Governor McKee Signs Executive Order Re-establishing RI’s Chief Resilience Officer

Published on Monday, May 22, 2023

Based at the Department of Environmental Management, this position will develop and lead the implementation of the State’s comprehensive climate preparedness strategy

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee today announced an Executive Order re-establishing the position of a Rhode Island Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). Previously based at the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, the CRO, per the Executive Order, will work at the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and be tasked with developing and leading the implementation of the State’s comprehensive climate preparedness strategy.

“While the Ocean State is particularly susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change, the Chief Resilience Officer will work to protect Rhode Island from the effects of global climate change. We are a leader in taking action and meeting the ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals laid out in the landmark Act on Climate, which I was proud to sign more than two years ago. Resilience, and being prepared for the future, go hand in hand with our efforts to reduce emissions,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I am honored to sign this Executive Order to re-establish this position, helping to ensure we are taking action to protect our state, our cities and towns, and our business and infrastructure so we have a resilient Rhode Island for future generations.”

“Protecting Rhode Island from climate change requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, with every state body contributing. With a state Climate Resiliency Officer in place, we’ll be better able to coordinate those efforts and keep our communities safe,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “As Chair of the state Emergency Management Advisory Council, I look forward to working with the CRO to ensure our state is well-prepared for emergencies caused by climate change.”

“DEM appreciates the Governor’s commitment to protecting Rhode Island from the worst effects of climate change by establishing the Chief Resilience Officer position,” said DEM Director Terrence Gray. “We have much to do to protect the state against sudden and unexpected severe weather events and address underlying chronic stresses, such as rising sea levels, drought, aging infrastructure, and competing development priorities. As we work toward meeting the considerable challenges presented by both our coastal and upland vulnerabilities, environmental justice and equity will be an important consideration in our adaptation work.” 

Mitigation and adaptation are the two planks of confronting climate change. Mitigation means making the impacts of climate change less severe by preventing or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize the damage they can cause. The CRO will focus on helping Rhode Island adapt and adjust to the current and future effects of climate change.

Within DEM, the Chief Resilience Officer will serve as the primary voice and advocate for Rhode Island's actions on climate resilience and will work very closely with multiple programs and organizations to protect and restore coastal habitats. Among other tasks, the CRO will coordinate efforts across state agencies, municipalities, businesses, and other organizations and will advise the RI Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (RIEC4) as well as draft and implement policies under the direction of RIEC4. The CRO also will lead and plan projects to restore the habitat, will work directly with CRMC and RIIB on the implementation of the Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resilience (OSCAR) Fund, draft state policies on resilience, and track and apply for federal grants to fund these efforts across the Ocean State.