New Statewide Coalition Calls for Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, Improved Air Quality; Targets Current & Future State Leaders
Trenton – A diverse array of over 30 New Jersey labor, faith, community and environmental organizations today announced the launch of a new coalition, Jersey Renews, to press current and future state leaders to increase dramatically New Jersey’s commitment to fighting climate change. They released a statement at a State House press conference calling for action by the state in a number of areas.
“Climate change poses a massive threat to our state,” reads the Jersey Renews statement. “(Y)et strong actions to counter it offer an opportunity to prepare New Jersey for the future… New Jersey should be a leader in progressive policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while maintaining and creating jobs and economic benefits for those most affected.”
Accelerating Climate Commitments
Coalition members called for the state to increase its progress towards meeting its existing commitment to cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. In their statement, the coalition demanded an implementation plan and commitments to increase New Jersey’s use of renewable energy to 30 percent of its overall supply by 2025, 50 percent by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050.
The statement laid out a vision of a comprehensive energy infrastructure investment program to achieve these goals. Additional strategies identified include: improving fuel efficiency in the transportation sector and deploying electric vehicle charging infrastructure; reducing methane emissions from leaking pipelines; increasing green building statewide; expanding energy efficiency at industrial, commercial and residential buildings; and supporting offshore wind development.
“Labor-Friendly Equals Climate-Friendly”
The statement places these commitments within the context of maintaining and increasing good jobs, and prioritizing the well-being of workers. Noting that local production often benefits workers and the environment due to the higher emissions that result from transporting items manufactured overseas and lower energy use per unit of production of many U.S.-based plants, the statement called for policies to prevent the offshoring of production and the encouragement of domestic sourcing for all products and components. “If we’re serious about truly reducing emissions,” said Dan Fatton, executive director of the NJ Work Environment Council, “we need to prevent the leakage of jobs and environmental benefits to countries whose environmental standards are far lower than ours. Labor-friendly policies are climate-friendly policies.”
Workforce Development, Environmental Justice
Recognizing that meeting the state’s emission reduction commitments will require an increased workforce, the Jersey Renews coalition is calling for commitments to a statewide weatherization and energy efficiency job training program.
The coalition also urges state leaders to commit to reduce hazardous air pollution levels in environmental justice communities, which suffer disproportionate exposure to multiple environmental hazards. “As environmental leaders have pointed out, reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to be accompanied by a reduction in air pollution,” said Estrella Sainburg, organizer at GreenFaith. “Too many of our urban residents suffer because they are forced to breathe dirty air. We can and we must do better.”
Initial Funding Source
Coalition members suggested that an initial funding source to pay for these commitments was the roughly $200 million annually which the current Christie Administration raids from the Clean Energy Fund in order to fill gaps in the state’s budget.
“Over the past seven years, the governor has taken more than $1.4 billion, which the residents of the state have paid into the Clean Energy Fund specifically for climate and energy-related investments,” said Doug O’Malley, executive director of Environment New Jersey. “This misuse of public funds needs to stop, and these valuable public resources need to be used as they were intended – to employ workers here in this state to make us leaders in the fight against climate change.”
Coalition members have committed to educating their members about the Jersey Renews campaign and forthcoming platform, and to expressing support publicly for its demands. Planning is underway for a series of meetings around the state to raise awareness of Jersey Renews, and to showcase initiatives ranging from green job training programs in Trenton to weatherization programming in Newark to the potential for off-shore wind in South Jersey to mitigate climate impacts and provide good green jobs.
“As the Trump Administration starts to take steps backward on climate change, the foundation is in place for New Jersey to become a national leader,” said Andre Thomas, training manager for the Center for Energy and Environmental Training at Isles, a Trenton-based organization that fosters self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities. “These issues are vitally important to communities. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.”
