Green New Deal Resolutions Generate Little Reaction in General Assembly

Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Green New Deal resolutions have been received with little fanfare or criticism as they make their way through the General Assembly.

Advocates are promoting the resolutions as a concept rather than a list of mandates and as a guide for how to prepare the state for the ever-growing harm inflicted by climate change.

In fact, the resolutions (H5665 and S695) ask the state to simply receive a report from the independent Rhode Island Green New Deal Research Council. Its dozen members represent economic sectors such as fishing and farming and experts in climate research, health, energy, and social justice.

The findings may not overlap with the national Green New Deal platform that considers larger issues such as universal health care and universal basic income. Instead, the Rhode Island report will likely offer aspirational objectives that call for greater outreach to stakeholders to address issues regarding the environment, equity, and the economy.

Michael Roles, project manager for the Green New Deal Research Council, focused on the economic benefits to Rhode Island, which he noted has the highest poverty rate in New England.

“Proposed fixes over the last few decades have not worked, and a Rhode Island Green New Deal created by all Rhode Islanders who come to the table could be the answer,” Roles said at the April 10 Senate committee hearing.

Ken Payne, former director of the Office of Energy Resources and a member of the Green New Deal Research Council, touted Rhode Island’s surge in clean energy jobs.

“That’s the Green New Deal,” Payne said. “Investing in bringing down carbon emissions and growing the economy simultaneously.”

Legislative support for the resolution, Roles said, isn’t a vote for the Green New Deal, but rather a first step toward community engagement.

The Green New Deal Research Council is closely affiliated with the Sunrise RI activist group and its efforts with Brown University. Brown University students are participating in the initiative through the school’s Climate Development Lab. The project is funded through Brown and private donors.

Although few members of Sunrise RI attended the recent hearing, one of its youngest members, Sarah LeClair, 15, of North Providence, delivered the immediacy of the youth-driven movement by wearing a T-shirt that read “12 Years,” which some climate experts maintain is the time remaining to significantly cut carbon emissions and avoid climate calamity.

“We can fail to take responsibility for our actions and leave behind a paradise degraded and destroyed,” LeClair said, “or we can turn this all around and we can start right now.”

There were no comments or questions from Senate committee members. Both resolutions have been held until future hearing dates.

Nationally, the Sunrise Movement is launching a series of 550 political rallies and town hall meetings in support of the Green New Deal. After receiving positive media attention, the Green New Deal has endured a wave of negative propaganda from the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, Fox News and their representatives in Congress.

Lauran Maunus, a local Sunrise RI organizer, noted that the polls show a majority of Americans still support the Green New Deal.

“What Sunrise is really trying to do is counter that message with the truth of the Green New Deal,” Maunus said.

The tour kicks off April 18 at the Strand Theater in Boston. Speakers include Sen. Edwin Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Ayanna Pressely, D-Mass.