Climate Jobs Rhode Island

The 2020 election results in Rhode Island demonstrated a growing sentiment among voters for a stronger focus on moving the state towards a Green Economy. In the weeks after the election conversations occurred between labor, environmental, and political leaders across the state, and the Climate Jobs Rhode Island (CJRI) group was formed.

The members of CJRI agree to join forces to establish a Just Transition to a Green Economy in Rhode Island. We commit to working together to make Rhode Island a national leader in the development of a 21st Century economy grounded in the principles of economic, environmental, racial, and social justice.

Though Rhode Island is already a national leader in energy efficiency, we cannot let another generation of young people down by continuing to wait to take bold action, nor can we afford to let the Covid-19 recession hold us back toward reaching our goals.

Our Principles

  1. Establish science-based mandatory and enforceable emissions limits leading to economy-wide 100% net-zero emissions by 2050, with significant, measurable progress before 2030.
  2. Establish state-wide, cost-effective investment in community resiliency (e.g., protecting wastewater treatment plants from rising sea levels) to protect against the effects of climate change and equitably share costs, benefits, and risks.
  3. Maximize family-sustaining job growth through the creation and maintenance of good, well-paying union jobs and apprenticeship programs, and create defined career pathways for current workers in the fuel industry.
  4. Prioritize solutions developed by underserved communities overburdened by pollution and follow the lead of frontline communities (e.g., low-income communities, senior Rhode Islanders, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) disproportionately affected by environmental injustice in the transition to a Green Economy.

Our Goals

1. Institutionalize the concept of a Just Transition within all governmental agencies of the State of Rhode Island with a legislative mandate requiring the inclusion of the voices of stakeholders in the labor movement, the environmental movement, the racial justice movement, along with voices of private industry, to ensure adequate progress towards reaching the goals stated in the Act on Climate, mindful of the shared principles above.

2. identify and remove any unnecessary and counterproductive administrative and/or legislative barriers prohibiting or restricting the smooth flow of public financing available for infrastructure projects that will create resilient communities and enhance the goal of establishing a Rhode Island economy with 100% net-zero emissions by 2050, with significant, measurable progress in the years before 2030.

3. Retrofit all Rhode Island public schools to reach 100% net-zero emissions by 2050, with significant, measurable progress in the years before 2030.

4. Retrofit all public buildings and buildings supported by public spending with clean energy heating systems to reach 100% net-zero emissions by 2050, with significant, measurable progress in the years before 2030. The healthcare sector (e.g., group homes, nursing homes, non-profit hospitals) should also be required to immediately begin reducing fossil fuel-based energy consumption by transitioning to renewable energy sources.

5. Install solar-energy systems on every appropriate publicly owned building, including municipal and K-12 school buildings and public higher education buildings, by 2050, with significant, measurable progress in the years before 2030.

6. Expand the services of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, eliminate all customer fares, and establish a comprehensive transportation and mobility network. We call for implementing a plan to transition RIPTA’s fleet to a zero-net emission system and expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Rhode Island should immediately begin work to achieve the goals in the Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) by the Division of Statewide Planning and the Governor’s Clean Transportation and Mobility Innovation Working Group.

7. Continue to support the environmentally-sound expansion of the off-shore wind industry and the solar-power industry making Rhode Island the nation’s hub for wind and solar energy development and manufacturing by creating and/or updating industry-based incentive structures. Rhode Island should immediately begin work to achieve the recommendations in the report The Road to 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030 by the RI Office of Energy Resources including a 100% Renewable Energy Standard and the extension of the energy efficiency statute.

8. Incorporate clean, renewable energy and environmental awareness education programs in every public school in Rhode Island, developing a pipeline of talented workers at every level of work, including the next generation of professional and technical workers, to help meet Rhode Island’s Green Economy goals.

9. Increase support for registered apprenticeship training systems that create family-sustaining career opportunities for low-income community members and people of color in existing and Green Economy industries.

10. We need a shared and sustained commitment to funding our future. Therefore, we call for:

-The preparation of a report detailing the project costs for transitioning Rhode Island to a Green Economy, including the cost of inaction, and;

-The passage of the climate change and environmental protection bond on the March 2, 2021 ballot and for similar measures to be placed before the voters during the 2022 and 2024 election cycles, and;

-The streamlining and increased transparency of bond-funded projects and for a sustainable source of funding for a transition to the Green Economy beyond the funding provided through bond measures to meet the goals expressed in this website.

What is Just Transition?

A Just Transition to a net-zero emission economy centers on racial & social justice and the voices of the people who are most affected by pollution—frontline workers and frontline communities. A Just Transition must contain strong labor standards, including protections for family-supporting and sustaining wages and benefits, procurement transparency, and strong industry training standards

Shared Learning Opportunities

To maximize effectiveness, the members of Climate Jobs Rhode Island commit to working together to deepen our understanding of each other’s positions, goals, and mission.

We will establish opportunities for each other to learn about each other’s values, operational philosophies, and priorities.

We will pursue a common legislative and policy agenda aiming to reach these goals in a reasonable timeframe.

Moving Forward Together

While we agree a Just Transition to a net-zero emission economy is our collective goal, there will be times when the members of Climate Jobs Rhode Island will disagree about necessary next steps. We commit to continue to discuss a practical Just Transition that must ensure a secure energy future for Rhode Island.

We believe our plan represents a down payment on what it will take for generations of Rhode Islanders in the years and decades to come to continue to enjoy the benefits of a healthy environment and a strong economy with good-paying jobs serving the cause of protecting our friends and neighbors from the ravishes of climate change and establishing our state as an example for others to follow in creating a Green Economy.

*The United Nations Environment Programme defines a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low-carbon, resource-efficient, and socially inclusive.

Coalition Members:

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO

The Acadia Center

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island

Clean Water Action

Fuerza Laboral

Green Energy Consumers Alliance

Groundworks RI

The Nature Conservancy

NEARI

The Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council

Rhode Island Environmental Education Association

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner

RICOSH

SEIU District 1199NE

State Representative David Bennett, Chairperson, House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources

State Senator Dawn Euer, Chairperson, Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture

State Senator Meghan Kallman, Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources

Teamster Local 251