Rhode Island 2021 Act on Climate

On April 10, 2021, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed the Rhode Island 2021 Act on Climate into law, amending the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 by making mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets more enforceable, adding a goal of net-zero by 2050, and requiring actions to promote equity and environmental justice. The new law requires the state Climate Council — established by the 2014 bill — to develop and periodically update a plan to reach these goals. New language also requires the state Council’s plan to include an equitable transition, and address environmental injustices. 

The 2014 Act charged the state Climate Council with understanding and advising Rhode Island on climate issues related to resilience, such as coastline changes and sustainability, and with developing a state plan to address climate change. The 2021 Climate Act renews this mandate, and updates the responsibilities of the Council to reflect a more current understanding of the needs of Rhode Island in the face of climate change. 

The 2021 Act on Climate requires the state Climate Council to craft a new climate change mitigation plan, this time with environmental justice provisions including:

  • An equitable transition for environmental justice populations; 
  • Redress of past and present inequities;
  • A procedure by which the most vulnerable and at-risk populations can influence the plan’s development; and 
  • Workforce transition support to recruit and train workers for the job paradigm shift.

The 2021 Act also expands the requirements for agency vulnerability assessments to include natural systems like riverine and coastal habitats, and mandates implementation of adaptation, relocation, or otherwise protections strategies for those systems. Agencies must also begin to incorporate food sustainability into policies, identify populations most vulnerable to climate change, and develop online public emissions metrics. The law gives state agencies the authority and the mandate to promote the above goals and the GHG reductions.

Notably, the 2021 Act increases government accountability by granting a citizen right of action lawsuit provision in the State Superior Court to enforce the climate plans and GHG emissions reductions required by the Act. Suits can begin in 2026, and require notice to the state. Any Rhode Island citizen, including the Attorney General, can bring such a suit.

Publication Date: April 10, 2021

Related Organizations:

  • State of Rhode Island

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  • Laws
  • Legislation

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