I was thrilled when I received the invitation to join Gov. Phil Murphy at his recent announcement committing New Jersey to 100% clean energy on an accelerated timeline from 2050 to 2035. A transition to renewable energy is one of the most significant tools to act on climate change and also represents a great opportunity to improve the health of our communities, increase domestic control over our energy production and create family-sustaining jobs.

Last year, President Biden and Congress delivered a massive victory for our clean energy future by passing the Inflation Reduction Act. This landmark legislation makes the largest-ever commitment, investing nearly $370 billion in fighting climate change. New Jersey will receive an estimated $11.4 billion of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage between now and 2030, which will help turbocharge our state’s clean energy transition.

This Earth Day I am proud of the work that New Jersey League of Conservative Voters is doing with our partners and our elected leaders to support clean energy legislation here at home that will be a win for the environment, workers, businesses and New Jersey families, all while protecting the rights of people of color who for too long have been overburdened by our reliance on dirty energy.

The greatest threat to our oceans and marine life is climate change and to protect and preserve New Jersey coastal communities and habitats for generations to come, we support responsibly developed offshore wind. Governor Murphy has made offshore wind a priority for the state, aiming to reach 7,500 MW of offshore wind by 2035. There is simply no better site to anchor offshore wind manufacturing facilities in the nation than the epicenter of the nation’s fast-emerging offshore wind supply chain hub at the New Jersey Wind Port, where New Jersey residents and our environment will benefit most from its production and use.        

We are excited the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently announced a proposal to move forward with support and investment for community solar. New Jersey has a long history of racial residential segregation that has deprived many people of color of safe, secure, energy-efficient housing. Community solar enables panels to be stationed on a large building within a community and the energy produced serves subscribers in municipalities within the radius of the solar project with discounted community solar energy. This allows those who can’t afford their own solar panels or who don’t own their own roofs to participate in this clean, affordable, renewable energy source.

However, a transition to 100% renewable energy is about more than technology. Fossil-fueled electric generators have historically been located in or near disadvantaged urban, indigenous or rural communities, and, as such, the related co-pollutants disproportionately impact families and businesses in communities of color, resulting in higher rates of asthma and other health disparities. By reducing fossil fuel pollution, our clean energy future will bring cleaner air and better health, including reductions in diseases that are exacerbated by breathing dirty fossil fuels like cancer, heart attacks, and asthma.

In addition to the cost savings on your energy bill and healthier communities, renewable energy can also provide family-sustaining jobs for those who want to transition to new careers. New Jersey already has over 52,000 people working in the clean energy economy, and that number can increase with the right investments.

A study by the Applied Economics Clinic found that if New Jersey embraces more ambitious clean energy policies and strong labor standards, the state’s clean energy transition could generate about 11,000 jobs annually in the offshore wind, energy efficiency and storage, electrification and solar industries between 2025 and 2050.

We should also use this moment to catalyze investment and create jobs in lead pipe remediation, expanding, upgrading and managing our public parks, replacing antiquated stormwater management infrastructure, and installing resilient green infrastructure to protect us from the increase in flooding and polluted stormwater runoff exacerbated by climate change. The clean energy future is bright, and the opportunities seem endless.

We know the benefits of a clean energy economy. What we need is to ensure the political will endures to make the transition happen. Let’s take the time to contact our elected leaders on the local, state, and national levels asking them to double down and take action for a 100% clean energy future. Protecting our planet’s future is the No. 1 action we can take this Earth Day.