Climate Justice PVD
Climate change is happening now and Providence is one of many U.S. cities stepping up and committing to ambitious climate-change action plans. Mayor Elorza has set a goal for the city to become completely carbon neutral by 2050. This means that by the year 2050, there will be no harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2) coming from energy consumed in homes, schools, office buildings, hospitals, cars, buses, or any other activity in Providence that causes climate pollution. In other words, Providence will transition away from all fossil fuels by 2050. To reach this goal, Providence must focus on buildings and transportation sectors, which together account for over 95% of the city’s GHG emissions.
Climate Justice and the Just Transition Framework
Climate change does not affect all people equally. Almost anywhere you find polluting fossil fuel industries, you’ll find indigenous and low-income communities of color. These frontline communities contribute the least to the problem, yet are suffering the most. The City of Providence has committed to centering our climate and sustainability work around these communities. They are closest to the issues and are essential to finding the solutions. The Racial and Environmental Justice Committee was established in 2016 to help bring a racial equity lens to the Office of Sustainability. They crafted, and the Office of Sustainability adopted, the Just Providence Framework in 2017 and will be using it to guide this work.
WATCH: Fossil Fuels & Climate Change 101
~ 70% of Providence’s GHG emissions come from buildings
Energy used for heating, cooling, lighting, powering appliances, cooking, and industrial processes carried out in buildings creates a high demand for electricity, natural gas, and fuel oil, which in turn causes more GHGs to be pumped into the atmosphere.
Two key strategies that can help bring GHG emissions from Providence’s building sector down to zero by 2050 are making buildings more energy efficient and implementing alternative clean energy options like electrified heat pumps and solar power.
~ 30% of Providence GHG emissions come from transportation
Over 90% of Providence’s transportation emissions come from diesel and gasoline. To become carbon free by 2050, Providence needs cleaner, more efficient options like electric vehicles (EV) and public transit, as well as carbon-free options like walking and biking.
The state is investing in EVs via a pilot program to add up to 20 electric RIPTA buses in the next few years, as well as additional EV infrastructure. The City is also making significant strides in bicycle infrastructure with a new JUMP electric-assist bike share program coming Fall 2018 and increasing investments in bike lanes.
Providence’s heating & electricity supply must become virtually carbon-free
Even though RI state law requires energy suppliers to get 38.5% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035, Rhode Island currently generates 90% of its electricity from natural gas, which is more than any other state.
Providence will only be able to meet its target if renewable energy is accessible for all. This includes electricity options, like solar, as well as alternatives to natural gas and fuel oil for heating, like air source heat pumps. Helping communities have more control over their energy sourcing options and exploring alternative financing and business models, like energy cooperatives and community choice aggregation, are also necessary to becoming #CarbonFreePVD by 2050.
Waste and waste water also contribute to GHG emissions
Recycling and composting are important waste reduction strategies, but consumption, or the carbon footprint of the food and goods we buy, is difficult to calculate and is not captured in City’s GHG inventory. Reducing excessive consumption and shifting to a local, low carbon diet, is critical to addressing the global climate crisis.
In July 2018, Providence’s monthly recycling rate hit 14%, the highest it’s been since April 2013. The City continues to focus on increasing curbside recycling, along with other waste reduction strategies, such as composting, reducing consumption, and promoting the reuse and up-cycling of goods.