Climate initiative flip-flop in N.J. is troublesome

promoted by Rosi

With Asw. Linda Stender

We face a serious crisis of conscience in New Jersey right now.

While campaigning, Gov. Chris Christie opined that we needed to do more about global warming, only to turn around after being elected and publicly express doubt over whether humans are impacting climate change. Just this week, he returned to his previous position that humans do play a role in climate change, yet yesterday announced that he is withdrawing New Jersey from one of the most monumental anti-global warming initiatives we have undertaken.

Experts have been warning us for years about the impact our dependency on fossil fuels will have on our climate, not to mention our national security due to the heavy reliance this creates on foreign oil. From Hurricane Katrina to massive flooding in the South and Midwest, to the recent widespread destruction caused by tornadoes in the South, we are witnessing more extreme weather patterns each year. By the end of this century, experts predict that coastal areas such as the Meadowlands and Atlantic City will likely be uninhabitable because of chronic flooding.

We have been firmly committed to taking a proactive approach to address climate change. In mid-2007 and early 2008, we sponsored two landmark measures that passed and were signed into law – the Global Warming Response Act and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, designed to work hand-in-hand to curb our dangerous overreliance on fossil fuels.

RGGI is a regional agreement among 10 northeast and mid-Atlantic states to implement a cap-and-trade program on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, essentially a major vehicle to achieve the goal of the Global Warming Response Act, which is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Through RGGI, energy companies in each state are capped at a certain allowable tonnage of carbon dioxide they can emit, which is broken down into units or credits. The states that implement efficiencies to lower their greenhouse gas emissions can sell their excess credits at periodic auctions where businesses in other states that have not reduced their emission levels can then purchase these credits. States then invest the proceeds from these auctions into consumer benefits, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and other clean energy technologies.

According to a recent RGGI report, pollution is down 15 to 30 percent since its launch, almost 18,000 jobs have been created and the region’s economy has grown by more than $2.3 billion. Weatherization and retrofitting programs funded by RGGI proceeds also have helped consumers realize energy bill savings of 15 to 30 percent.

In New Jersey, just the first dozen projects funded through the program will help reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 84,000 metric tons each year and help businesses generate more than 167,000 megawatt hours of clean energy per year – enough to meet the equivalent annual electricity needs of more than 19,600 typical Garden State households.

The funds RGGI generates for New Jersey are used to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in the commercial, industrial and institutional sectors; to assist limited-income households with their electric bills; to help local governments reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and to invest in protecting and restoring our forestry and tidal marshes.

This cooperative initiative is a step in the right direction toward stemming climate change by encouraging lower carbon dioxide emissions and alternative energy use. Weaning ourselves off of our fossil fuel dependency will ultimately help ease the acceleration of climate change.

Despite the fact that the program has spurred the development of green jobs, reduced pollution and been championed by environmentalists and businesses alike, Christie’s proposed budget confiscates the entire $65 million allocation for this program and he has announced New Jersey’s withdrawal from RGGI altogether.

At this crucial juncture, we cannot afford to make short-sighted decisions. Congress is dragging its heels on this issue. States must take the initiative now.

The time to create a more sustainable future is now. Everyone should join us in calling on the governor to remain committed to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

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