Trenton – New Jersey, once poised to play a major role in U.S. progress to address climate change, is falling behind neighboring states in reducing carbon pollution by 2025, mainly because of its decision to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The state still ranks highly because of the 2007 Global Warming Response Act, signed into law almost exactly eight years ago, but the Christie Administration has failed to implement the law. The report says if implemented New Jersey would see a reduction of 42 million metric tons of global warming pollution, which ranks 6th in the nation in reductions.
The Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center report comes as pressure mounts on the U.S. to play the leading role in negotiations for an international climate agreement in Paris.
“The best way to lead is by example. Gov. Christie’s administration has done the exact opposite on climate by deep-sixing the Global Warming Response Act,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “We have gone from a climate leader to a laggard in five years.”
The analysis, Path to the Paris Climate Conference, documents expected carbon pollution reductions from existing state-level and federal policies by 2025, including renewable energy standards, fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, and regional and state-based carbon caps, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The report shows that state and federal policies underway across the country can reduce carbon pollution 27 percent below 2005 levels.
“Governor Christie will be in New Hampshire and Iowa and will not be in Paris for the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference. When you look at his record you will see why greenhouse gas emissions have gone up and green jobs have gone down. This report is an alarm bell going off. In the first time in a decade under Christie, we’ve seen an increase in carbon pollution. We’ve seen solar jobs drop from 10,000 to 5,500. When he took office, we were 2nd in the nation for solar installations and now we are 8th. We were 8th for energy efficiency and now we’ve moved down to 24th. Christie has taken over a billion of dollars from the clean energy fund, has pulled us out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative closed the Office of Climate Change, eliminated climate mitigation programs at the NJDEP, rolled back our goals for renewable energy master plan, opposed the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, and blocked offshore wind. Governor Christie cares more about his national political agenda and raising money from the Koch Brothers than reducing carbon pollution in New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director.
The biggest slice of these reductions will come from the Clean Power Plan, the proposed federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants expected to be finalized this summer. The plan requires an 43% percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in New Jersey by 2030, and compels state leaders to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources such as wind and solar.
“It’s clear that neighboring states, especially New York, are leapfrogging ahead to tackle climate pollution,” said O’Malley. “New Jersey is becoming the land that time forgot on climate policy – we’re the Rip van Winkel of the climate movement.”
While New Jersey was ranked highly based on the Global Warming Response Act, New York State was higher, mainly because of the outsize role of RGGI in reducing pollution from fossil fuel plants. In an announcement last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a New York Energy State Plan that would reduce global warming pollution 40% from 1990 levels by 2030 and mandate a renewable portfolio standard of 50% by 2030 and cutting building energy use by more than 20% by 2030.
In anticipation of international climate talks in Paris, calls for bold action to curb global warming pollution have ramped up in recent weeks, from Pope Francis’s encyclical to the Medical Journal The Lancet calling climate change a “medical emergency.”
Yesterday, China announced a more aggressive goal as part of its climate plan for the Paris climate talks, which will extend a reduction in carbon intensity to 60 to 65 percent by 2030. Already, China has nearly reached its initial goal by last year, with a 33 percent reduction below 2005 levels. The announcement extended an initial partnership announced late last year by the Obama Administration and China, where the U.S. pledged to lower its emissions by up to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and China would work to peak its carbon emissions and then decline no later than 2030.
The announcement yesterday by the U.S. and Brazil (a carbon top 10 emitter) also made commitments to increase renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and geothermal to 20 percent of electric energy by 2030. The increase would triple clean energy sources in the U.S. and double them in Brazil.
However, fossil fuel interests and their allies in Congress are trying to block the Clean Power Plan, with the House voting last week to derail the plan. The New Jersey Congressional delegation voted along partisan lines, except for Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-2), who opposed the rollback.
“America can’t lead with polluters and climate deniers blocking the way,” said O’Malley. “That’s why we’re grateful to Sen. Booker and Sen. Menendez, who continue to defend the Clean Power Plan against attack, and who continue to raise the bar on climate action. It is heartening to see Rep. Frank LoBiondo stand up for his district by opposing these rollbacks, and we urge all members to look at the impacts of climate change on their districts.”
To avoid devastating impacts of climate change, scientists estimate that an 80 percent cut in global warming pollution will be necessary by mid-century. As the report notes, a more rapid transition to clean energy sources, beyond those already required by existing policies, will be required to achieve these levels.
“New Jersey has a long way to go to reach the mandates of the Global Warming Response Act, but the first step is to implement the law,” said O’Malley. “Gov. Christie might get accolades on the campaign trail for acknowledging climate change is real, but back in New Jersey, he actually needs to do something about it.”
Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentNewJerseyCenter.org