PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island state leaders on Thursday accepted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that some climate groups think needs to go further.
The state Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council, known as the EC4, accepted the final draft of a plan at a meeting in Providence. The EC4 brings together various state agencies. The plan it released Thursday outlines steps like incentivizing electric cars and heat pumps, improving public transit, and procuring more wind power — some of which is already taking place, but some of which would consist of new initiatives.
Some in the audience, though, said they believed the plan did not do enough to get the state to meet its binding carbon reduction targets.
“To me, this document is incomplete,” said Larry Chretien, executive director of the Green Energy Consumers Alliance. Emphasizing the need for urgency, Chretien added later: “We’re running out of time, is what it comes down to.”
The state’s electric vehicle incentive program, Chretien’s organization pointed out, would still leave it far short of the estimated 86,000 needed by 2030 to meet its targets. And a plan to increase renewable energy in heating people’s homes, while laudable, needs more urgency, Chretien’s organization said. Even the EC4 itself, Chretien said, is underfunded.
He was not alone in raising concerns: Though several groups testified about the things they liked in the plan, they also suggested ways it could go further.
State leaders didn’t quite push back on the urgent calls to do even more to address climate change. Some of that work was listed in detail in the report, said Department of Environmental Management Director Terry Gray. Some of it was just framed out, and would continue to be developed in the years ahead.
“We still, like you’ve heard, have a lot of work to do,” Gray, who chairs the EC4, said Thursday.
Under the Act on Climate of 2021, the state must reach 45 percent below 1990′s carbon emissions by 2030, 80 percent below by 2040, and reach net-zero by 2050.
The final draft of the state’s plans to help get there, which is an update on one that came out in 2016, can be viewed online. The draft that the EC4 voted to accept Thursday may have some minor technical adjustments before it’s sent to Governor Dan McKee and legislative leaders.
The EC4 released a draft of the report last week, and it has since gone through some changes.
One significant change from the last draft: An original version of the report said that it was not possible to fully implement the state’s transit master plan and bike mobility plan, which are lists of major investments in ways of getting around the state by bus, train, and, for the bike mobility plan, bike. Climate and transportation activists had zeroed in on that statement, insisting that it was possible — if there was enough political will. The statement about it not being possible to implement did not make it into the final draft.
The latest draft does not, however, say the state should commit to fully funding those plans; instead it says that the state should look to those plans “as resources are available.”
John Flaherty, deputy director of the anti-sprawl organization Grow Smart RI, said there was “no evidence the state is serious about implementing the transit master plan.”
“The suggestion in the report that we may have to cherrypick a few items here or there is concerning to me, for a lot of reasons,” Flaherty said.
According to modeling included in the report, the state is on track to miss the 2030 climate reduction target even if certain steps are taken to reduce climate emissions. State leaders have emphasized that the state, while not on target, is headed in the right direction. But to some climate activists, more needs to be done.
“We need to be planning to reach these reductions today so we have time to actually reach them,” said Christian Roselund, a Providence-based policy analyst.
He added later: “What is missing, unfortunately, is often the political will.”