Resilient Rhody: An Actionable Vision for Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change in Rhode Island
Resilient Rhody is the state of Rhode Island's first climate adaptation strategy which addresses the impacts of climate change to the state’s critical infrastructure and utilities, natural systems (upland and coastal), emergency preparedness, and community health and resilience. Strategic actions are outlined for these four thematic areas, and an additional chapter highlights financing mechanisms for these recommendations. An “action plan to stand up to climate change” was required by Governor Raimondo’s 2017 Executive Order 17-10. The Order appointed a Chief Resilience Officer to manage climate resilience efforts across the state, and develop a climate resilience action strategy to be submitted to the Governor by July 1, 2018.
The first chapter details six of Rhode Island’s primary impacts from climate change, including sea level rise, warming air temperatures, storm frequency and intensity, changing biodiversity, and precipitation and inland flooding. Strikingly, the report states that sea level has risen over 10 inches in Rhode Island since 1930, and the rate of sea level rise in Newport over the past 30 years has exceeded the global average mean for the same period. The current data behind these impacts laid the foundation for working groups to develop the recommended actions across focal sectors.
The four focal areas of the Strategy - critical infrastructure and utilities, natural systems, emergency preparedness, and community health and resilience - are each dedicated a chapter that identifies the priority assets and related climate vulnerabilities, and provides actionable recommendations for advancing adaptation and resilience. Vulnerabilities of each system, as well as Current and Planned Resilience Initiatives are detailed for each of the following:
- Critical infrastructure and utility assets - drinking water systems, wastewater treatment facilities, dams, stormwater infrastructure, ports, electric grid, fuel supply; roads, bridges and culverts; and public transportation
- Natural systems - coastal wetlands, beaches and barriers, forests, water resources (rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, wetlands)
- Emergency Preparedness - evacuation shelters and routes, building design and construction
- Community resilience - schools, housing, and additional examples of local community resilience planning
Six principles guided the strategic actions developed for Resilient Rhody - one of which focuses on equity - ‘Equitably reduce the burden of climate change impacts with particular attention to environmental justice communities across the state.’ The strategy addresses amplified impacts on vulnerable communities and in particular increasing heat. The plan recommends expanding the state’s Low Income Home Assistance Program to help eligible residents pay for their air conditioning.
Near-term Strategic Actions are identified for each of these focal areas and assets. A complete list of actions and initiatives is included at the end of the report also, which will serve as the framework for implementation.
The final chapter on Financing describes some barriers to paying for climate resilient projects, and opportunities through existing climate financing mechanisms (such as state revolving funds and mitigation banking), and new and emerging financing mechanisms (such as environmental impact bonds and stormwater utilities).
Resilient Rhody is a collective effort of 51 working group members from 13 state agencies and eight statewide organizations. The working group held 10 resilience roundtable conversations across the state in partnership with numerous stakeholder groups and municipalities, including numerous statewide environmental organizations. Rhode Island’s Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council will provide continued leadership and staff resources for implementation.
Publication Date: July 2, 2018
- State of Rhode Island
- Rhode Island Climate Change Commission
- Biodiversity and ecosystems
- Emergency preparedness
- Land use and built environment
- Frontline Communities
- Water infrastructure
- Adaptation plan