Providence Ramps Up Cuts to Greenhouse-Gas Emissions

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The city wants to be carbon neutral by 2050, and it needs a plan to get there.

Mayor Jorge Elorza recently signed an executive order to start the planning process for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change such as heat, flooding and extreme weather.

“We’re as vulnerable to climate change as anyone is,” Elorza said during the Earth Day ceremony at City Hall.

The goal of the project is to protect the city’s economy, infrastructure, and public health and safety. In particular, Elorza wants to prepare for natural disasters that threaten the city’s vulnerable industrial port and nearby neighborhoods.

“There’s eventually going to be a natural disaster in our region,” he said.

Immediate actions include conducting an inventory of greenhouse-gas emissions, setting short-term emission-reduction targets, and including climate-change adaptation in neighborhood plans. Improving the city’s recycling rate and installing energy-efficient boilers in city-owned buildings will begin right away, the mayor said.

The greenhouse-gas inventory will measure emissions from transportation, waste and energy consumption from residents, businesses and city functions.

The April 22 executive order makes sure all city operations and boards and commissions consider climate impacts in their work. Food security, environmental justice and housing will be addressed.

The initiative also begins discussions with property owners about cutting energy use and preparing buildings for climate impacts. Collaboration with neighboring cities and towns will be encouraged.

These actions, Elorza said, will serve as examples for residents and the private sector to follow, as well as attract renewable-energy businesses such as General Electric, which opened a staging area at the port for the turbines used in the Block Island Wind Farm.

“There’s an economic case for this (plan) to be made as well,” Elorza said.

The projects are expected to save the city and taxpayers money and, in the case of renewable-energy projects, provide a source of income. Funding for some of the planning is expected through the Department of Energy.

Short- and long-term strategies build on previous plans such as the city’s Sustainable Providence plan from 2014, which addresses waste, food, transportation, water, energy and planning.

The city climate plan will also follow goals outlined in the Compact of Mayors global initiative that sets benchmarks for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and improving adaptation efforts. Providence signed the compact in 2015. In Massachusetts, Boston, Cambridge, New Bedford, Northampton, Salem and Somerville have joined the global initiative. Bridgeport is the only city in Connecticut to join.

The Providence plan will draw on health and social justice recommendations in the state 2015 Climate Change and Health Resiliency Report and meet the state goal of cutting greenhouse gases by 85 percent by 2050.

The climate project will be managed through the city’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force and the Office of Sustainability.