Climate Jobs RI: Union and environmental leaders commit to net-zero emission economy by 2050

Date: January 29, 2021
Author: Steve Ahlquist

“The Rhode Island AFL-CIO is proud to stand with our friends and allies in the Rhode Island Building Trades and the Environmental movement as we work together to build a green economy in Rhode Island,” stated George Nee, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO.

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO, along with allies in the labor movement, the environmental movement, and elected officials, today launched a campaign announcing a new initiative to transition Rhode Island towards a net-zero emission economy by the year 2050. The initiative is not just about environmental and climate change concerns – it’s also about economic recovery post-covid.

The campaign was announced via a zoom meeting with reporters.

“Historically Rhode Island is last out of recessions, and I think this time we need a more creative and bolder plan,” said State Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown). “This initiative for economic recovery is really founded in Green New Deal principles.”

The initiative, called Climate Jobs Rhode Island, will be co-chaired by Priscilla De La Cruz, the Rhode Island Director of Green Energy Consumers Alliance, and Patrick Crowley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. De La Cruz also serves as the President o ECRI, the Environment Council of Rhode Island. The coalition is committed 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.

The Coalition has ten stated goals, according to their website:

  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 Authorityeliminate 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. [italics mine]
  7. 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.
    • 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 Rhode Island Office of Energy Resourcesincluding 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.