The climate crisis is here and already impacting New Jersey. Greenhouse gas emissions globally set an all-time high last year. Our oceans are warming 40 percent faster than previously believed. The IPCC has given us 12 years before the worst climate impacts will become irreversible.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s state Board of Public Utilities recently released its Draft Energy Master Plan dealing with many issues affecting climate change and green energy. There is a growing sense of urgency to do more in combating climate impacts, but the EMP does not address natural gas.
There are things to like in the draft EMP, especially in electrifying the transportation sector and dealing with home heating. There is also a lot that’s missing, including any mention of a moratorium on fossil fuel projects.
What’s really troubling is the plan redefines clean energy as carbon neutral. This is a cynical move with major consequences. Clean energy is usually defined as wind, solar, energy efficiency, hydro and geo-thermal. Carbon neutral, by contrast, means that carbon will still be released. The definition includes natural gas, fossil fuel plants with carbon sequestration, nuclear power plants, incinerators, biomass, carbon credits and offsets. Redefining clean energy as carbon neutral will include a lot of dirty fuels. This is an Orwellian approach that sells out renewable energy by promoting natural gas and nuclear power.
The Green New Deal resolution introduced in Congress calls for a massive U.S. mobilization over 10 years to achieve the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions while creating millions of high-wage jobs and sustainable economic growth. Unfortunately, while the science and need for federal action on climate change are clear, we can’t expect serious policymaking on the topic to come out of Washington until 2021 at the earliest.
Fortunately, it’s a new day in Wisconsin and the state is well positioned to make headway on many of the goals and objectives as outlined in the Green New Deal. For example…
February 14, 2019: NJ’s new stormwater utility bill (A2694/S1073) authorizes municipalities to collect fees on parking lots and other impervious surfaces to fund improvements to failing stormwater systems. But it has many commercial property owners concerned that they will now face significant new charges on their property. If the legislature and the Murphy Administration want to address these concerns in a meaningful way, PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is the obvious answer.
PACE can provide 100% long-term financing for projects designed to reduce stormwater runoff by building retention systems, green roofs, and permeable paving. These improvements add to the value of the property and allow the owner to avoid some or all of the fees likely to be charged by the new utilities. When coupled with other clean energy and resiliency improvements, PACE projects are typically cashflow positive from day one. The capital is invested in the property by private lenders, but is off-balance sheet to the property owner, and the interest and other costs can often be treated as operating expenses. There is no public money involved. The municipality simply makes the Special Assessment mechanism available to the property owner, and provides a pass-through for the repayments.
We recently came across a series of podcasts by our personal Financial Advisor, Jim Cox. Jim focuses on sustainable investments, but we had no idea he was actively interviewing experts and activists from across the country on a variety of topics related to the emerging green economy. Jim writes, “Sometimes it feel like I’m a voice in the wilderness…” which led us to the idea of posting his podcasts for a wider audience.
James Cox is a financial advisor with FFG Advisors. He focuses on wealth and risk management for clients of the firm. He is on the board of several organizations. James joined FFG/DFP in January of 2012. Many of Mr. Cox’s clients are entrepreneurs and business owners. His practice helps individuals manage risk within their finances, even as they are striving toward creating successful companies. To learn more go to http://jamesacox.com.
The first one that came to our attention was the conversation with Janet Kirsch, a physician and public health specialist, who is devoting her life to climate mobilization.
Mobilizing for Climate Disruption (September 21, 2018)
Janet Kirsch is a physician and speaker with 350 Bay Area. We had initially talked days before hurricane Florence made landfall. We chat today about the need to approach climate disruption with increased vigor and commitment.
And here are some other selected podcasts from James Cox, available on iTunes and elsewhere.
Over the past several decades, scientists have warned us that we need to curtail further greenhouse gas emissions if we wish to keep global warming below 2°C, which many consider a major danger limit for the Earth’s climate. The latest IPCC Special Report suggests that our economy must undergo a series of rapid transformations if we are to have a chance of staying at or below 1.5°C, and going over that could have disastrous consequences for many millions of people. The global emissions trajectory we are on is clearly incapable of even slowing the rate of temperature growth and sea-level rise, and must be reduced dramatically if we are achieve even a modest extension of the time we have before the Earth hits another milestone and potential tipping point.
