80×50 Report: Climate change is adversely impacting N.J. now

DEP says report underscores need to pursue new initiatives to reduce emissions, sequester carbon through natural lands management practices

Climate change is adversely impacting New Jersey now, and steep and steady reductions in the Garden State’s emissions of greenhouse gases are necessary.

That’s the belief of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which gave state lawmakers a report Thursday assessing the state’s progress in meeting the 2006 legislative mandate to reduce emissions by 80% by the year 2050 in its 80×50 Report.

The DEP said the 80X50 Report underscores the need to pursue new initiatives to reduce emissions and sequester carbon through natural lands management practices — and it demonstrates that more action is necessary to meet the state’s climate goals.

Over the next 30 years, the report said New Jersey must implement an economy-wide transformation that expedites the deployment of renewable energy resources and facilitates a swift and steady transition from gasoline-powered to electric vehicles, among many other initiatives outlined in the report.

DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe said the state is facing a tough challenge.

“Make no mistake: The changes New Jersey must continue to undertake in the next 30 years are significant,” she said. “But we know well the risks of inaction. Just as New Jersey is uniquely vulnerable to risks from climate change, so, too, is our great state uniquely positioned to turn this challenge into tremendous opportunity for our people, businesses and institutions.”

The DEP said the recommendations in the 80×50 Report underscore the need for additional climate action beyond the measures already taken by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.

It notes, as a result of market and other forces that motivated power plants to transition from coal to natural gas over the last 15 years, New Jersey already has successfully reduced emissions by 20% below 2006 levels. On the current trajectory, however, the report said emissions would be higher in 2050 than they are today — estimated at just 12% below 2006 levels, undermining progress to-date and missing the 80×50 goal.

The objective of the 80×50 Report is to communicate the ability and limitations of existing policies and programs in reaching the 80×50 goal and to provide options in order to craft new initiatives to bridge the emissions reductions gap.

The report provides a progress report and presents pathways for new emissions-cutting initiatives across seven emissions “sectors”:

  • Transportation;
  • Residential and commercial buildings;
  • Electric power generation;
  • Industrial emissions;
  • Waste and agriculture;
  • Short-lived climate pollutants;
  • Carbon sequestration.

Recommendations discussed in more detail in the 80×50 Report include:

  • Development of solar, wind and other zero-carbon energy generating sources to meet a more than doubling of projected electric demand by 2050;
  • Deploying new technology and policy initiatives to reduce emissions from waste management and agricultural activities;
  • Establishing regulatory mechanisms that better account for and reduce short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane; and
  • Protecting and enhancing forest and marshlands through a statewide natural lands strategy.

In presenting its sector-by-sector analysis of various pathways for meeting this goal, the DEP said the 80×50 Report is another component of Murphy’s comprehensive approach to climate change, integrating and building upon the strategies presented in the 2019 Energy Master Plan as informed by the modeling in the 2019 Integrated Energy Plan.

The DEP said that, together, these three components provide a roadmap for transformation that will reduce climate risks while growing New Jersey’s economy and preserving natural treasures for generations to come. If the state continues in a business-as-usual scenario without pursuing  the initiatives recommended in the 80×50 Report, New Jersey’s emissions will continue to increase in a manner that undermines hard-fought progress.

“The 80×50 Report is a call to action for all of us in government and in New Jersey to roll up our sleeves and craft the next generation of climate-focused laws and policies,” Murphy said. “Our administration has taken the climate crisis head-on since Day One. But the challenge before us demands more. As we have learned from the crisis brought about by COVID-19, we cannot spare a moment in taking the necessary steps that will prepare us for this next crisis. Together, we will meet this moment.”