Bill would hold Rhode Island government accountable for net-zero emissions by 2050


Rhode Island is one step closer to enacting legislation that will hold the state’s government legally accountable for meeting a net-zero emissions by 2050 mandate, as well as interim targets along the way.

The 2021 Act on Climate bill passed the House by a 53-to-22 vote and will now be reconciled with a Senate version of the bill. Once work is finalized, the reconciled bill will be sent to Gov. Dan McKee. It is unclear where McKee stands on the legislation, though his office told local press that he “looks forward to reviewing this legislation.”

The Act on Climate bill would would build on the 2014 Resilient Rhode Island Act, the first statewide plan to cut emissions. That bill required emissions levels to drop 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2040 with a goal of achieving net-zero by 2050.

A plan to meet those goals and address other public health and environmental issues is required by the end of 2025, with additional updates in five year intervals after that.

Developing the plan and implementing strategies to achieve it are tasked to the Rhode Island executive climate change coordinating council, a body comprised of officials from state agencies with responsibility to assess, integrate, and coordinate climate change efforts.

Of the 22 legislators that voted against the Act on Climate bill, the overarching objection was a mandate for Rhode Island homes to be retrofitted with electric heat. One representative argued that this would cost $50,000-$100,000 per home, although a state report estimated that the cost of an electric heat pump and ductwork required to electrify a home would be closer to $5,000.

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