For a city on the Hudson River with first-hand experience fighting rising sea levels caused by global warming, Hoboken has a serious stake in the environmental policies of the Biden Administration.
For Hoboken, the nation’s change in leadership indicates a needed shift in policy, with President Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement, one of 17 executive orders he signed after his inauguration on Jan. 20.
“I am grateful that President Joe Biden is taking immediate action, on the very first day in office, to rejoin the Paris Agreement,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “Nowhere is climate change more real than coastal communities like Hoboken, where rising sea levels threaten the very future of our city. The President, in his address before a world stage, said America will lead, ‘not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.’ Thank you to President Biden for putting those words into action today.”
The Paris Agreement, signed in December of 2015, committed 197 nations to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of holding global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
In 2017, Biden’s predecessor President Donald Trump announced the U.S. exit from the agreement stating it would have a negative effect on job growth and manufacturing among other reasons, officially withdrawing the U.S. in November of last year.
At a local level, on Earth Day in 2019 Bhalla signed an executive order adopting Hoboken’s Climate Action Plan, which committed the city to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 through a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, seeking to exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement.
To that end, Hoboken became one of the first municipalities in the tri-state area to begin purchasing 100 percent clean, non-polluting renewable electricity for municipal facilities in April of 2019.
That same year, the city became certified as the first LEED Gold city in New Jersey by the U.S. Green Building Council and installed LED energy-efficient lighting in city parks as well as installed energy-efficient upgrades in 11 municipal buildings, which the city said saved about $100,000 a year.
The following year, in March 2020, Hoboken implemented its expanded plastic bag ban, banning reusable and single-use carry-out plastic bags and Styrofoam products.
The city expanded composting with the Hoboken Green Team, from one drop-off location in 2015 to four in 2020.
The city is working toward the 2023 deadline for the $230 Rebuild By Design Project with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, which in part would create a flood barrier in Northern and Southern Hoboken to prevent flooding during major storms like Hurricane Sandy.
To address flooding caused by heavy rainfall, construction is underway at what will be one of the country’s largest resiliency parks, the five-acre Northwest Resiliency Park that will withhold up to two million gallons of rainwater with both underground flood infrastructure and above-ground green infrastructure.
Last year, Hoboken filed a suit against Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, Conoco Philips, and the American Petroleum Institute.
It asserts that Hoboken has been disproportionately affected by climate change caused by fossil fuel companies’ products and that these companies invested millions of dollars in a campaign to deceive the public, despite their own scientists and trade groups stating that fossil fuels were causing climate change “with likely dire impacts.”
The 146-page suit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court on Sept. 2, seeks compensatory, punitive, consequential, and treble damages among other things from the defendants for a decades-long campaign of misinformation related to climate change and its impact on Hoboken.
Bhalla is one of more than 470 mayors across the nation who pledged to combat climate change in their communities.