Report Centers Recommendations in Ten Areas, Focused on Environment, Workers and Equity
Trenton — Jersey Renews, a diverse coalition working toward state-based policy solutions to address climate change, has laid out 10 core principles that must be the foundation for any just, green economic recovery. The report, A Roadmap Toward a Just, Green Recovery, was released and distributed to the co-chairs of Governor Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Advisory Council, which has been tasked with drafting recommendations on what a long-term economic recovery will look like for the state. Twenty five faith, environmental, labor and social justice organizations have endorsed the recommendations, which were crafted based on input from more than twenty partners.
“The allocation of billions of dollars to our state’s economic recovery actually presents a tremendous opportunity for New Jersey to redefine what we value and who we care for. Let’s use this opportunity to become a state that puts health first, that understands healthy air, water and homes and a safe climate as basic human rights, and that would never put any New Jerseyan in the position of having to show up to work at unnecessary risk to themself or their family,” said Berenice Tompkins, the Jersey Renews campaign organizer.
The report emphasized that to achieve a just and green recovery, NJ decision-makers must adhere to the following 10 principles:
1) Expand Resources for Public Health
2) Protect Workers and Our Environment
3) Fully Fund and Electrify Our Transit System
4) Build Up Renewables
5) Buy American
6) Develop a Green Workforce
7) Renew Green and Efficient Buildings
8) Restore Healthy Homes
9) Repair Our Infrastructure
10) Invest Money in the Public Good
As Governor Murphy and state Legislative leaders consider measures to stimulate the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the report outlines opportunities to invest in rebuilding and strengthening critical infrastructure around the state; expand and electrify our mass transportation system, build water infrastructure that fulfills the intent of the Clean Water Act to bring clean, safe drinking water to every home and business in the state, and to chart a path to a clean, renewable energy future.
“We know that the COVID-19 disaster doesn’t eliminate our climate crisis. In fact, research shows the same pollution causing the climate crisis also makes COVID-19 more deadly — and extreme weather events this spring have compromised people’s ability to social distance, forcing some to choose between protecting their health and sheltering safely from disaster. The economic reopening must focus on restarting and reinvigorating our clean energy economy,” the report says.
A recent Morning Consult’s tracking poll of more than 2,000 voters found that a clean energy stimulus project had a much higher approval rating than an oil industry bailout. 56% of voters supported a clean energy stimulus, with only 24% opposed, while a majority of polled voters – 43% — opposed an oil industry bailout. These national findings should guide the process for jump-starting New Jersey’s economy with a clean, green stimulus focus.
“The drive to reopen New Jersey is well underway, but we are still wrestling with the larger long-term recovery. As we fight the crisis of the pandemic, we need to build a recovery strategy that centers on sustainable growth that invests in public health and the clean energy economy so we can tackle the climate crisis and the scourge of air pollution. We need to build a recovery that is both green and just,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.
The report calls for relief funds to prioritize “those most deeply affected, especially those on the front lines of any crisis – Black, brown and Indigenous communities, poor communities, people with disabilities, transit and healthcare workers, and others whose work puts them at risk when society faces disasters. This is no time for crony capitalism which channels hard-earned public funds into the pockets of corporations.”
Furthermore, the report argues, we have reached a moment at which massive investment in our state’s infrastructure is no longer optional: “Rising sea levels, increasingly severe storms, hotter summers – all of these call for investments that will give us a more sustainable future while helping us adapt to the new world we face.”
“This Roadmap lays out principles to invest in workers and create thousands of good, union jobs while we take steps to improve public health, repair New Jersey’s infrastructure and invest in energy efficiency projects and electrification of our transportation system. As we reopen, we must ensure COVID-19 protections for all workers are mandatory and we address inequalities for the most vulnerable workers who were the heroes that kept the state going through the pandemic and prioritize projects that will benefit environmental justice communities,” said Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, NJ Work Environment Council.
“The COVID-19 crises revealed how reliant we are on essential workers who are often low-income, people-of-color and immigrants. These very same workers have families and live in communities that suffer from the worst impacts of climate change and pollution. As we rebuild from COVID-19 we have the opportunity to address the long-term environmental burdens felt disproportionately by people in our state. A green stimulus plan that puts workers and the creation of good family sustaining jobs, in both the construction and service sectors, front and center, is exactly what New Jersey needs,” said Kevin Brown, Vice President and New Jersey State Director, 32BJ SEIU.
“The focus on the COVID-19 response has pivoted from the still very real health crisis to the huge economic crisis facing states, specifically New Jersey, and how we can restart our economies in a way that will stave off economic disaster. At the same time, as our country begins to reckon with a deeply entrenched legacy of systemic racism, we must acknowledge that our health, economic and climate crises come as a triple whammy to Black, brown and Indigenous communities. A meaningful and sustained recovery must address all three,” asserts the report.
“Because we believe that God created everyone in the divine image, GreenFaith affirms with the deepest conviction that Black Lives Matter. The time has come for the end of White Supremacy, and we pray that the recent events that have rightly shaken our state and country serve as a real turning point in the struggle for racial justice. The priorities outlined in New Jersey’s recovery will serve as one indicator of whether that turning point has come. A recovery that values Black lives will be one that resources the hospitals that serve Black New Jerseyans as much as those that serve wealthy white neighborhoods, that rightly compensates Black workers for their service at the front-lines of crisis, and that reinvests jobs and wealth that have long been extracted from Black communities, ” said Rev. Ronald Tuff, NJ Organizer, GreenFaith.
