Recently there has been much excitement about green investments. Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to make New Jersey a leader in offshore wind is probably the most publicized of the state’s green initiatives. The New Jersey State Investment Council, which advises and oversees the New Jersey State Pension Fund, has also started to invest in green funds. These climate-friendly investments are seen as addressing the climate crisis. So, people ask, why are activists still demanding an end to fossil fuels? Aren’t green investments enough? The short answer is “No!”
It cannot be said often enough that burning fossil fuels, which produces heat-trapping greenhouse gases, is the main driver of global warming. There is incontrovertible scientific agreement on this. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report (October 2018) called for immediate actions to sharply reduce fossil-fuel use to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And in a report published in May of this year, the International Energy Agency put out an urgent call for a transformational change in our energy system and “a rapid shift away from fossil fuels,” starting immediately.
The world today is burning up as temperatures reach record highs in the triple digits. The Arctic, which we normally think of as frozen, is warming faster than any other place on the planet. We have already used up more than 1 degree Celsius out of our 1.5 degrees Celsius carbon budget. So we cannot lose focus on the simple truth that the continued burning of fossil fuels is driving these temperature increases. Above 1.5 degrees Celsius we are facing climate tipping points that may be irreversible.
New technologies such as solar, wind, electric vehicles, green hydrogen and long-term energy storage are central to replacing existing fossil-fuel use. The fact that their development has happened at a much faster rate than predicted gives us great hope for our future. Renewables are now some of the cheapest sources of energy available throughout the world. And we applaud New Jersey’s investments in them and hope to see more.
Green alone is not enough
However, green technologies will not solve the climate crisis alone. Not if we continue to invest in, finance and ensure fossil-fuel projects. Not if we continue to build new fossil-fuel infrastructure. Not if we continue to subsidize the fossil-fuel industry with billions of tax dollars. Not if we allow the fossil-fuel industry to go under-regulated and allow it to create additional supply that it will surely want to burn.
The New Jersey State Pension Fund at present has $300 million approved for investment in climate-friendly funds. But it also has an estimated $4 billion invested in publicly traded fossil-fuel companies and supporting industries. We do not know how much is invested through private-equity funds but we expect that it is comparable. And the New Jersey Department of Environmental…
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