September 26, 2018

Tammy Murphy Promotes Climate Action at PU Andlinger Conference

NEW JERSEY CLIMATE ACTION: New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy delivered the keynote address to a gathering of students, researchers, policymakers, and business and nonprofit leaders Friday at Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Emphasizing the central theme of the two-day symposium, “Accelerating Climate Action,” she delivered a wide-ranging commentary on New Jersey’s initiatives in the battle against climate change. (Photo by Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy)

By Donald Gilpin

Calling for “a new mindset” in her keynote address last Friday at Princeton University’s conference on Accelerating Climate Action, New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy stated that she and her husband are committed to making New Jersey a “magnet for innovations and solutions” in the battle against climate change.

Murphy urged an audience of about 100, including a mix of students, researchers, policymakers, and business and nonprofit leaders gathered at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, to join in the efforts to find solutions. Quoting the title of one of the day’s panel discussions, she highlighted “the interplay of technology innovation, public policy, market forces, and human behavior” in achieving environmental goals.

Murphy, an advocate for a clean and sustainable economy who is the secretary and a charter member of the Climate Reality Action Fund founded by former Vice President Al Gore, delivered a far-reaching commentary on the state’s efforts to become a national leader in climate action in both pushing back against political forces in Washington and in reversing declines that took place in New Jersey during the past eight years of the previous administration in Trenton.

Commenting on her work on the environment, Murphy noted “political forces in Washington which are not only ignoring the warnings but actively denying what science and reality are telling us. It is clear that the progress we have made is being imperiled by bad public policy. The only thing more destructive than ignorance is willful inaction, and that unfortunately is exactly what we’re seeing.”

New Jersey, however, she claimed, is “of a different mind. We know that by working to push back against climate change, we can not only make our state more resilient, we can create good jobs along the way.”

Murphy went on to describe the state’s forward-looking policies on the environment as “our greatest break from President Trump’s thinking. We realize that our future relies on our embracing new ways of doing things that will lead to a new prosperity.” She added, “We can’t tackle the challenges of the 21st century with a 19th-century mindset. And that’s why symposiums like this are so critical. We must change minds if we are to more effectively fight climate change.”

Murphy cited a “precipitous backward slide” in New Jersey climate action during the Christie administration, noting that the state pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), canceled the ARC Tunnel Project under the Hudson River, and rolled back “vital environmental protections.” But, she claimed, under her husband’s leadership, “Every lever of public policy that can be pulled to change our course and refocus our vision is being pulled. The past nine months have been about getting back to our normal resting point and standing for the right things.”

She mentioned New Jersey’s steps toward rejoining RGGI, joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, reversing the state’s course, promoting a permanent ban on fracking in the entirety of the Delaware River Watershed, and passing a new law effectively prohibiting offshore fossil fuel drilling.

In the field of renewable energy, Murphy outlined the state’s progress and leadership in solar energy and the offshore wind economy, creating jobs, and boosting the economy.

“We’re not just going to create smarter energy,” she said. “We’re also going to use the energy we create in smarter ways. That is how we can connect with people to change their minds.”

Turning to the question of transportation as another area in needing of changing mindsets, Murphy stated, “Phil’s administration is deeply engaged in fixing New Jersey Transit. No project looms as large as Gateway, which would replace the tunnels under the Hudson River, connecting the Northeast corridor with new tunnels that can handle greater volume.”

She noted the potential benefits of these initiatives to individual communities like Princeton, and went on to emphasize the importance of local efforts in effecting climate action.

“We cannot make progress in a vacuum,” she said, “and we cannot make progress by pushing top-down solutions. So much of our success will come from the bottom-up approach. It will take communities to welcome companies with innovative solutions. It will take local officials to lead these discussions and to make connections with their residents and business communities as to why being a part of this effort is so critical.”