Greenhouse gas emissions rose in Rhode Island

While Rhode Island is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set an example for other states environmental officials said Friday that emissions were up between 2017 and 2018.

Total greenhouse gas emissions grew by nearly 8.2%. Driven by increases in emissions produced by the transportation sector and electricity consumption. According to an analysis by air quality specialists at the state Department of Environmental Management. That brings emissions to 1.8% over the 1990 baseline. And jeopardizes the state’s chances of meeting a mandate in its Act on Climate law to reduce emissions by 10% by 2020.

The 2019 emissions data, which is currently being analyzed, would have to show a significant decrease to meet the goal.

DEM Acting Director Terry Gray said emissions may continue to increase in 2019 before decreasing in 2020. Because people traveled less during the pandemic. Gray said he wasn’t surprised there was an increase between 2017 and 2018. Because nothing significant was being done at the time to cut emissions. The signing of the Act on Climate created a sense of urgency, Gray added.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee signed the Act on Climate nearly a year ago to set mandatory, enforceable emissions reduction goals. Culminating in net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050, which means the number of greenhouse gases produced is no more than the amount removed from the atmosphere.

McKee said in a statement that Rhode Island already is seeing the tangible results of climate change. Including higher temperatures and more frequent, intense storms. He called on state agencies to deliver urgent remedies.

McKee said last week that he wants the offshore wind to supply more of the state’s power to cement its position as a hub for the industry. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set an example for other states looking to stave off the worst effects of a warming planet. He proposed procuring an additional 600 megawatts of offshore wind, enough to power about 340,000 homes annually.

The administration is launching a rebate program to help people switch to electric vehicles. And wants to use $37 million of federal funding that was awarded to the state to pay for energy-efficient electric heat pumps.

Gray said the new data is “a call to action for Rhode Island to do better, to fight climate change.”

Rhode Island produced 11.74 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2017 and 12.7 million metric tons in 2018, resulting in an 8.18% change, according to DEM. Emissions increased in most major sectors, such as transportation, electricity consumption, residential heating, industry, commercial heating, and waste.

During the same timeframe, neighboring states Connecticut and Massachusetts reported smaller increases in emissions, 2.7%, and .68% respectively.