Climate Summit, Brainchild Of Mayor Kramer, Gets Rave Reviews

Mayor Phil Kramer speaks during a press conference following the inaugural Mayors Climate Summit at Rutgers University on Feb. 3.

About 160 people attended a “Mayors’ Climate Summit” at Rutgers University Feb. 3, an event that was the brainchild of Mayor Phil Kramer.

The summit was held at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in New Brunswick and was attended mainly by mayors and other elected officials from throughout the state.

Sponsored by the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Sustainable Jersey and the Bloustein School, the summit was seen as a way for elected officials to meet and share ideas of dealing with the effects of climate change, in light of the Trump administration’s decision to remove the country from the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is a multinational agreement, under the auspices of the United Nations, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2020.

Attendees hailed the event as a success and looked forward to future meetings.

Along with Kramer, representing the township was Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1). The League of Conservation Voters is headquartered in the township, and its executive director is Ed Potosnak, who was also at the summit.

Kramer said he was inspired to have the summit after his reaction to the United States pulling out of the Paris Agreement.

“I was distraught, I was upset and I actually said to myself, someone should do something about this,” Kramer said at a press conference after the summit. “Then I looked down at my business card and saw the word ‘mayor’, and said, OK.”

Kramer then turned to Potosnak for help, and the two got the ball rolling for the summit.

The event was originally planned to be held late last year, during election season, but a number of officials told Kramer they would be out campaigning, so the decision was made to wait until early this year, Kramer has said.

In the meantime, Sustainable Jersey and the Bloustein School became involved as partners.

The day consisted of three panel discussions, “What We Must Achieve: Understanding Paris, Kyoto, and New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act;” “From Commitment to Action: How to Become a Sustainable Energy Community Today,” and “Resources for Change.”

The event was “better than I thought it would be,” Kramer said. “When I had the initial idea, I would have been thrilled if 40 people were sitting around and we just maybe had one speaker and everybody gave their ideas and we kind of brainstormed and that was it.”

Also in attendance was New Jersey’s First Lady, Tammy Murphy.

“There were far more than I ever hoped” in attendance, Kramer said. “I give credit to Sustainable Jersey and the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and the Bloustein School, and also give credit to Ted Chase because he’s the one … my heart is there, but his brain is there, and he knows what needs to be done and how to get it done. He has that drive to get it done.”

Kramer said the sessions were valuable.

“I got to hear what the problem was more precisely than I’ve known, I got to hear what the consequences of the problem are, but most important I got to hear several solutions,” he said. “Not only solutions, but funding opportunities for some of the things that Ted has thought of, and that we’re doing in town.”

“It’s one thing when you hear about funding and you say OK, let’s do that, but when you’re already doing something and there’s funding available, that means you get to do something good and save the taxpayers money,” he said.

“There were a lot of solutions offered today, a lot of camaraderie and networking available so that if we have ideas, we can get them done more easily,” Kramer said.

Kramer said at the press conference that Franklin is taking a number of steps this year to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“In this year’s budget, we are putting idling mitigation for four of our vehicles as an experiment to see if we can go further with that, we are buying five electric vehicles and seven charging stations,” he said. The idling mitigation will be batteries installed oin police cars so that officers don’t have to keep engines running while they are doing tasks such as providing support for road construction projects. The cars’ electronics will still be operational, but no gas will be consumed.

“We have LED lighting in the township and we are changing a lot of our air conditioning and heating equipment so that it’s more energy efficient,” Kramer said.

Sustainable Jersey is a coalition of 445 towns in New Jersey whose officials have pledged to take certain actions that lead to two levels of certification, “Bronze” and “Silver.” The organization recently created a “Gold” standard in the areas of energy conservation and waste, said Randy Solomon, Sustainable Jersey’s executive director.

Franklin Township achieved “Silver” status about two years ago, and Chase said that Kramer “has been pushing me that we should be going for the gold, certainly some parts in particularly the energy actions there that we can do. The hardest part is getting broad community participation in the clean energy program for homes and direct action for small businesses.”

Potosnak said the day was “amazing.”

“Mayor Kramer’s vision of bringing mayors together to act locally to address the great threat that we have on climate change turned out to be just phenomenal,” he said. “We had mayors from the northern-most parts of our state, the southern-most parts of our state, inland, shore, Republican, Democrat, and one of the things that’s clear is there’s a lot of energy around the idea of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and there’s a lot of different approaches and tools that were shared today that can make an impact right away.”

“I think we’re very lucky in Franklin Township to have a mayor and council, and Ted Chase who is a leader in environmental protection, ready to go,” he said. “There’s a lot of innovation and I think Franklin is really primed to make a big difference.”

“Today’s conference was showing that municipalities have a role to play in achieving our statewide goals, and in particular in achieving our goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change,” Solomon said during the press conference. “The state can’t do it alone, municipalities have to step up.”

The Bloustein School’s Jeanne Herb said the day was “all about good news.”

“It’s easy to talk about climate change and have those messages come across that’s something about doom and gloom,” she said. “But the reality is that we know the science is sound,and there are many actions that mayors and policy makers can take to have an impact on climate change.”

“We’ve seen decision-makers take on difficult decisions before, we’re proud of leadership at the state, local, county municipal level, and we know that the work that can be done to reduce climate change can result in more livable communities, can improve health, can create infrastructure that’s resilient, and can give us all opportunities to enjoy the communities that we live in and have access to healthy communities and open spaces,” she said. “So,coming form an academic institution, we are proud to be part of this event and we are here to stand with our municipalities and our mayors to provide the kind of technical support they need.”

Among the mayors in attendance were those from Woodbridge, Hoboken, Chatham, Princeton, Lawrence Township and Warren Township.


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