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Providence becomes "America’s First Climate Jobs City"
The City Council and Mayor Smiley commit to climate policy goals and programs aimed at combatting climate change and building resiliency.
The Providence City Council last night approved a resolution to establish Providence as America’s First Climate Jobs City. The resolution commits the City to a series of policy goals and programs, including:
Just Transition – inclusion of stakeholders from labor, environmental, and racial justice movements, residents, and private industry in the decision-making process;
Workforce Development – investing in carbon-neutral and climate-friendly infrastructure; integrating prevailing wage, project labor, labor peace, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship utilization;
Resilience, Adaptation, and Emergency Preparedness – removing unnecessary administrative and legislative barriers obstructing the creation of resilient PVD neighborhoods; maintaining language-appropriate preparedness education programs and emergency alert systems in the face of flooding and extreme heat events;
Building Decarbonization – decarbonizing and retrofitting buildings to eliminate emissions and create healthy environments by 2050, with measurable progress by 2030;
Renewable Energy – facilitating the switch to a 100% clean energy supply by 2033
Mobility – encouraging transit-oriented development;
Climate Literacy and Environmental Education – infusing clean, renewable energy and environmental awareness education programs in all PVD public schools, charter schools, and mayoral academies;
Green Infrastructure – increase equitable neighborhood access to green infrastructure and spaces;
Healthy Neighborhoods – ensuring equal access to open and recreational spaces that are free from air, water, and soil pollution; increasing availability of qualified cooling centers and increasing access to public pools and urban forests; and,
Implementation – working with Climate Jobs RI and other stakeholders to identify federal funding programs; establishing a regular reporting system on progress.
“This resolution affirms our commitment to meeting our science-based climate goals and implementing our nation-leading climate justice plan, and in so doing, creating a strong commitment to creating good family-sustaining jobs for the residents of our great city,” said Providence City Councilmember Sue Anderbois (Ward 3) who shepherded the resolution through the council process. “This resolution lays out goals related to a just transition, workforce development building, decarbonization, green infrastructure, and so much more. For me, this is about laying the groundwork and foundation for a lot of big work to come over the next three and a quarter years.
“When I get worried about the climate emergency we're in, which, I'm going to be honest with you is all the time, I like to think that we are actually living through the worst of it right in this moment,” continued Councilmember Anderbois. “There's racial inequality, income disparities, polluted air, and leaky buildings. We're burning unsafe chemicals in our homes. We've created sacrifice zones of pollution in some of our neighborhoods. We can, however, build a new future and how we build it is just as important as what we build. That's what it means to be a climate job city. And the example we'll show to the rest of the country will speak volumes.”
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The policy goals set forth in the resolution have the support of Providence Mayor Brett Smiley. "On behalf of the mayor, I would like to stress that it is possible to move our city towards clean energy and climate resiliency while preparing the workforce of today, the workforce of tomorrow to be active partners in this new green economy," said Priscilla De La Cruz, the administration’s Director of Sustainability.
We talk a lot about climate change,” said Providence City Council President Rachel Miller (Ward 13). “We've seen the very strong impacts of climate change in the last few weeks. We feel those impacts in our city every day. We have some of the highest childhood asthma rates in the country. These aren't new statistics. We have air pollution. We know there are pollutants in our water systems as well - and the carbon that we contribute today is impacting us for generations. This is emergent work. It's necessary work. It's work that we cannot do by ourselves just in the city council chambers. And it's work that we cannot do by ourselves just in the city.”
A cornerstone of the plan is the creation of good union jobs.
"Providence is setting the example for the rest of the country as it maps out a true Just Transition that honors the rights of working-class people and frontline communities,” said Climate Jobs Rhode Island Policy Director Michael Roles. “We look forward to collaborating with the City to implement a transition that centers the expertise and lived experiences of workers and people living on the frontlines.”
“As the first Climate Jobs City in America, Providence will show the rest of the country what it looks like to enact climate policies that are built in strong collaboration with labor, community, industry, and government,” said Patrick Crowley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. “A truly Just Transition ensures that robust climate action includes the voices of working people and expands access to the good-paying green jobs for all."
“This resolution sets the framework and I'm really excited as the chair of the special committee on the environment and resilience to work to implement the climate justice plan,” said Councilmember Anderbois. “We're already looking at how we're going to decarbonize the municipal buildings in the City of Providence. Expect that next. Our special committee just passed the Building Energy Reporting ordinance on Monday, so expect that to come before the full council soon.”
The Comprehensive Plan
Every ten years, the City of Providence updates its Comprehensive Plan, an urban planning policy document that guides growth and development in Providence. In order to succeed, the Comprehensive Plan must be in alignment with the Climate Jobs resolution.
“We heard a presentation on Monday night from the Department of Sustainability on some work that they've done to map out the zoning changes and changes to the comprehensive plan that are necessary to implement the climate justice plan,” said Councilmember Anderbois. “I'm excited to advocate to make those changes in the comprehensive plan, which then affects zoning and land use in the city. As President Miller said, we can't have a just transition without more deep democracy, without commitments to our workers, and without addressing climate change. They all work together as a unit. We couldn't cut one of those bullets out and have this work. I'm excited about the totality of the work, thinking about it like a system, and moving forward our goals in that way.”
“There's a huge opportunity to not just make sure that our schools are incredible 21st-century places for our students, but also are giving back to the neighborhood, giving back to the city, and healthy places for our students, teachers, and parents to be,” said Council President Miller, adding that schools should be “built in a way that is helping to create jobs for community residents. That's what we're talking about when we talk about things being interconnected.
As for the Comprehensive Plan, “We are working right now on an update of the next 10 years for the comprehensive plan. Climate resiliency is a huge part of that. We're not talking about separate resolutions, separate items. We're talking about being able to build the links between the climate and economy into the work that we do here on the council.”