Almost every year since 2008, a quixotic state representative in Rhode Island has introduced the “Climate Solutions Act,” which lays out a series of targets for emissions reductions in the tiny state. Each year, the bill has died in committee.
It wasn’t that Representative Art Handy, a Democrat in a state with about 90 percent of its legislature on the blue side of the aisle, was in the minority party. (Full disclosure: Representative Handy has worked with climate stakeholders across the state, including with Brown University, where I teach.) In fact, Democrats have all but one small row of six seats in the 70-some seat legislature. It wasn’t a hostile committee he had to make it through either—Handy himself chaired the House Environment Committee. And it wasn’t that Rhode Island would be way out in front of other states: Rhode Island’s neighbor Massachusetts passed identical wording to the Rhode Island bill in 2008, establishing a program that with other legislation is credited with lowering the state’s emissions, bringing over a billion dollars in economic benefits, and generating more than 12,000 new jobs. Another neighbor, Connecticut, has also passed climate targets and begun statewide efforts to reduce its emissions.