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Confronting Climate Change

Taking the ocean into account is critical for successfully addressing climate change, and addressing climate change is critical for the future of the ocean

Funding

State Climate Stories

One of the biggest obstacles inhibiting state climate action is the limited, or complete lack of, available climate-related funding. Even in states that allocate funding to address climate change, funds are often dispersed across multiple government agencies and institutions, and rarely have ocean or coastal solutions prioritized.

Having a variety of funding sources available for different climate change mitigation and adaptation investments can be valuable, given the scope, complexity and multiscale nature of climate impacts. However, this means communities and governments rely on multiple public, private and hybrid funding sources with only a few being explicitly allocated for climate action. This is slowly changing and there are increasing avenues that states can pursue to fund climate action, including federal government spending and programs, bond financing, market-based mechanisms and structures, environmental disaster settlement funds and philanthropic partnerships.1, 2

While increasing the availability of funds for climate action is an essential step to reduce greenhouse gas pollutants and promote ocean and coastal resilience, it is worth noting that other enabling conditions are necessary for successful policy implementation. State government agencies may not have the capacity to apply for or administer new funds even if climate funding is made available. And funding is often only available for “shovel-ready” projects, or projects providing matching funds, leaving many states and subnational governments unsupported in developing plans, permitting capacity and management policies for more comprehensive and significant climate action.

The State Stories below were chosen to exemplify various funding sources and mechanisms used by states to successfully drive ocean and coastal mitigation and adaptation actions. By highlighting their successes, lessons learned and important takeaways, these State Stories can provide meaningful insights and serve as inspiration for other jurisdictions, coastal and inland, seeking to combat climate change by supporting critical on-the-ground projects.

New Jersey Promotion of Blue Carbon in Coastal Areas

One method for acquiring climate funding is through market-based mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While mostly known for their direct climate mitigation qualities, these tools can also provide funding for additional climate benefits. For example, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a cap-and-invest program which reduces power sector emissions for 11 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. First formed in 2005, RGGI sets a collective cap on emissions from the power sector for participating states and creates emission allowances for individual fossil-fuel power plants with a capacity of 25 MW or greater. Under this system with an annually declining cap, each regulated power plant must purchase a RGGI CO2 allowance for each short ton (2,000lbs) of CO2 emitted.

In 2008, RGGI auctioned its first CO2 allowances for the regulated sources to use or trade among themselves, allowing businesses to match supply with demand. Participating states may then use these funds from the auction sale for various climate, energy and equity goals including community energy efficiency initiatives, transportation programs, renewable energy deployment and direct bill assistance. Some RGGI states, such as New Jersey, have used these funds for nature-based mitigation and adaptation activities.

New Jersey established broad guidelines for its carbon auction proceeds as outlined by its Global Warming Solutions Fund Act in 2008. In 2020, the state developed a Strategic Funding Plan for distributing the proceeds through three state agencies for various energy, climate and community development goals. Based on state administrative directives, previous funding priorities and public feedback, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) allocates 10% of the carbon auction  proceeds for blue carbon and forest ecosystems. The other funds are distributed to the NJ Economic Development Authority and Board of Public Utilities for other activities such as developing offshore wind and other renewable energy projects, energy efficiency projects, supporting electric vehicle goals, and reducing electricity costs to consumers. NJDEP has offered $15 million in public grants for the restoration of its forests and tidal marshes in an effort to reduce and sequester greenhouse gas emissions, and provide co-benefits, such as enhancing habitat and improving resiliency to coastal erosion. 3

Key Takeaways:

One critical enabling condition for the state emphasis on protecting blue carbon is the broader political and community support for RGGI and climate initiatives. New Jersey was among the first signatories to participate in the RGGI carbon trading program in 2009, yet it exited the initiative in 2011 under the leadership of a more conservative governor. Under a more progressive administration, it rejoined RGGI in 2018, and the Strategic Funding Plan mentioned above represents the first investments the state will be making with its carbon proceeds in nearly a decade. Community groups who provided input to the plan, including unions, municipalities, environmental justice communities, and environmental groups designated blue carbon and clean transportation initiatives as the highest priorities in 2019.


1 Elkind, Ethan; Lamm, Ted and Segal, Katie. Seeding Capital: Policy Solutions to Accelerate Investment in Nature-Based Climate Action; Berkeley and Los Angeles: Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, The Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, June 2021. Accessed August 31, 2021

EPA. 2021. “Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X): Federal Funding and Technical Assistance for Climate Adaptation.” Last modified: September 1, 2021.

3New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. New Jersey Regional Greenhouse Gas Emission Strategic Funding Plan: Years 2020 through 2022. (Accessed August 27, 2021).

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