Coalition members to date include:
32BJ Service Employees International Union, Amalgamated Transit Union – NJ State Council, BlueWaveNJ, CATA – The Farmworker Support Committee/El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas, Clean Water Action New Jersey, Communications Workers of America (CWA) NJ, as well as CWA Locals 1036, 1037, 1081 and 1085, Delaware Riverkeeper, Environment NJ, GreenFaith, Green Muslims of New Jersey, Health Professionals & Allied Employees, Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, Islamic Center of Central Jersey, Isles, La Casa de Don Pedro, Latino Action Network, Make the Road NJ, Moms Clean Air Force NJ, New Labor, NJ Education Association, NJ Policy Perspective, NJ Public Interest Research Group, NJ Working Families Alliance, NJ Work Environment Council, Rutgers American Association of University Professors -AFT, Shore Nurses Union, Sierra Club-NJ, the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, United Steelworkers District 4, and Wind of the Spirit.
John Shinn, Director, United Steelworkers District 4
“The clean energy economy represents a tremendous opportunity for the U.S. manufacturing sector and its workers. A lot of that opportunity is right here in New Jersey. The key stakeholders brought together by this effort can help design policies that will create and maintain jobs in New Jersey, reduce greenhouse gases and spur investments in the critical technologies and manufacturing industries that will help power the new economy. We stand ready to help ensure that the economic and environmental benefits of tackling climate change are achieved. USW District 4, which represents thousands of industrial workers in New Jersey and is part of the largest manufacturing union in North America, believes that building strong partnerships with allies is more important today than ever. We stand arm in arm with our allies in Jersey Renews in our shared fight for good jobs, for a clean environment and for healthy, prosperous communities.”
Sean Spiller, Secretary-Treasurer, New Jersey Education Association
“We are proud to partner with Jersey Renews and are eager to explore this creative, progressive approach to investing in critical infrastructure. With so many pressing needs in New Jersey, from crumbling roads and bridges to clean water and safe, modern public schools, we need smart, sustainable ways to keep our state on the leading edge both economically and environmentally. Our students come from every corner of the state and represent every demographic and income bracket. That’s why we are so committed to helping build a New Jersey that works for everyone.”
Kevin Brown, Vice President and NJ State Director, 32BJ
“Climate change and pollution impacts us all, but especially our most vulnerable populations in New Jersey. Low income communities and people of color–including many of our hardworking union brothers and sisters– are disproportionately impacted by local pollutants. We are proud to be part of Jersey Renews which sees the creation of good green jobs at the center of our need for environmental justice. Together we can ensure the Garden State remains green for generations to come.”
Ray Greaves, Chairman, ATU NJ State Council
“ATU is proud to join with our allies in support of Jersey Renews. We specifically want to see NJ Transit provide clean, efficient mass transit options, which will both reduce emissions and ensure cleaner, safer buses for our workers and transit riders”
Lou Kimmel, Director, New Labor
“Climate change is bringing hotter temperatures and this underscores the need for a thermal hazard standard in NJ. Workers have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, and we urgently need this standard to protect workers from extreme temperatures. We support the Jersey Renews platform and will work with our allies to make sure workers are provided the necessary training to know their rights and insist that employers will ensure its safe implementation.”
David M. Hughes, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union
“Now more than ever – as we enter the delusional era of Trump and Tillerson – Rutgers faculty insist that proven knowledge lead to action. Science and basic ethics concur on an unambiguous policy: that we replace fossil fuels with low- or zero-carbon sources of energy.”
Bernie Gerard, Vice-President, HPAE
“As health professionals we witness the devastating impacts of pollution on the health of New Jerseyans from chronic respiratory ailments to life threatening cancers. Reducing emissions in New Jersey can go a long way to prevent illness and reduce the need for costly and long term treatments.”
Hetty Rosenstein, Area Director, Communications Workers of America – New Jersey
“Whether CWA’s members are at the Department of Environmental Protection, our state’s Parks, or working in communities lacking clean air and water throughout the state, we understand that reducing emissions and a clean environment isn’t only about social justice, but also about creating good jobs. With the Trump Administration aiming to destroy half a century of environmental progress, New Jersey should position itself as a leader.”
