

Lead by Example - referring to actions the City of Providence will take to eliminate all climate pollution from municipal operations by 2040, including:

  • Incorporate community priorities and maximize opportunities for new open space and climate resiliency investments. 
  • Employ community members in the stewardship of green spaces. 
  • Prioritize tree plantings in low-canopy areas where heat island index is high, and residents can experience the cooling (electricity savings), air pollution, and water filtration benefits.
  • Prioritize deep root, native plantings in parks and other public green spaces

Community Health - actions to create conditions for healthy air and community spaces free from pollution, including to:

  • Increase cooling center and water park hours and access and ensure consistency in operations and communication to the public.
  • Support the development of a Green Port Initiative by working with the port-area Green Justice Zone to create a long-term vision and process to address the negative health impacts, eliminate climate and other pollution, ensure the port is resilient to the impacts of climate change, and increases the positive benefit of the port for neighboring communities, workers and businesses. 
  • Create a network of Resilience Hubs - year-round neighborhood centers that are established, trusted, and community-serving (eg. libraries, community and recreation centers) that can serve as emergency shelters or cooling centers. Designed well, Resilience Hubs can equitably enhance community resilience...and should prioritize serving frontline communities.

Collaborative Governance and Accountability - actions to ensure that those most impacted by the climate crisis are centered in the decision-making process for crafting and implementing solutions, including:

  • Establish Green Justice Zones in Frontline Communities that use a collaborative governance achieve health equity, improve quality of life, and climate resilience in frontline communities. Green Justice Zones can include microgrids in critical community spaces and Resiliency Hubs. 
  • Develop a long-term climate resilience and adaptation plan....[ensuring] those most impacted by the impacts of climate change are centered in the process of designing and implementing a plan to prepare the city for the impacts of climate change. 

Providence’s Climate Justice Plan defines an equitable, low-carbon, resilient vision for the future of Providence, “where your race or zip code no longer determines your health or economic outcomes. Where decisions are made collectively to allow those who are most impacted to have the greatest say. Where land stewardship is valued over ownership. Where access to clean water and land is not just a luxury for the wealthy, but a fundamental human right.”


Publication Date: 2019


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Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Plans (other)

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