Taking a Stand on Climate Action, in Hudson County NJ

Taking a Stand on Climate Action, in Hudson County NJ

- submitted by Ashwani Vasishth, PhD, Founding Advisor, Sustainable Jersey City, and Associate Professor of Sustainability at Ramapo College of New Jersey

The very first Hudson County Climate Town Hall (HCCTH), held on April 17, 2019 in the Jersey City Council Chambers, showed clearly and unequivocally that residents of Hudson County both care about and are ready to act upon the looming existential threat of Climate Change.

As Michael Watson and Noah Levinson, of The Climate Mobilization (Hoboken Chapter), put it 

“If there was one takeaway from the evening, it’s that in Hudson County, the threat of climate change is not an abstraction, nor the pet concern of an informed few, but a major political issue capable of mobilizing citizens from all corners of the community.”

Hosted by the Jersey City Environmental Commission, and jointly presented by The Climate Mobilization (Hoboken Chapter), Food & Water Watch, the Hudson County Sierra Club and Sustainable JC, the Town Hall was opened by Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Hoboken, and Mayor Steven Fulop, Jersey City--both pleasantly taken aback by the extent to which the issue of Climate Change clearly had traction with their constituents.

This was followed by a panel of speakers, with Dr. Philip Orton, Professor of Ocean Engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology presenting on the history and likely future trends in storm surges as they would impact Hudson County.  His message was clear and direct--act now or stand by and watch unacceptable portions of our region be rendered uninhabitable by seasonal and regular monthly flooding.

Then, Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action of New Jersey spoke about the environmental justice implications of climate change as these impacts would truly have a devastating effect on our region, hurting children and the more vulnerable populations in our midst.

But leading us to understand the true extent and reach of climate justice issues was 16-year-old Ananya Singh of the Sunrise Movement, who showed, clearly and unflinchingly, that our rising generation of citizens was ready, willing and able to take on the tough issues we, collectively, had so long shied away from.  Ananya did not mince words as she exhorted us all to take on the true culprits in this horrid nightmare odyssey upon which humanity has been embarked this past century--the lobbying power of the fossil fuel industry.

Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. closed the panel as he firmly laid down the markers of the path Hudson County, New Jersey and, indeed, our nation must tread, if we are to rise ascendant from the current challenges of the very serious climate challenges looming over us.  Tellingly, Tittel evoked President Franklin Roosevelt--”I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it”--suggesting that it was our job to “make politicians do it.”

Sustainable JC supports Mayor Fulop and City Council as they conduct an Emissions Audit and a Carbon Footprint Report, which will help develop an effective plan to reduce emissions within Jersey City - we look forward to that Report being released this June.  We are also very supportive of Mayor Fulop’s participation in the “Mayors for Climate” Coalition, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, and his consideration to join the Sierra Club’s READY FOR 100 Campaign toward setting goals for 100% Renewable Energy, and the encouraging tone City Hall has toward green business practices with the launch of a JC Green Business Certification program targeting local small businesses.

But at the same time, Sustainable JC urges the City to partner again with local and regional NGOs to create forum opportunities to do public participation Climate Change Action Planning, to not only set specific emission reduction goals for the short and mid-term with specific target dates for each set of goals, but to ideate for the Green New Deal and steps JC can take to be a municipal leader in NJ on this very important issue.

In order for Jersey City to take its place amongst municipal leadership in the state and across the country, we need to target and begin to implement specific actions  For example, It is  the case that significant commercial building sector energy efficiency upgrades are needed before we can commit to a portfolio of renewable energy choices for Jersey City - we should start to develop an outreach and incentives program for the commercial building sector right away to engage building owners on the path toward lowering their building emissions and upgrading their properties for energy efficiency cost savings opportunities.

At the Statewide level, Sustainable JC joins New Jersey Sierra Club, along with Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action NJ, Empower NJ, Bluewave NJ, and The Climate Mobilization in advocating for an immediate statewide moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.  Citizens who wish to support this proposed moratorium can join the “Moratorium Mondays” campaign, spearheaded by Empower NJ, a coalition of 72 environmental and civic organizations.  Every Monday, constituents call Governor Murphy’s office to demand that no more fossil fuel infrastructure projects be built in the state until greenhouse gasses are classified as a pollutant, and regulated as such. 

Unfortunately, as our NGO comrades shared at the HCCTH, Governor Murphy faces proposals for 13 new fossil fuel projects in NJ—eight pipelines and five power plants—and has given no indication that his Department of Environmental Protection will block any of them, in spite of his executive order to transition New Jersey to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.  Please consider getting more involved in the Monday Moratorium on Fossil Fuels initiative - learn more here.

Thanks for participating and see you again at the follow-up Climate Town Hall event being planned for early June - event details coming soon !

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