Dozens of community members and leaders gathered in Montclair to demand climate action
(DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA / STAFF)
By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
Dozens of people gathered Saturday at the Wellmont Arts Plaza to rally for action on climate change, joining the hundreds of rallies that were taking place around the world. Montclair’s rally also coincided with COP26, a two-week climate change conference held in Glasgow, Scotland.
People who gathered at the Wellmont Art Plaza showed their support for stronger laws to help address climate change. They held handmade signs that read “Stop fossil fuel now” and “There is no planet B.”
Organized by Montclair Climate Action, along with other organizations such as the League of Women Voters of Montclair, the Northeast Earth Coalition, Sunrise Montclair, Sierra Club Gateway Group, BlueWaveNJ, Clean Water Action, the New Jersey Student Sustainability Coalition and 350 NJ-R, the rally demanded that the town and state take climate change seriously.
“We’re meeting around the world today to call for climate action, to let leaders in Glasgow, and around the world, know that we actually want climate action,” Montclair Climate Action founder David Korfhage said. “This is our last chance to do something before things get really bad.”
Korfhage said that it is the poorest, most vulnerable people who are going to suffer the most with climate change. They will be pushed off their land by rising seas or severe droughts, and experience extreme heat waves and floods.
“It is those who have done the least to cause the problem that are going to pay the biggest price for climate change. We want to take action because we care about leaving a livable world for all future generations,” Korfhage said.
Christian Rodriguez, a member of the Ironbound Community Corp., took the stage to talk about how climate change has impacted Newark and communities of color.
“We saw a lot of flooding after Ida, and most of our basement apartments were flooded out,” Rodriguez said. “Most of our community members didn’t have anywhere else to go. And they lost a lot. A lot of these folks are folks of color. We also have a voice to make the change.”
Korfhage also talked about the work Montclair has done to reduce its carbon footprint. But he said the town needs to do more.
In July, the Montclair Council passed a resolution authorizing the Montclair Environmental Commission to develop a Climate Action Plan in response to New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act Report, which set goals of reducing emissions by 20% below 2006 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The plan, which is expected to be completed early next year and then presented to the Council, will set similar goals.
“We need to see more. Ithaca, New York, just committed to decarbonize all its buildings. Why not Montclair? Teaneck, Red Bank, East Brunswick, they have all committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Why not Montclair?” Korfhage said. “We need to see the policies that are going to change the fossil fuel system, and we need to change our system to make it more sustainable, and greener. And we need to let our leaders know that they need to take action to address climate change,” he said.
Montclair implemented a Renewable Energy Aggregation Program in 2017 in which residents can receive 40% clean energy instead of the 22% clean energy that PSEG offers.
Earlier this month, Ithaca voted to decarbonize buildings in the city by the end of the decade. This year, Teaneck residents submitted a petition for a 100% renewable energy program. Red Bank and East Brunswick passed similar ordinances last year.
Matt Smith, state director for Food and Water Action, urged the public to sign a petition asking Gov. Phil Murphy to reduce fossil fuel emissions to 50% by 2030.
“We need rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade, and we need them now,” Smith said.
Ted Glick, president of 350NJ-R, also took the stage to urge lawmakers in Trenton, and in the U.S. Capitol, to stop financing the fossil fuel industry.
“Stop lending them money to pollute our air, land and water,” Glick said. “I urge the town to do more when it comes to climate change. Finally, all of us need to come to support low-income communities, communities of color because they are the most vulnerable.”
Charlene Ramos, president of Montclair State University Environmental Club, and other club members joined the rally. She said the university can do more when it comes to sustainability.
“Our recycling should be more trustworthy, and we want the university to do more composting. We can always do more,” Ramos said.
Holly Pox from Montville said there is a climate emergency right now.
“We need to get rid of fossil fuels so that our future generations have a place to live,” Pox said. “Our leaders are not doing enough, and they don’t understand the severity of the situation. We need to do more.”
Melisa Lavaide came with her children, Bailey and Sean, all the way from the Poconos to join the rally.
“I came in today because we live on this planet and if we don’t take care of it, we will die,” Bailey said. “It is important to protect our planet. It’s the only one we have.”
Korfhage said Montclair Climate Action will be at the Montclair Farmers’ Market at Walnut Street Station this Saturday educating people about the actions they can take toward climate change, such as converting to 100% renewable electricity.
“We need to act together. It’s great to do things on your own, but we also need to come together as a community and take the actions we need as a larger community to change the system so we are less dependent on fossil fuels. And that’s what we really need to work for,” he said.
EDITOR's NOTE: And earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the town had created a Climate Action Plan. It should have stated that in July, the Montclair Council passed a resolution authorizing the Montclair Environmental Commission to develop a Climate Action Plan. The plan is expected to be completed early next year, and will then be presented to the council.