HOBOKEN, NJ - Climate Change is a pretty big deal when you're at or below sea level. No wonder Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is on board with President Biden's executive order to bring the United States back into line with the Paris Agreement.
Initially signed in 2015, the goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming and greenhouse gas emissions while building resilience to adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures. Biden brought the US back into the pact yesterday in one of his first acts as President, after former President Trump announced the nation's withdrawal in 2017.
“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 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."
Bhalla is Mayor of Hoboken, a densely populated urban enclave sitting at sea level along the mouth of the Hudson River. In 2020 alone, Hoboken has saw significant “50-year” flooding events within days of each other.
The day after the second flood on July 22, Bhalla issued a remarkably candid statement, saying, “To be completely straightforward–given Hoboken’s low-lying typography and location right next to the Hudson River, even with unlimited funding, we are unlikely to solve the most severe of storms (50-year flooding event or worse), like we experienced yesterday. Most of Hoboken, especially the western part of the City, was developed on land that was previously tidal wetlands from the Hudson River. NHSA estimates that to prevent the most severe of flooding events, like the storm we saw yesterday, we would need to replace our entire sewer system, which would cost an estimated $3 billion. Needless to say, this is an impractical solution.”
Among Hoboken’s ambitious initiatives currently being carried out is the Rebuild By Design program, bringing nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to the City for the installation of a number of retention systems and pumps. The concept was intended to alleviate flooding after the world witnessed the wholesale devastation of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Bhalla is a member of the Climate Mayors, a bipartisan network of over 470 U.S. mayors working to combat climate change through meaningful actions in their communities.
Last September, Hoboken announced that it would join a lawsuit against oil companies, claiming, "“As a coastal community, Hoboken has directly felt the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels and more frequent storms," said Bhalla “At the same time we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars adapting to the realities of climate change, Big Oil companies have engaged in a decades long campaign of misinformation that has contributed to global warming which has disproportionately impacted our residents. We cannot stand idly by and allow Big Oil to continue profiting at the expense of Hoboken residents. It’s time these companies pay their fair share and be held accountable for their actions.”
For it's part, Hoboken began purchasing 100% clean, non-polluting renewable electricity for municipal facilities in April 2019, was recently certified as the first LEED Gold city in New Jersey by the U.S. Green Building Council in January 2019, passed one of New Jersey’s strongest plastic bag bans, banning all carry-out plastic bags and styrofoam products.