Murphy speeds up climate goal

TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | NOVEMBER 11, 2021

NJ Spotlight News

Nov. 10, 2021: In Mount Olive, Gov. Phil Murphy signs an executive order establishing an interim greenhouse-gas reduction target of 50% below 2006 levels by 2030.

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Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order ramping up the state’s efforts to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions, ordering a 50% reduction in global warming pollution below 2006 levels by 2030.

The goal aligns New Jersey with an identical national target established by the Biden administration and reflects support for the push by clean-energy advocates and climate activists to intensify actions that would slow down climate change.

Yet, Murphy did not specify what, if any, specific policies are needed to reach the target, either at a press conference Wednesday at a former Superfund garbage dump in Mount Olive or in a six-page executive order issued later in the afternoon. The former landfill is being converted into a solar farm that will provide power to 4,000 homes.

‘This is a course acceleration’

“Now is the time for bold action,’’ Murphy said. “This is not a course change. This is a course acceleration.’’

New Jersey passed a law in 2007 requiring the state achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. Despite plans from climate activists, the state has never set interim goals for achieving those reductions — until yesterday.

The governor’s executive order noted that to achieve those goals will “require very substantial emissions reductions in all areas of New Jersey’s economy, particularly in the transportation, residential, commercial, and electric generation sectors.’’

Some critics are skeptical those kinds of reductions are likely to be met by the end of this decade.

‘Unrealistic goals’

“It is impractical and unrealistic,’’ said Raymond  Cantor, a vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, a supporter of the transition to renewable energy but who believes the process needs to slow down.

“Rather than focus on unrealistic goals, let’s come up with realistic policies to achieve those reductions in a manner that is both affordable and reliable,’’ Cantor said.

But others praised Murphy’s actions. “The Governor understands we can’t afford incremental change, we can’t be patient, we have to do better, not only in New Jersey, but worldwide,’’ said Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Director for Clean Water Action.

“The science tells us that we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and that is what the Governor’s EO will do — otherwise we face cataclysmic effects to our environment that cannot be reversed,’’ she said.

Most other environmental groups also welcomed the new larger reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions but questioned whether the goal can be reached without a moratorium on new fossil-fuel projects.

‘Need more details’

“Governor Murphy’s new emission goals will only be achieved if he commits to stopping all new fossil fuel projects,’’ said Matt Smith, New Jersey State Director of Food & Water Watch.

“There is no way to hit these targets while continuing to allow polluters to build new facilities that will spew emissions for decades to come.’’

Jeff Tittel, a former director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, mostly agreed. “It is an important step forward but we need more details on how it will be implemented. Are there going to be rules and standards established to show how we are going forward?’’ he asked.

But Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, argued this decade is paramount if the state wants to reduce climate pollutants in line with science. “This is the first play in stepping up to address the reality of extreme weather,’’ he said, referring to wildfires that ravaged California, a deadly heat wave that wilted the Pacific Northwest, and floods in the East this past summer.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-11-11 01:52:42 -0800