Towards a Resilient Rhode Island:

Responding to climate change with leadership, innovation, and economic development

Cities and Towns

While the fight against climate change needs to take place a state, national, and international level, ultimately the battle will be won in individual communities. Large-scale policies can make a big impact, but only if they are matched by grassroots efforts and behavioral change. Similarly, while climate change is an international problem, it will affect each community differently, and so many responses must come from within each neighborhood, town, and city. Local government will need to play a critical role in any successful effort to create a sustainable and resilient future for Rhode Island.

Transportation systems will be one of the main concerns for Rhode Island’s communities in regards to climate change. Sea level rise threatens to flood some of Rhode Island’s transportation infrastructure, including port facilities, access roads, bridges, railroad tracks, airports, and bike paths, especially in Rhode Island’s many coastal communities. The increased frequency of extreme storms associated with climate change will threaten transportation systems in all communities, not only coastal ones. The experience of West Warwick during the floods of 2010 illustrate the threat that extreme weather can pose for Rhode Island’s towns and cities. In addition, the transportation systems of our cities and towns can play an important role in mitigating future climate change. By making our neighborhoods more walkable and bike-friendly, we can not only improve quality of life within our communities, but also help keep our world healthy. The Resilient Rhode Island Act will make working with cities and towns to create sustainable and resilient transportation infrastructure a major state government priority.

The Resilient Rhode Island Act will also give new discretion to the Department of Statewide Planning to work with municipalities the create more resilient infrastructure throughout the state. This collaboration between state and local governments will allow for coordinated statewide response and individual innovation in communities. This will be complemented by a new Resilient Rhode Island Secretariat in the state government — a funded group of dedicated staff members in five to seven key departments. Many innovative solutions to climate change are already being pursued in Rhode Island and increased communication between and within communities will help to bring all of those efforts together. The Resilient Rhode Island Act makes our states’ cities and towns one of the main focuses of the legislation because of their pivotal role in making a sustainable and resilient future for Rhode Island.