Resilient Rhode Island Act (2014-H 7904)

On June 19, 2014 both houses of the Rhode Island legislature passed the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014. The Act follows Governor Chafee’e Executive Order creating the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council (February 21, 2014), and provides a framework for state government to adaptively plan for and manage climate change impacts.

The law designates the Resilient Rhode Island and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption Acts to provide a comprehensive and coordinated state response to climate change. It creates a coordinating committee for climate adaptation planning and implementation, supported by the Division of Administration Statewide Planning program. The committee is given the directive to integrate vulnerability assessments developed by state agencies, set goals to reduce climate change impacts on Rhode Island's population, and to advance low impact development and green infrastructure solutions. 

The Act calls for "establishing adaptive management as a basic principle for the management of the natural resources of the state for the benefit of the current and future generation of residents;" and for authorizing the use of green infrastructure and low impact development and the strengthening of ecosystem system services as the preferred means of achieving resilience. 

To mitigate climate change in the state, the legislation calls for state carbon emissions to be gradually cut to 85 percent below their 1990 levels by 2050, which is one of the most drastic proposed reductions in the country. 

The legislation was developed with assistance from a group of students, educators and policy experts based at Brown University who partnered with numerous environmental and planning organizations, and gathered input from coastal stakeholders, state agencies, municipal governments, nonprofit organizations and others. The group, Resilient RI, developed a website which offers more information and background on the initiative.

An analysis on the ResilientRI site summarizes the adaptation measures in this Act:

  • Utilizes the powers of existing government institutions to respond to climate change in a comprehensive, integrated, and dynamic manner. Policies are adjusted and updated according to climate change science through “adaptive management”
  • Protects natural areas and landscape features that buffer changing climatic conditions
  • Integrates climate change adaptation planning into existing plans
  • Updates building code standards to accommodate anticipated change expected during design life
  • Authorizes the use of green infrastructure, low impact development and economic diversification
  • Ensures protection of vulnerable populations like the homeless and the elderly

 

Quoting the state’s Constitution, the bill states:

“(1) Article 1, section 17 of the Rhode Island Constitution secures to the people of the state "their rights to the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of the state with due regard for the preservation of their values;" and requires adoption of "all means necessary and proper by law to protect the natural environment of the people of the state by providing adequate resource planning for the control and regulation of the use of the natural resources of the state and for the preservation, regeneration and restoration of the natural environment of the state"; and that:

(2) Climate change will have an impact on the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of the state and will require new types and levels of effort to secure their preservation, regeneration and restoration. 

 

Publication Date: June 19, 2014

Related Organizations:

  • Brown University Center for Environmental Studies

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  • Laws

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