Montclair groups rally for leaders to take action on climate change


As international leaders continued talks at the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, activists gathered in Montclair’s Wellmont Arts Plaza Saturday morning to rally for leaders to take action on climate change.

About 150 people, some carrying signs and others toting small children bundled against the chill, listened to speeches and folk singers, and signed up to help the cause.

Event organizer David Korfhage of Montclair Climate Action said that none of our leaders — President Biden, Gov. Murphy or the town council — were doing what they needed to do on climate.

“Ithaca, New York just voted to decarbonize all its buildings,” Kornbluth said. “Why not Montclair? Teaneck, Red Bank, East Brunswick all committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

“We need to change our system to make it more sustainable, more just and more green and let our leaders know. We need to tell the truth about what’s going on, and the truth is, we are in a climate crisis.” 

Some say state level action needed

John Reichmand of Empower NJ said that fixing the climate problem would have to happen on the state level, because “whatever bill comes out of D.C. won’t be close to enough.”

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The two most important action items, he said, are stopping all new fossil fuel development and setting strict targets for reducing fossil fuel use by half by the end of the decade.

“New Jersey is the only progressive state in the country that hasn’t adopted strict targets for reducing fossil fuels,” he said.

“It’s going to be a tough transition, but as the old saying goes, ‘When you’re in a hole, stop digging. We can’t wait 20 years, we can’t wait 10 years, we can’t wait 5 years. 2050 is too late. The game will be over.” 

Others call for end to fossil fuel incentives

Ted Glick of DivestNJ said it’s also important to push for companies, institutions and government to “stop lending money to the fossil fuel industry to pollute our air, land and water and disrupt our climate.”

Over the last decade, he said, almost 1,500 financial institutions that control $39 trillion in assets have divested from fossil fuels. New York State has begun this divestment in its pension funds, and support is building for New Jersey to do the same. “This campaign is gaining momentum,” he said.

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He urged Montclair to adopt a resolution to divest from fossil fuels. “It is happening around the state. It is time for Montclair to take that action. This must be the year that New Jersey divests.”  

A call for climate justice

Climate justice was another theme of the rally. Christian Rodriguez of Ironbound Community Corporation said Newark residents suffer disproportionately from the ill effects of fossil fuels from transportation and industry, thanks to emissions released by thousands of trucks and airplanes traveling in the area. There are also many surrounding industries; a large garbage incinerator; two natural gas pipelines, a power plant and one of the biggest sewage treatment plants on the East Coast.

Matt Smith, the New Jersey director for Food and Water Watch, said that progress on climate change is facing a new challenge he calls climate incrementalism, which has replaced climate denial. 

He said leaders, from Biden to Murphy are saying the right things about the threat of climate change but failing to take action. 

“Biden called climate change a ‘code red’ but went to Glasglow and was one of four country leaders who failed to sign a treaty to prohibit the burning of coal,” Smith said. “That is unacceptable. Here in New Jersey, Murphy says the greatest threat under his watch is climate change, but then he approved a new pipeline.”

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He asked attendees to write letters to Gov. Murphy asking for a moratorium on fossil fuel projects and immediate cuts to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 2030.  

Smith said that every week there are several major fossil fuel projects pending approval in the state. One that the group is currently fighting is an expansion of a pipeline in the Highlands, the source of drinking water for Montclair and a good part of the state.

“They’re putting in a toxic compressor station less than a half mile from the state’s largest drinking water reservoir in order to push more fracked gas from Pennsylvania into New Jersey,” he said.

Anyone who wants Empower NJ’s morning alerts containing action items on climate should text “no fossil fuels” to 2331, he said.

Jane Bray, 8, who was at the rally with her mother and older sister Anne, seemed convinced of the importance of taking action on climate change. 

Asked why she was at the rally, she replied, “Because we live on earth.”

Julia Martin is the 2021 recipient of the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists’ David Carr award for her coverage of Montclair for

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Twitter: @TheWriteJulia 

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