“21 out of 39 Rhode Island communities are coastal,” said Governor Gina Raimondo to a packed room at the State House. “So as the Ocean State, with 400 miles of coastline, we are uniquely vulnerable to challenges of climate change. Rising sea waters, warmer waters – I mean, it’s sad to be here in the weeks and days after Irma and Harvey but it is just, again, a reminder of how urgent this problem is.
“That’s what today is about: To think about what steps we can take to build our resiliency.”
Raimondo signed an executive order establishing, “a Chief Resiliency Officer to drive climate resiliency efforts across the state, both in government and in collaboration with business, academic and nonprofit partners.” She placed Sean O’Rourke, director of Stormwater Resiliency at the Infrastructure Bank, in the new position.
O’Rourke is tasked with working with the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council in developing a statewide action plan to “Stand Up to Climate Change” and submit the plan to the Governor by July 1, 2018.
According to the executive order, “The Plan shall recommend key actions to make Rhode Island’s residents, economy, infrastructure, health system, and natural resources more resilient to the impacts of climate change” and “the Plan shall identify and prioritize actions to enhance the state’s resiliency to climate change.”
There is also a new resiliency website located at climatechange.ri.gov
“Given the recent events of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we know that there’s absolutely a lot of work to do, and now is the time to turn all the planning into action,” said O’Rourke. Citing the work on projects he’s done with the Infrastructure Bank in financing climate adaptation and green infrastructure projects, O’Rourke said, “We’re committed to building on this work with partners across the state, not just the public sector but for businesses and homeowners as well. All with the goal of boosting our economy and protecting our environment across the state…
“This work, and listening to municipal officials, local organizations and business leaders from across the state I’ve consistently heard that flood mitigation and green infrastructure are priority infrastructure investments that we want to make locally. This is a signal that now is the time to act.”
Governor Raimondo recognized that a diverse set of people and organizations will be needed to tackle this problem. “I need the federal government to do it’s part,” said the Governor. “URI is going to be involved, quasi-state agencies, communities, Save the Bay, advocates, this is an opportunity to come up with a resiliency plan to position our state with strength for the future of climate change challenges that are coming.”
The entirety of Rhode Island’s Washington delegation attended and spoke at the event. Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (and member of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) tasked with ruling on Invenergy‘s application to build a $1 billion dollar fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the heart of Burrillville) emceed the event. One of Coit’s fellow EFSB boardmembers, Parag Agrawal, was also in attendance.
Announced at the event was a September 26 Infrastructure Summit and a series of community round tables beginning on Wednesday, September 27 at 5pm at Save the Bay in Providence.
Here’s the full video: