The debate is over. Extreme weather like Super Storm Sandy and Hurricane Maria are no longer rare occurrences, they are expected. Climate change is no longer some far off nightmare, we are living it today. The president of the United States denies the existence of climate change. He pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement and, in doing so, took the country backward. We are not only failing to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we are accelerating them.

But what’s stopping New Jersey from taking action, what’s stopping us from doing the right thing?

When we look back, it’s imperative New Jersey is able to say it was on the right side of history — the side that fought for a better future. The time is now. We must reduce fossil fuels and fully embrace renewable energy and wind energy as an essential part of securing our future with renewable energy.

New Jersey has committed to being a zero emission state by 2050. Couple this with rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative earlier this year and we have committed to investing in green energy alternatives.

Luckily for New Jersey, we have some of the most attractive wind farm locations in the nation along our coast. Just last month, parcels of the Northeast coastline were leased for wind energy at over $1,000 an acre. This is substantially more than the previous amount of a little over $500 an acre back in 2016. The industry is making massive steps towards renewable energy and so too should New Jersey.

In 2010 I was the prime sponsor of legislation that would create a wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City. Gov. Chris Christie, however, stalled the project throughout his administration. With our new administration, Gov. Phil Murphy has prioritized renewable energy after the clean energy bill was signed into law last May. We rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative last year and we plan for New Jersey to be emissions-free by 2050. Even the once immovable project, with Gov. Murphy, we expect the coast off Atlantic City to produce 3,500 megawatts by 2030. This, however, is only a sliver of the potential energy the New Jersey coast can harvest. Atlantic City’s off-shore wind farm is only the beginning.

Offshore wind energy will not only generate green energy, it will also boost the state’s economy by creating a whole new industry of green, blue-collar jobs in New Jersey. The new industry could produce tens of thousands of new jobs and generate billions of dollars in investments for the state. These new jobs will require skilled workers, which is a demand we plan to supply with our investment through the Bond Act in vocational and technical schools. New Jersey can be a national leader in off-shore wind energy, so it is imperative that we have skilled workers who are trained and ready to meet the demand for these large renewable energy projects.

I have been a longtime advocate of green, renewable energy, and therefore I am incredibly excited about New Jersey’s potential for offshore wind energy.

We need to take advantage of this tremendous resource. We need to make positive steps towards a green, sustainable future. We need New Jersey to meet its goal of zero emissions by 2050. We need to do this because it’s the smart thing to do for the economy and workers. Luckily, in this case, it is also the right thing to do for the future of the environment, children and grandchildren.

Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, is president of the state Senate.

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