What can the rest of NJ learn from Dunellen's Climate Resiliency Plan?

In the face of mounting environmental challenges, the small borough of Dunellen, New Jersey, home to 7,600 residents, shines as a beacon of hope with its visionary Climate Resiliency Plan, believed to be the first of its kind in New Jersey. Unveiled in May 2023, this comprehensive plan has set Dunellen on the path to becoming a trailblazing municipality, leading the charge in confronting climate change head-on and showing neighboring municipalities the way forward.

Central to Dunellen's resilience lies an unwavering commitment to water management. Understanding the looming threats of sea-level rise and devastating floods, the plan fortifies stormwater management systems and embraces nature-based solutions, such as wetland preservation and floodplain restoration. Drawing from studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dunellen recognizes that safeguarding against water-related disasters is essential for the well-being of its residents and future generations.

But the plan doesn't stop there; it takes a holistic approach, acknowledging the critical link between public health and environmental well-being. With heat waves growing more frequent, Dunellen proactively establishes cooling centers during scorching days and fosters green spaces, following the research endorsed by the World Health Organization that extols the health benefits of green areas. Prioritizing public health resilience, Dunellen exhibits a profound commitment to the overall well-being of its cherished community.

Climate resiliency may be a global challenge, but it requires all levels of government, including local governments, to be visionary and to plan ahead. Part of Dunellen’s vision is to plan for the future through sustainable development practices and forward-thinking policies, like energy-efficient building codes in its downtown and the integration of renewable energy sources. This creative thinking on emissions reduction and energy security is not only good for the environment, but it also supports new industries and job opportunities, propels the local economy forward and helps create a competitive market among current industries.

The Climate Resiliency Plan was not created in a vacuum, and it encourages community input and participation by inviting residents, businesses and organizations to join forces in shaping a brighter, more environmentally friendly future. Dunellen’s approach can be a model for other New Jersey municipalities facing similar challenges. With the effects of climate change and increased storms already here, we cannot afford to wait. In fact, Dunellen built education and awareness into the plan, as the borough believes this decision-making will help empower action — not only for the residents of today, but for the youth of tomorrow.

Dunellen's Climate Resiliency Plan may be the first of its kind in New Jersey, but it should not be the last. We encourage all levels of government to take action to increase our resiliency and protect the future of our communities.