Acadia Center joins the millions of Americans outraged and saddened by the unending violence directed at people of color in this country. The brutal, callous murder of George Floyd – like so many others before him — must cause us all to meaningfully confront the endemic racism and inequalities that pervade our institutions and culture.
Acadia Center is committed to fully participate and act with many partner groups and stakeholders. Our mission to build a clean energy future rises from a recognition that no solution is valid unless it contributes in a meaningful way to improving the lives of everyone, particularly those shut out and unfairly treated in our housing, employment, fiscal policy, health care, environmental protection, legal system, law enforcement and other areas.
Meaningfully tackling the climate crisis requires confronting systemic racism in this country and around the world. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable, clean energy future. That includes fully recognizing that the infrastructure our society has built – from large scale power plants, to highway routes, truck depots, refineries — overwhelmingly impact people of color and low-income communities.
As a staff dedicated to change, reform and improvement, we offer with humbleness but determination our dedication to stand with all communities and organizations advocating for racial and environmental justice to effect change. The promise of any civil society will only be realized when all have equal ability to live their lives with full human dignity.
“It’s up to all of us — Black, white, everyone — no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.” -Michelle Obama
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza had powerful words about the role equity must play in climate work when the city released its Climate Justice Plan in late October.
“Despite being one of the three pillars of sustainability, equity is often an afterthought when it comes to climate action planning,” Elorza wrote in the plan’s introduction. “In creating this plan, we chose to lead with equity and partnered with those who are most impacted by the climate crisis and other environmental injustices.”
Acadia Center is proud to have supported Providence and its Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC) in developing a plan that charts an equitable, low-carbon, climate-resilient future for residents.
Overall, the Climate Justice Plan is built around carbon-reduction targets in two key sectors – buildings and transportation – and a complete transition to carbon-free electricity sources like solar and wind. Acadia Center developed those targets in a two-step process. First, analysts in our CLEAN Center projected the city’s emissions out to 2050 assuming no new climate action and taking into account existing technologies and trends. Next, Acadia Center built another scenario to put Providence on track for at least an 80% greenhouse gas emissions reduction — and carbon neutrality — by 2050. Figure 1 below shows the emissions reduction trajectory by sector.
In addition to recommending targets, Acadia Center supported the REJC’s development of approaches to achieve deep reductions in carbon emissions and local air pollution to improve community health. The policies listed below are among those that will help Providence reach the necessary emission reductions.
2035 Interim Target
90% of residential heating and 85% of commercial heating converted to high-efficiency electric heat pumps
48% residential and 45% commercial heating converted to heat pumps
• Increasing energy efficiency program participation and total energy savings for low-income residents
• Passing a Building Energy Reporting Ordinance requiring large building owners to report energy use and emissions to the city
• Launching a formal stakeholder process to explore mandatory emissions reductions for large buildings
2035 Interim Target
20% reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled in Providence; 80% of VMTs in Providence electrified
11% reduction in VMTs in Providence; 43% of VMTs electrified
• Investing in cleaner, more accessible public transit through electrification of RIPTA, prioritizing routes in communities of color
• Converting 100% of the city’s vehicle and school bus fleets to renewable vehicles
2035 Interim Target
100% of electricity is carbon-free
50% of electricity is carbon-free
• Implementing a community choice aggregation
program that prioritizes local renewable energy
sources and includes principles of energy democracy
• Increasing access to renewable energy for
frontline communities via community solar
• Exploring the use of municipal buildings to
support a community solar project for low-income
residents and renters
Figure 2 below shows that the three sectors contributing the most to the city’s overall GHG emissions reductions in 2050 are clean electricity (44%), fuel switching to heat pumps (25%), and penetration of electric vehicles (22%). Eliminating energy waste through energy efficiency and reducing reliance on vehicles are also contributors.
Much hard work remains to put the plan into action. In addition to carbon reduction strategies, it calls for systems-level changes in the city’s governance structure and economic system and assurance that frontline communities will not be displaced as Providence becomes climate-ready.
Pol Tavarez, a member of the REJC, told The Providence Journal, “I have faith that this report is really the first step in community members coming together to recognize their influence and their power to reach these objectives.”
Visit Providence’s Climate Justice Plan home page for more resources including a Spanish translation and audio “future stories.” Complete information on Acadia Center’s modeling approach is found in the Technical Appendix.