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Chafee forms Executive Climate Change Council

Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17 signed an executive order Friday creating the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council.

The newly formed council is charged with coordinating state environmental initiatives and advising Rhode Islanders and policymakers on how to combat the effects of climate change.

Though Rhode Island agencies have been successful in working individually on climate change initiatives, the council “will provide a platform to coordinate these activities,” said Grover Fugate, executive director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The council will be headed by Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and will comprise leaders from the Coastal Resources Management Council and the Office of Energy Resources, as well as other state agencies such as the Department of Health and the Department of Transportation.

“Rhode Island must act boldly to position the state as a national leader in climate adaptation with a comprehensive approach,” Chafee said, according to the release.

Chafee also said he hopes the formation of the council will spur economic growth by attracting green energy business and “socially responsible companies” to the state, WPRO reported.

The announcement took place at the West Warwick Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility. Chafee was joined by state environmental leaders and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., co-chair of Congress’s bicameral Task Force on Climate Change.

“Rhode Island is already seeing the effects of climate change through coastal erosion, higher risk from storm surge and shifting seasons,” Whitehouse said, according to the press release.

In the past 50 years, the surface temperature of Narragansett Bay has risen by four degrees, and the number of days with temperatures above 90 degrees has doubled. Newport’s sea level has also risen nearly 10 inches since 1930, with projections estimating a further rise of at least three feet by 2100, according to the executive order.

In his annual State of the State address delivered last month, Chafee said his administration has prioritized state environmental efforts and will continue to encourage green energy initiatives such as the adoption of hydropower and wind energy sources, The Herald reported at the time.

Though he will not be seeking reelection, Chafee is hopeful that his successor will embrace and maintain the new council, WPRO reported.

The council is set to submit its first report with recommendations for further action to the governor’s office by May 1, with subsequent annual reports due each May, according to the executive order.


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