Sustainable Jersey: Commit your town to climate progress, instructions included

June 28, 2017

Helping NJ cities and towns meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement


At the recent New Jersey Sustainability Summit over 300 local and statewide leaders convened to pledge their commitment to a sustainable future and learn the practical strategies that can get us there. The theme of the summit was “collective impact.”

As a theory, collective impact suggests that by working together we can achieve results that are greater than the sum of the parts. But what does that mean in practice? Do communities know how to fulfill that pledge?

New Jersey Sustainability Summit keynote speaker Chris Daggett, President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation said, “Achieving these goals will require making changes beyond city hall. It will impact every person and every business in our communities. It will change the cars we drive, the buildings we build, the taxes we levy and the personal choices we make in our daily lives. And to achieve the goal, it will require buy-in and collaboration from citizens and countless organizations such as religious congregations, social clubs and business groups, among others.”

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A specific example is the collective impact we can have locally on the global issue of climate change. You may have heard that the federal government has decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. In response, cities and towns all over the country have pledged to fill the void. Here in New Jersey, over 15 municipalities have pledged to uphold the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement through local action.

Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standard in Energy provides a roadmap to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the local level. It gives a performance standard and guidelines for municipal action that correspond to our best, evolving, understanding of what is a fair and feasible share of the collective effort to expect from each borough, town and city.

Sustainable Jersey municipalities are on the cutting edge of making real-world decisions that are required to achieve climate goals at a local level. Their actions will have a crucial impact, because most of the initiative on reducing carbon emissions is currently happening at the state and local level, regardless of federal policy. The Gold Star Standard in Energy is intended to achieve the Sustainable Jersey goals for energy set forth in the 2017 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report.

The primary goal of the Sustainable Jersey Gold Star Standard in Energy is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate that will achieve New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act: an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by the year 2050. To meet the target, New Jersey has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate of 3.6 percent a year, every year. The Sustainable Jersey Gold Star Standard in Energy is calibrated to achieve this target. By comparison, the Paris Climate Agreement set the United States’ target for greenhouse gas reductions of 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, or about one percent per year.

There are two elements of the Gold Star Standard in Energy. Municipalities will be held responsible for achieving the 3.6 percent target rate of greenhouse gas emission from their own operations and facilities to meet the first part of the Gold Star Standard. Towns can accomplish this by working on Sustainable Jersey actions from three categories: renewable energy generation, vehicle fleet management and building energy efficiency.  They are also encouraged to demonstrate how their own local innovations achieve the same result.

Not only do municipal operations contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, municipalities also play a key role in influencing greenhouse gas-emitting behavior in the broader community. So, towns working toward Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star in Energy must also meet a second standard: take effective steps to bring down energy consumption in the broader community.

To meet the community-wide emissions standard, municipalities must implement six Sustainable Jersey actions (or approved alternatives): Make Your Town Electric Vehicle Friendly, Public Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, Make Your Town Solar Friendly (new action), Community-Led Solar Initiatives (new action),  Residential Energy Efficiency Outreach and Commercial Energy Efficiency Outreach. Research indicates that these six actions, taken together, can lower community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by one percent a year or more.

Want to go for gold? Register for a free webinar

To learn more about the municipal actions that can help your town achieve climate commitments, take part in the free on-line webinar on June 28 at 1:00 pm: FREE WEBINAR: Commit Your Town to Climate Progress: Go for the Sustainable Jersey Gold Star in Energy.

REGISTER. The recorded webinar will be available on-line after June 28: Webinar Recordings and Presentations.

To Rise Above, We Need to Work Together

Sustainable Jersey hero Ralph Cooper of Upper Township Green Team with Randall Solomon and Lauren Skowronski at NJ Sustainability Summit.

We envision a very near future where New Jersey municipalities are taking the lead on climate and many other issues and delivering meaningful results that can scale up and have statewide impacts.

“We believe that the leadership and progress needed to meet the goals will come from all of us working together,” Daggett said in his address. “Imagine the impact we could have if we used collective resources from around New Jersey and beyond, in a framework of collective impact, to help…communities achieve their climate goals. And imagine the impact on our statewide goals, and on the world, to have communities making deep systemic change to achieve broader statewide and national goals.”

For New Jersey municipalities to have a meaningful impact in achieving measurable emissions reductions, they will need to ensure compliance, coordination and successful implementation. New Jersey is well prepared to meet the climate challenge as Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standard in Energy provides the framework needed.

“Working together across political and ideological lines, citizens can put aside their differences to focus not only on achieving the sustainability certification but also on going deeper and resolving complex social issues like climate change,” Daggett said. “If we are going to break the cycle of rancor and partisanship, it must start at the local level, which is the bread and butter of the Sustainable Jersey program.”

Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standards and the Gold Star Standard for Waste are now on our website for viewing:

If your town is interested in applying, contact us – our team is eager to work closely with yours: or 609-771-2921.

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