Quotes From Jersey Renews Partner Organizations:
“By adhering to these 10 just and green principles, New Jersey policy makers will ensure we not only recover from the current overlapping economic, health, race, democratic and climate crises. We will come out stronger and fairer than before,” said Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action. “Reducing the air and water pollution that cause and/or exacerbate these crises will create good jobs, promote environmental justice, improve public health and increase folks’ faith in government.”
“The best recovery for both the budget and for people’s bank accounts is in fact a healthy, green recovery. ROI tells us where to put our money in an economically responsible manner – we get $221 back for every dollar we spend on lead mitigation alone. Acting responsibly is investing in green, healthy infrastructure like community solar and electrification, achieving real client project success by streamlining similar home-based programs under a whole house energy efficiency clearinghouse, and making it all happen with the right local workforce development. Green and toxic-free communities are the only real, human answer for folks sheltering in place right now at home – a place that for some may not be safe at all,” said Ben Haygood, Environmental Health Policy Director, Isles.
“The COVID crisis has directly impacted people in low income communities, especially in areas overburdened with pollution. This report helps outline when we reopen our economy for a chance to change things for the better. We need to target environmental benefits to those areas that are overburdened with pollution by electrifying their transportation system with electric buses and ports and move forward with renewable energy and energy efficiency. We need to redevelop these communities, expand urban parks, fix the lead problems in drinking water, clean up toxic sites, restore natural systems and provide access to healthy food. We need to target jobs and benefits to these communities from manufacturing to supply chain to installation. We need to expand training opportunities and green jobs. These communities are being brutalized by the police and pollution. New Jersey has had a statistical discriminatory system when it comes to housing and pollution by sticking incinerators, toxic sites, and power plants in low income and minority communities that no one wants. This is our time to conquer racism, whether it is police brutality, discrimination, or the environment. We can move forward with a more just and equitable economy and environment,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
“We desperately need to change our behavior NOW to our Mother Earth. Right here in New Jersey, the Garden State, we can do so guided by the 10 just and ethical principles put forth by Jersey-Renews as we move forward with the Governors road map that must lead to a just “green” economic recovery and a sustainable future. By adopting this road map and taking this important step we will among other concerns: protect biodiversity, safeguard the handling of chemicals and waste, and promote a green economic recovery that allocates relief funds to those among us least responsible yet most affected – communities of color especially representing Black, brown and Indigenous lives, poor communities, people with disabilities, transit, healthcare and other essential workers and takes the health and well being of ALL our workers and families, nature and the climate emergency and our future generations into account,” said Imam Saffet A. Catovic, Imam and Muslim Chaplain, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey; Chair, Green Muslims of New Jersey (GMNJ).
“COVID-19 is not the last pandemic we will see in our lifetimes. The virus affected every NJ resident in some way, but it disproportionately affected communities of color and poor communities. We have an opportunity now to prepare for the future, which is just around the corner. We must provide the resources our healthcare system and communities desperately needs to beat down this virus. As we re-open NJ, everyone should have a seat at the table,” said Lisa A. Ruiz, MAOM, RN, Nurse Representative, Shore Nurses Union/New York State Nurses Association.
“We need a green and just recovery that focuses on the communities most in need and most vulnerable to climate change. There is a clear link between COVID-19 and the inequities that it exposed and how we need to address both those inequities and the inequities that climate change is exposing as well. We need to build an economic recovery that protects our most vulnerable residents, fights to reduce air pollution and creates sustainable green jobs. It’s crucial for the Governor’s Advisory Recovery Council to build in these recommendations for a green and just recovery,” said Sue Altman, Executive Director of the Working Families Alliance.
“As the focus begins to shift from restarting to recovery, now is the time for policy makers and values-driven business leaders to join together to build back better. And they can do so by using the Jersey Renews Roadmap as a strategic guide that offers realistic and scalable ways to create a more vibrant, sustainable, and just economy for the common good,” said Richard Lawton, Executive Director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council.
“Decades of a lack of adequate funding has caused NJT to fall significantly short of meeting the public transit needs of the state and this was prior to COVID which destroyed the agency’s finances as ridership fell just a hair short of non-existence. Therefore, federal recovery assistance is a critical component for keeping NJT running,” said Janna Chernetz, Esq. Deputy Director & Director, New Jersey Policy, Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
“Governor Murphy and the state of New Jersey have shown resilience and strong leadership throughout this pandemic. As the state moves to rebuild, it must account for the inequities, environmental and energy, that have been exacerbated by this pandemic. This platform provides concrete steps to that recovery which will achieve our equity, environmental, and long-term economic goals. Energy efficiency is key in these efforts as it creates local, sustainable careers; lowers businesses’ bills; empowers homeowners to take charge of their energy consumption; and improves public health by reducing pollutants in both indoor and outdoor environments,” said Erin Cosgrove, Policy Counsel, Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance Energy Efficiency Alliance of New Jersey.
“As student advocates from across New Jersey, we support this letter’s proposal to create a strong economic recovery for New Jersey’s workers and businesses during this time of crisis while also advancing New Jersey’s clean energy leadership, building resilience to the effects of climate change and pollution, and investing in our most vulnerable communities,” said Changyan Wang, New Jersey Student Climate Advocates.
“The novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how urgently we need to change the ways that we consume energy,” said NJPIRG Campaign Associate Emma Horst-Martz. “Many ratepayers are struggling to pay their utility bills and will continue to face financial challenges in the coming months. Including Energy Efficiency as a robust piece of any recovery package is essential. These programs will not only save consumers money in the long term, but will ensure that New Jersey can hit its climate goals by reducing air pollution, reducing carbon emissions, and investing in a more sustainable future.”