A Greener Garden

N.J. establishes Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy, comprehensive goals

If any state should be striving to be “green”, it’s the Garden State. From Newark on Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced an investment of more than $100 million in clean transportation projects aimed at improving air quality and reducing the effects of climate change while moving New Jersey towards 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

Leveraging proceeds from New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Funds, this funding “will bring electrification programs, equitable mobility projects, and electric charging infrastructure to environmental justice communities across the state,” according to an accompanying statement posted on NJ.gov.

Murphy also signed Executive Order No. 221 establishing the Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy, to be housed within the Governor’s Office. Jane Cohen, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor on Environment and Energy, will lead the Office as Executive Director. Under the executive order, within one year, the council committed to deliver the initial report of its recommendations for a comprehensive and coordinated green economy strategy that:

  • drives sustainable economic growth and development;
  • accelerates the growth of green jobs and facilitates green workforce development;
  • prioritizes equity, diversity, inclusion, and environmental and economic justice; and,
  • avoids, adjusts for, and provides appropriate support for workers potentially displaced in course of the state’s transition to a green economy.

Members of the council will include representatives from other state departments, as well representatives from chambers of commerce, organized labor, industry, utilities, green business, environmental justice communities, academia, small business, workforce development, and environmental advocacy.

It’s become a trend for companies to declare “zero-waste” mandates for the future, so much that the toughest part is sometimes determining who has achieved these goals, and when. While most are set for five to ten year intervals (2025 being the earliest), there are other checkpoints of progress along the way. You can revisit these efforts in the February 2019 edition of EA: Striving for a score of zero (companies are taking the zero-waste challenge to have as small an environmental footprint as possible) by Selena Cotte (p. 42 of the February 2019 issue of EA). (Selena highlighted Xerox and Anheuser-Busch.)

Another area the zero-waste mandates are flourishing is with public works; in both city and state governments. We’ve even archived “zero-waste cities and towns” in the past, following San Diego’s 2016 declaration. New Jersey’s new commitment is significant in this realm due to it being one of the world’s highest traffic areas, for both automobiles and public transportation. The NJ Transit system is linked to both the New York City Metro system and the Philadelphia area’s SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) lines.

“Climate change is the single greatest long-term threat currently facing humanity, and our state and economy are uniquely vulnerable to its devastating effects,” Murphy said. “The investments we are announcing today signify our commitment to environmental justice and equity, while building a cleaner economy that works for all. The newly created Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy, coupled with the New Jersey Council on the Green Economy, will use our trademark innovation and talented workforce to make New Jersey a national leader of the green economy. Together, these initiatives we will make New Jersey stronger, fairer—and greener—for generations to come.”

Other U.S. cities of note that currently run on 100% renewable energy include Burlington, Vermont; Aspen, Colorado; Greensburg, Kansas; Ithaca, New York; as well as Vancouver, BC, Canada. The country of Costa Rica reported that it ran on 99% renewable energy in 2015. As Treehugger.com’s Meagan Tracey notes, “Costa Rica is lucky to have a wealth of renewable energy sources to choose from. The bulk of its power generation comes from hydropower thanks to a large river system and heavy tropical rainfalls. The rest is made up of a mix of geothermal energy, which the country is also rich in, wind, biomass and solar power.”

However, all these places don’t necessarily include a transportation mandate, which makes Jersey’s commitment significant.

According to Streetlight Data, The top 10 US cities for “green transportation” in 2020 were:

  1.  New York-Newark-Jersey City, Newark-New Jersey
  2.  North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
  3.  Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington
  4.  Cape Coral-Ft Myers, Florida
  5.  San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
  6.  Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida
  7.  Colorado Springs, Colorado
  8.  San Diego-Carlsbad, California
  9.  Minneapolis-St Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin
  10.  Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington
  • Encouragingly, the research also showed what we have long known- that decoupling emissions and GDP is possible; 2020 saw VMT drop to unprecedented lows but GDP didn’t follow suit. The UN also noted that emissions have already peaked in GDP growth countries, indicating that VMT can drop while economic growth continues.

You can download the FULL TOP 100 here.

Quotes on the impact of this move are aplenty, as those involved are touting it as a landmark proclamation with far-reaching effects beyond simply the environment:

“Environmental justice is social justice. Investing in a green economy means we are creating a healthier, cleaner and more environmentally stable place for all New Jerseyans to live,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “Governor Murphy’s plan to address the immediate impacts of climate change on our communities prioritizes equity and sustainable growth to help ensure that everyone can participate in and benefit from a green economy.”

For specifics of where the money is going, look no further. The $100 million investment of proceeds from the New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and its prosecution of Volkswagen for emissions cheating, will fund the following projects:

  • $9 million in grants for local government electrification projects that will help to improve air quality in environmental justice communities through the deployment of electric garbage and delivery trucks
  • $13 million in grants for low- and moderate-income communities to reduce emissions that affect our children’s air quality through the deployment of electric school buses and shuttle buses
  • $5 million in grants for equitable mobility projects that will bring electric vehicle ride hailing and charging stations to four New Jersey towns and cities
  • $5 million in grants for deployment of fast charging infrastructure at 27 locations statewide
  • $36 million to reduce diesel and black carbon emissions in environmental justice communities by electrifying port, cargo handling, and other medium- and heavy-duty equipment in port and industrial areas
    • $15 million towards NJ TRANSIT bus electrification
    • $15 million towards flex funding to further deploy additional funding to the listed initiatives

“We are at an inflection point – the future strength of our state depends on how aggressively we act to reduce the emission of climate pollutants today, and how well we use the great opportunities now before us to promote overdue environmental and economic justice,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. “The investments and commitments made today will indeed make New Jersey’s environment stronger and more just, and I am proud to be part of an Administration that puts its money where its heart is.”

“Clean air, green jobs, what could be better? I look very much forward to having these jobs,” said Dan Gumble, Business Manager and Financial Secretary for IBEW 164. “Thank you for making the union trades part of this effort.”

For a copy of Executive Order No. 221, please click here.

For more information on RGGI, the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust and grant recipients, please see the following links: Link 1Link 2

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