The Garden State in the Greenhouse: Climate Change Mitigation and Coastal Adaptation Strategies for New Jersey

Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Posted on: 12/06/2016 - Updated on: 1/16/2019

Posted by

Jose Gonzalez



Climate change poses a significant threat to New Jersey’s economic, social and environmental future. In the absence of federal leadership, states must take the lead on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and increasingly frequent and damaging storms.

New Jersey has already taken many important steps toward a responsible climate change policy, such as the Governor’s recent appointment of a Director of Energy Savings. However, the scale of the problem and its potential consequences for the state mean that more and bolder steps are required to preserve the quality of life in New Jersey now and in the future.

This report outlines a strategy for moving toward an adequate response to climate change while at the same time advancing the State’s economic growth. New Jersey should enact innovative strategies that will not only reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protect its coastline, but will also bring new industries, technologies and jobs to the state. To accomplish this, the State should take action in six major areas:

1. Establish New Jersey’s regional and national leadership on climate change by:

  • Announcing and implementing a mandatory 2020 GHG emissions cap and an ambitious 2050 emissions reduction target through an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, enhanced efficiency measures and incorporation of emission reduction goals into State planning, purchasing and other activities;
  • Creating a Climate Change Division within the Office of Economic Growth to direct all emissions reduction and adaptation research in collaboration with a high-level inter-agency task force and with input from a stakeholder advisory council; and
  • Launching and leading a network of “Cool States” committed to reducing emissions based on legally binding caps and hosting a TransAtlantic summit on climate change that would bring together policy-makers, business leaders and clean energy technology innovators from Europe, Canada, and the US to exchange best practices, promote technological advances and showcase investment and business opportunities.

​2. Link climate change policies to economic growth and workforce development by:

  • Capitalizing on New Jersey’s competitive advantages in high-tech businesses to cultivate a clean energy sector through an explicit focus on clean energy businesses at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) as well as the State’s innovation funds and incubators;
  • Creating a “green jobs” track within the State’s community college vocational training system and working with non-profit organizations and trade unions to link residents in high-unemployment areas to training and placement in green building construction, installation and maintenance of energy-efficient and renewable energy equipment and auto-mechanic services for hybrid and plug-in vehicles; and
  • Increasing demand for clean and green jobs through the strategic use of State incentives; and
  • Establish a “Green Gold” pilot program in the city of Newark that would lower the energy costs of residents and businesses, support green building standards in new construction, and train and place under- and unemployed workers in green construction, installation and maintenance jobs in the city and regionally.

3. Boost energy efficiency gains through:

  • An energy use surcharge balanced by a reduction in corporate payroll tax for state businesses;
  • Enhanced incentives for residents to purchase energy-efficient equipment;
  • Demand-Side Management to align incentives of energy distributors with efficiency rather than sales; and
  • Increased funding (through auctioning 100 percent of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative emissions allowances) and improved targeting of funds in the State’s Clean Energy Program for cost-effective emissions reduction.

4. Make transportation more efficient and make development smarter by:

  • Making reductions in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) an explicit goal of State planning documents and more aggressively promoting transit-oriented planning and development; and
  • Promoting alternative fuels and encouraging increased fuel efficiency standards, starting with the State’s vehicle fleet and vehicles used by local governments and schools.

5. Improve State preparedness for sea level rise and increased frequency & intensity of storms by:

  • Producing vulnerability assessments and cost-benefit reports evaluating the impact of climate change on the coasts and incorporating the findings into NJDEP rules and State and local planning, land use and public investment decisions;
  • Ensuring that emergency management plans account for projections about rising sea levels and storms;
  • Enhancing pre-storm planning for post-storm management, including strategic land preservation and guidelines for whether, where and how to rebuild following storm damage; and
  • Partnering with the insurance industry to shield coastal residents from catastrophic losses.

6. Increase Public Awareness about Climate Change Impacts and Support for State Action by:

  • Creating a statewide awareness campaign that includes a user-friendly website and advertisements in print and broadcast media; and
  • Taking immediate steps to ensure that education about climate change in New Jersey’s public schools is continued and expanded.