Sierra Club: Report: NJ Full of Hot Air on Climate

Report: NJ Full of Hot Air on Climate

A new climate report says that New Jersey is not going to meet our climate goals by 2050. The report, titled An Examination of Policy Options for Achieving Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions in New Jersey was just released by Rutgers University and the Georgetown Climate Center. Our current goal is to reach the carbon emissions levels of 1990 by 2050. According to the report, we are not going to reach this goal unless we change our policies to achieve much steeper admissions than we currently have. In order to curb GHG emissions by 80 percent and reach this goal, we must see a 76 percent reduction from today’s pollution levels. As a way to cut down these emissions, the report encourages New Jersey to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), considering climate change impacts in statewide planning efforts, and establishing a metric for monetizing the social cost of carbon.

“This report shows that when it comes to climate change, the Christie Administration is full of hot air. New Jersey is falling well behind when it comes to meeting greenhouse gas reductions under the Global Warming Response Act. We need to take aggressive action soon to meet these important goals. These are deliberate policies set by the Christie Administration to roll back these goals including reducing clean energy and pulling out of RGGI. The amount of greenhouse gasses emitted in New Jersey has been increasing in the last couple years under Christie. This has led to more air pollution and increased effects of climate change such as sea level rise and storm surges,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “New Jersey suffers from sea level rise and climate impacts more than most states. Our cities are inundated with air pollution and toxic sites that only get worse with the addition of more greenhouse gasses and refusal to deal with climate change. We must take serious steps to reduce our greenhouse gasses and protect our state!”


The Governor has Closed the Office of Climate Change, ended DEP’s Coastal Program for Climate Mitigation and Adaptation, and failed to use updated flood maps based on sea level rise. He rolled back the revised Energy Master Plan (EMP) to cut energy efficiency and renewable energy (30% to 22.5%) goals for New Jersey. Instead it calls for more fossil fuels and supports expanding natural gas infrastructure that supports fracking. The administration significantly subsidized gas fire power plants, while rolling back goals for solar and wind. He removed New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), costing our state $1.25 million in revenue and more than 1,800 jobs. He also has been the largest proponent of the South Jersey Gas pipeline that would cut a scar through the Pinelands and increase greenhouse gas emissions.


“While New Jersey has been impacted by climate change more than any other state in the nation, Christie only believes in political science and taking care of special interests. He is preventing us from meeting future pollution reduction goals, closing the Office of Climate Change and removing us from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Are we stronger than the next storm or ready for the next natural disaster? We may not be because of Christie’s failed policies,” said Jeff Tittel. “We have seen sea level rise on daily basis, causing flooding and roads to go under even during high tide, our coastal wetlands are disappearing; the Governor says there is not a crisis. Christie has caused a crisis when it comes to leadership.”

Another important step in reaching our 2050 reduced emission goals is to improve renewable energy and energy efficiency. The report urges the state to increase the state Renewable Portfolio Standard and establish an energy efficiency portfolio standard. We must incorporate energy efficiency into our building codes and other aspects of policy-making. The Clean Energy Fund program has always been funded by a surcharge on customers’ gas and electric bills. Every year the program has been in place, the Governor and the legislature has continued the diversion of money that should be used to promote clean energy and weatherization in New Jersey. During the Christie Administration, more than $1.5 billion has been stolen from the fund.

“Governor Christie has worked against renewable energy and energy efficiency since Day One. He rolled back the revised Energy Master Plan (EMP) to cut energy efficiency and renewable energy (30% to 22.5%) goals for New Jersey. By raiding the Clean Energy Fund, we dropped from 7th to 24th in energy efficiency in the nation. For every dollar invested by a homeowner they save $4 and for every dollar invested by a business they save $16. These important standards could save consumers $11 billion dollars and prevent 25 million metric tonnes of climate pollution.  Energy efficiency reduces peak power needs and therefore saves people money because it could double and triple normal power,” said Jeff Tittel. “New Jersey used to be a leader in solar energy: we used to be the 2nd in the nation for solar power but since Governor Christie we have dropped down to the 8th. The state used to do forty megawatts a month and now we’re doing eight megawatts. Increasing our use of renewable energy will help mitigate climate change and improve air quality.”

New Jersey has had a lack of initiative from our government on implementing the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA) and create a financing mechanism to make wind power a reality. Seven years ago Christie signed the Act, but the Administration has failed to make offshore wind a reality off our coast. Since the bill was signed into law, the Administration has repeatedly blocked efforts for offshore wind, which has cost our state jobs, renewable energy, and venture capital investments. The Christie Administration has failed to fully implement the OWEDA, to establish a funding mechanism for offshore wind, to jump start the manufacturing of wind turbines in our state, and to develop windmills off our coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) even auctioned leases for offshore wind off our coast, but without financing rules the Christie Administration will block these projects from happening.

“Seven years ago, the Governor promised that we would have clean energy from wind, but we haven’t moved forward. This has cost New Jersey thousands of jobs and is hurting our economy. While BOEM has leased land off our coast and bidding it to offshore wind companies, nothing is happening because the Christie Administration is blocking it. By the time the financing rules and permits are in place, it may be another 3-4 years after the next Governor before we see offshore wind. Because of the Governor’s failed policies, there is a port sitting empty, a factory ready to be built, and companies willing to invest money. New Jersey has enough potential of offshore wind to meet 1/3 of our electrical needs, but our Governor rather side with polluters over our clean air,” said Jeff Tittel.


The report says that “New Jersey’s largest sector of emissions is the transportation sector….. transportation-sector emissions have increased 27.5 percent since 1990.” It includes the positive step that New Jersey has taken by adopting California’s GHG and ZEV standards for vehicles. However, one of the many recommendations is for New Jersey to join the ZEV memorandum of understanding with the other nine ZEV states. In New Jersey, air pollution levels are dangerous for smog and ozone and we must reduce as much pollution as we can from cars and trucks. Not only are there many clean-air benefits to driving electric vehicles, but consumers will also save a significant amount of money on gas by driving an electric vehicle

“The biggest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in our state comes from automobiles, which is why we need to increase electric vehicles. Electric vehicles not only help reduce dangerous smog and ozone levels, but also help fight climate change. In New Jersey, we could have had 30,000 electric vehicles by now, but we have been getting zapped by the Christie Administration. We need charging stations at every corner of the New Jersey because it will actually help reduce pollution. Electric vehicles will be able to save people money on gas, reduce air pollution, while promoting jobs and a green economy,” said Jeff Tittel. “As we enter the next Administration, we need to stop the gridlock with electric vehicles.”

The report also lays out strategies that New Jersey should take to reduce our carbon emissions. Some of these are based on commercial and residential buildings, which accounted for 21.2 percent of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions in a 2012 study. It also suggested amplifying our conservation and forestry tactics to create more opportunities for carbon sequestration. The report also includes warnings about localized effects of increased air pollution in Environmental Justice communities.


“Climate change and sea level rise is happening all around us but we continue to ignore it. The Christie Administration continues to divert money from the Clean Energy Fund and support the proliferation of pipelines through New Jersey. Since taking office, the Christie administration has raided over $1.5 billion from different clean energy funding programs, and at least $63 million dollars of that came from RGGI. We have over a dozen proposed pipelines crisscrossing the state and emitting dangerous greenhouse gasses. They have rubberstamped these projects and refused to acknowledge or deal with climate change. They have let wind developments stay at a stand-still and allowed New Jersey to fall behind other states in solar power, while promoting dirty fuels,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

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