Letter to the Editor: Is Morristown really serious about supporting the Paris agreement?

Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which led to signing of the Paris Agreement. Photo: Office of the President of Mexico
Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which led to signing of the Paris Agreement. Photo: Office of the President of Mexico

Editor’s note: The opinions reflected here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.

Last month, Mayor Tim Dougherty joined over 300 other US mayors by signing onto The Mayors National Climate Action Agenda (also known as “Climate Mayors”). The Morristown Council followed up by passing a resolution to support the Paris Agreement.

'WE NEED TO BE MORE HUMANE,' said Councilwoman Alison Deeb. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Councilwoman Alison Deeb has suggested town officials are ‘grandstanding’ about the Paris Agreement. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

At the council meeting, Councilwoman and Republican candidate for mayor Alison Deeb accused the climate mayors (and Mayor Dougherty) of “grandstanding” and “showboating” for their critical action against the Trump administration.

As much as I adamantly disagreed with her comments about enforcing idling ordinances constituting sufficient local action (she obviously has little understanding of the scope of the problem at hand), I couldn’t help but think afterwards, she may have been right to question this resolution.

Mayor Tim Dougherty introduces his 2017 budget proposal. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty has joined more than 300 mayors supporting the Paris Agreement. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Exactly what is this resolution and what does it mean? Is it just disgruntled local politicians expressing disdain for President Trump, or does it actually have a local aim and purpose?

Mayor Dougherty himself flatly stated, “It’s an anti-Trump resolution!” Is that all it is? Merely symbolic in nature?

The day before the Morristown Council passed this resolution, a prominent author, climate change activist, and founder of 350.org wrote a piece in Rolling Stone aptly titled “How to Tell If Your Reps Are Serious About Climate Change.”

Bill McKibben’s “climate test” states that if your politician-in-question is serious about tackling climate change, he/she will do three things:

1. Commit to 100 percent renewable energy.

2. Work to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

3. Show an understanding that natural gas could be the most dangerous fuel of all (due to fracking and resulting groundwater contamination , plus methane release).

To Bill McKibben, to many of the Climate Mayors, and I hope to Mayor Dougherty, supporting the Paris Agreement requires more than symbolic resolutions and anti-Trump rhetoric.

It doesn’t just mean installing solar panels on a few more government buildings or earning “green certifications.” These steps are important, but it means going further to ensure we are meeting — and hopefully exceeding — the terms of Paris.

According to the Sierra Club, 129 mayors across America have committed to leading their towns or cities to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 at the latest.

From San Diego CA to Portland ME, a diverse collection, ranging from small towns to large cities, have signed onto the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign.

Franklin Lakes, Union City and Tenafly NJ are all pledging to go 100 percent renewable. Aspen CO, Burlington VT and Greensboro KS already run on 100 percent renewable energy. Why can’t Morristown, NJ?

The Morristown Council has pledged to support the Paris Agreement. That’s commendable, but I want to see that they’re serious.

The logical next step is for Mayor Dougherty to join the Ready for 100 and for the Morristown Council to pass a resolution to transition to 100 person renewable energy by 2035.

It can and will be done by other towns. Will our mayor and council take the next step, or will Councilwoman Deeb’s criticism prove prophetic?

If you want to see Morristown commit to 100 percent renewable energy, send the message here: https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100

Erin Dunn

The author is a member of the Morristown chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

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  1. I did not examine the Paris Agreement. In my opinion, the macro-economic and business policies of the current federal administration surpass that of the former. As a whole, withdrawal is a positive move and the replacement of the Agreement is better for the U.S. economy.
    As a local elected official in Morristown, it is better to focus my time and energy on issues that benefit the Town and its taxpayers. Local policies and laws need to focus on the greater good of the municipality and its surrounding areas. In this case, the issues are policies and practices that promote clean water, clean air, parks and open space, and land preservation.
    No one can question my commitment to the environment. I worked for a state organization, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), and for a local environmental organization, the Whippany River Watershed Action Committee. I volunteered for the Great Swamp Watershed Association and am the leading voice on the Council for the preservation of Foote’s Pond. I advocated for Kleitman’s Woods, the land acquisition and park on Hillcrest, and was the deciding vote on the solar renewable energy project at the Morristown Sewer Plant (prior administration). I am an avid cyclist, hiker, and make a point of visiting a different National Park every summer. (I am a proud NP Passport Member). 
    I think the 100% renewable energy is fantastic. I love it. It’s exciting to think we can actually get there in 20 or so years. A few years ago, it seemed impossible that a long range, high-quality and luxury electric car such as a Tesla could be both affordable and accessible. Ironically, the Tesla Model 3 started production this week! The Morristown Parking Authority now offers charging stations in its DeHart Parking garage. Terrific! Volvo announced they will stop production of gas engines in 2019.
    The point I was trying to make at the June 28 Council Meeting is that actions should speak louder than words and that national, partisan politics can interfere with local governing. International agreements are not particularly relevant in state and local jurisdictions either as the economies are different. Showing up for a faux photo opp for a tree planting seems fake when a mountain of chemically treated snow piles high along the banks of the Whippany River.
    I spent numerous hours analyzing the economics of the solar renewable energy project and concluded it made both economic and environmental sense. I would support 100% renewable if it doesn’t burden Morristown taxpayers and doesn’t discriminate against Morristown businesses.
    With all due respect to the mayors who signed the Paris Agreement, I hope they’re all driving Priuses and have solar panels on their roofs.

    Alison Deeb, MPA
    Morristown Councilwoman

  2. Last month, Dougherty, Morristown, NJ Mayor, signed the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda….Dougherty himself flatly stated, “It’s an anti-Trump resolution!” Is that all it is? Merely symbolic in nature?…Let’s see what real actions, beyond symbolic, the Mayor, who’s running for election, does…..