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Taveras unveils policy plans on environment issues

PROVIDENCE — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Angel Taveras on Tuesday unveiled a plan that calls for reducing Rhode Island’s use of fossil fuels and preparing for the effects of climate change, saying that environmental concerns are also economic ones.

The Providence mayor’s seven-point environmental blueprint calls for the state to get 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and adopts a target for reducing carbon emissions. It also seeks to expand municipal energy efficiency programs; improve access to affordable, locally grown food; and extend the life of the Central Landfill by reducing waste.

The first-term Democrat also wants to enact an organic waste master plan that would make composting mandatory for some businesses.

“Protecting our environment and sustaining our natural resources is as much a quality of life issue as an economic imperative,” Taveras said after planting shrubs outside a business at an Earth Day event held by Groundwork Providence and the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island.

He said the state must prepare now for the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, flooding and coastal erosion.

“Global warming is real and it has real consequences, and we’re seeing that here in Rhode Island,” Taveras said.

He did not offer a price tag for any of the initiatives, but he said that many will result in savings.

Energy efficient retrofitting efforts at 19 schools in Providence, for instance, have saved on average $300,000 a year, he said.

Taveras is running in the September primary against Treasurer Gina Raimondo, political newcomer Clay Pell and 2010 independent candidate Todd Giroux. The four plan to attend a climate change forum Thursday at Brown University that’s co-sponsored by the Environment Council of Rhode Island. Republicans Allan Fung and Ken Block are not participating.

Raimondo has called for creating a “green bank” for financing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. She plans to discuss her environmental initiatives Wednesday after a tour of solar energy facilities at the Quonset business park.

State Rep. Art Handy, the Democratic chairman of the House environment committee, who has endorsed Taveras, said many of the mayor’s environmental programs in Providence could be expanded statewide.

Taveras’ plan adopts the same target for reducing carbon emissions — 85 percent over 1990 levels by 2050 — as a sweeping climate change bill introduced by Handy in the General Assembly.

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