Both U.S. and NJ emissions have been declining since the early 2000s, and NJ actually hit its 2020 goal of bringing emissions down to 1990 levels by 2008. But reaching the next set of objectives, an 80% reduction by 2050, will be significantly harder. According to a 2017 Rutgers report, “meeting the state’s limit of an 80 percent reduction from the 2006 level by 2050 will require a 75 percent reduction from 2012 emissions.” The UN estimates that global emissions overall must be trending firmly downward by 2020 (just over a year away) if we are to have any hope of staying “well under the 2°C limit,” which is the language of the Paris Accord.
New Jersey’s new “economic development master plan” is embedded in a report issued by the NJ Economic Development Authority titled “The State of Innovation: Building a Stronger and Fairer New Jersey.” First accounts of the report, such as this one from NJBIZ, mentioned a focus on wage growth, on community college education, on innovation, and on streamlining regulations for small business, but did not specifically mention that clean energy is a major part of the “innovation” focus.
Murphy unveils NJ economic development ‘master plan’
Gov. Phil Murphy announces his major economic agenda on Oct. 1, 2018 at ON3 biotechnology campus in Nutley. – (EDWIN J. TORRES/NJ GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday unveiled his “master plan” aimed at reimagining how the state attracts and keeps jobs and businesses and kick starting New Jersey’s economy, which he said lagged for the past decade under the administration of Chris Christie.
Murphy, at the ON3 biotechnology campus in Passaic County, said his goal is that by 2025 New Jersey will have added 300,000 new jobs, achieved a 4 percent wage growth or an increase of $1,500 in median wages, 40,000 more women and minorities working in STEM fields, $645 million in new venture capital investment, and the employment of 42,000 more women and minorities.
More broadly, Murphy’s economic outline has four parts – investment in people, investment in communities, a build-up of the innovation economy and making government work better for small businesses by streamlining much of the permitting and application processes and bureaucracies online.
Which led us initially to wonder “where’s the green in Murphy’s new economic master plan?” Fortunately the answer is pretty clear—it’s a key part of the Innovation Economy, and already getting some new attention at the agency.
Reprinted with permission from Hackensack Tidelines (Summer 2018)
Marshlands Can Be Protected and Generate Revenue
Riding the train across the Meadowlands I can see the extensive marshlands, fields of tall grasses and water in the midst of the highly developed metropolitan area surrounding the lower Hackensack River. It is truly a great sight to see these marshes, which were once landfills, reclaimed and revitalized, thanks in large part to the Clean Water Act of 1972.
However, we are not in the clear when it comes to wetlands preservation and cannot be complacent. The Meadowlands’ proximity to New York City continues to exert great pressure from the business develop these open lands. For example, not long ago a single acre of undeveloped marshland in the Meadowlands had a market value of $250,000. Many projects looking to make the Meadowlands a revenue source, such as farming, diking, dumping and development, have failed.
New Jersey, like the rest of the world, is in a period of profound transition. As we come grips with the fact that humanity’s impact on the planet is creating serious risks for all of us, and that each of us must do what we can, where we are, to make a difference—we simultaneously realize that our individual actions are insufficient, and that we need, at all levels, transformational change. We need to foster an awareness within both local and global communities that change is both essential and inevitable. Whether we’re concerned with climate change, or biodiversity loss, or social injustice, it’s clear that above all we need to restructure our economy, to make it cleaner, and fairer, and more restorative of Earth’s systems in order to achieve any degree of sustainable prosperity.
For many people, the sheer size and scope of this challenge may seem beyond their ability to comprehend, so they withdraw into narrower realms of life — making a living, maintaining a relationship, or pursuing “professional development.” Those who do recognize what the planet confronts us with may become cynical and resigned, get burned out, or simply feel overwhelmed and unable to take any meaningful action. The challenge, in this game, is to engage with other social change agents in a common search for the levers of regenerative transformation.