Amy Goldsmith, NJ state director of Clean Water Action and chair of the Coalition for Healthy Ports
“Jersey Renews will be a powerful labor, environmental, public health and community counterweight to the anti-jobs, anti-climate justice policies of the Christie and Trump Administrations. By electrifying our ports and focusing energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives in low income communities and communities of color, we are not only combating environmental justice and the climate crisis but also creating good jobs and economic growth where they’re needed most.”
Kate Schumacher, New Jersey field organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
“Moms Clean Air Force NJ is proud to join Jersey Renews. We believe kids should get dirty when they play in the mud. Not from the air they breathe. Our partnership will help motivate families to advocate for clean energy alternatives in New Jersey. Jersey Renews policy guidance will make the Garden State a leader on clean energy in our country.”
Jeff Tittel, Director, New Jersey Sierra Club
“This is the largest, most broad based coalition ever to come together to fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move New Jersey forward on plug-in vehicles, renewable energy and creating green jobs. New Jersey has been lagging nationally because of Governor Christie and his policies. Jersey Renews will get us on the right track. This work is even more important with the Trump Administration being fossil foolish and undermining clean energy with more Big Oil and Gas. That is why we need an ambitious plan to transition into a clean energy future. Jersey Renews is a coalition of labor, civic, environment, women, and faith groups. We are coming together to fight climate change, create jobs, and protect the environment.”
Imam Saffet A. Catovic, Co-founder and Chair Green Muslims of New Jersey
“Muslims are directed by God in the Quran “to walk softy on the earth” (HQ 25:63). Addressing climate change is not only important as an environmental concern, but also as a matter of health and economic opportunity, particularly for working class and poor communities. Investments in renewable energy create far more jobs per dollar invested than investments in fossil fuels, and a renewable energy transition results in cleaner air and water. Climate change harms all of us here today and threatens our children and our children’s children, but as people of faith we are particularly concerned over its disproportionate impacts on communities of color and the poor. Society needs a transformation to clean energy – green economy which is inclusive and provides for all our Garden State residents. Jersey Renews provides us with a pragmatic and balanced way forward to accomplish this herculean task.”
Rabbi Steven Sirbu, Temple Emeth, Teaneck
“The wonders of Creation were not a one-time event, but an ongoing gift and responsibility. There are people of faith from across the spectrum who believe that having forward-looking public policy to address environmental dangers is an act of appreciation for the Divine gift entrusted to us.”
Rev. Ronald Tuff, NJ Black Issues Convention
“New Jersey’s African American community has a great interest in serious commitments within our state to create green jobs, reduce air pollution, and make our neighborhoods more resilient in the face of climate change. Black communities are among those who suffer the worst impacts of climate change. Jersey Renews offers an opportunity to help change that.”
Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith
“Climate change is a defining issue of our time. Jersey Renews is a response that is good for people and the planet and is a moral imperative. It is about building New Jersey’s clean energy economy, creating good jobs for working families, and strengthening our state’s most vulnerable communities in the face of climate change. It is the right response to a major threat. New Jerseyans need our state leaders to embrace this vision, and make it real.”
Community and Social Justice Group Quotes
Louis Di Paolo, legislative director, New Jersey Working Families Alliance
“With a climate change denier in the White House, it is up to the states to take the lead in protecting the environment. Climate change is the biggest threat to the future prosperity of our state, and bold legislative action is needed to combat it. The Jersey Renews platform provides a roadmap for New Jersey to drastically reduce emissions, better utilize alternative energy, and provide good-paying jobs as we transition into a clean energy economy.”
Diana Mejia, Co-Founder, Wind of the Spirit
“As temperatures rise, we must provide for worker safety and health. New Jersey needs a thermal hazard standard to protect both indoor and outdoor workers from occupational exposure to extreme temperatures. The Jersey Renews platform includes common sense solutions for addressing worker safety in the face of a changing climate.”
John Reichman, Co-Chair, Environmental Committee, BlueWaveNJ
“We are thrilled to be a part of Jersey Renews. Sound environmental policies aren’t antithetical to jobs and growth, but promote them. New Jersey can be an important leader in fighting climate change, promoting clean energy and creating jobs. Jersey Renews will help get this done!”