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Labor Unions Rally Behind California’s Zero-Emissions Climate Plan

Robert Pollin interviewed by C.J. Polychroniou - Truthout, June 10, 2021

Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has been spearheading national and international efforts to tackle the climate crisis for more than a decade. Over the past few years, he and a group of his colleagues at PERI have produced green economy transition programs for numerous states. The latest such program is for California, and it is being released today.

The massive study — nearly 200 pages long — shows how California can become a zero emissions economy by 2045 while expanding good job opportunities throughout the state. Nineteen unions have already endorsed the green transition plan, making clear that they reject frameworks that falsely pit labor priorities and the environment against each other, and more are expected to do so in the days and weeks ahead.

In this interview for Truthout, Pollin, co-author with Noam Chomsky of Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet (Verso 2020), talks about the climate stabilization project for California and the national implications of union support for a green economy transition.

C.J. Polychroniou: California has been at the forefront of the climate fight for years now, but the truth of the matter is that its efforts have fallen short. Now, you and some colleagues of yours at PERI have just completed a commissioned climate stabilization project for California. How does the project envision the clean energy transition to take place in a manner consistent with the emission targets set out by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, and how will it be financed?

Robert Pollin: This study presents a recovery program for California that will also build a durable foundation for an economically robust and ecologically sustainable longer-term growth trajectory. California has long been a national and global leader in implementing robust climate stabilization policies. This includes the 2018 Executive Order B-55-18 by then Gov. Jerry Brown. This measure committed the state to cut CO2 emissions by 50 percent as of 2030, to become carbon neutral no later than 2045, and to produce net negative emissions thereafter. These goals are somewhat more ambitious than those set out by the IPCC in 2018. Our study outlines a program through which the state can achieve its own established goals.

Our study shows how these 2030 and 2045 emissions reduction targets can be accomplished in California through phasing out the consumption of oil, coal and natural gas to generate energy in the state, since burning fossil fuels to produce energy is, by far, the primary source of CO2 emissions, and thereby, the single greatest factor causing climate change. The project we propose is to build a clean energy infrastructure to replace the existing fossil fuel-dominant infrastructure. The clean energy infrastructure will require large-scale investments to, first, dramatically raise energy efficiency standards in the state and, second, to equally dramatically expand the supply of clean renewable energy supplies, including solar and wind primarily, with supplemental supplies from low-emissions bioenergy, geothermal and small-scale hydro power. We show how this climate stabilization program for California can also serve as a major new engine of job creation and economic well-being throughout the state, both in the short- and longer run.

A Program for Economic Recovery and Clean Energy Transition in California

By Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty,Caitlin Kline, and Gregor Semieniuk - Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI); University of Massachusetts-Amherst, June 10, 2021

This study presents a robust climate stabilization project for California. It demonstrates that achieving the state’s official CO2 emissions reduction targets—a 50 percent emissions cut by 2030 and reaching zero emissions by 2045—is a realistic prospect. This climate stabilization project can also serve as a major engine of economic recovery and expanding economic opportunities throughout the state. This includes an increase of over 1 million jobs in the state through investment programs in energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, public infrastructure, land restoration and agriculture. The study also develops a detailed just transition program for workers and communities in California that are currently dependent on the state’s fossil fuel industries for their livelihoods. In particular, we focus here on condi­tions in Kern, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles counties.

The study is divided into nine sections:

  1. Pandemic, Economic Collapse, and Conditions for Recovery
  2. California’s Clean Energy Transition Project
  3. Clean Energy Investments and Job Creation
  4. Investment Programs for Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Land Restoration and Agri­culture
  5. Total Job Creation in California through Combined Investment Programs
  6. Contraction of California’s Fossil Fuel Industries and Just Transition for Fossil Fuel Workers
  7. County-level Job Creation, Job Displacement, and Just Transition
  8. Achieving a Zero Emissions California Economy by 2045
  9. Financing California’s Recovery and Sustainable Transition Programs

Nineteen labor unions throughout California have endorsed this study and its findings.

Read the text (PDF).

UPTE-CWA resolution demanding University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) divest from Energy Transfer Partners and from Banking Institutions that fund the Dakota Access Pipeline

By the University Professional and Technical Employees union (UPTE-CWA) - Resolution, January 15, 2017

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on unceded treaty lands of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. The lands are the sites where the ancestors have been laid to rest and on which DAPL continues to desecrate; and

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) along a route under Lake Oahe and across the Missouri River, the primary source of drinking water of the tribe. The pipeline is slated to carry up to 570,000 gallons of crude oil per day along its 1, 172 mile route and pipeline ruptures have become increasingly more common throughout the U.S. and a pipeline burst would not only endanger the Standing Rock Sioux reservation but it would also endanger the clean water downstream since the Missouri River is a major tributary to the Mississippi River which more than 17 million people depend on for both human consumption and irrigation; and

WHEREAS, The members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are fulfilling the responsibility conferred upon them by their ancestors to Protect the Sacred Lands and Water for future generations and invite people to stand with them and join them in peaceful prayerful non-violent direct actions and to actively DIVEST from Energy Transfer Partners and any financial institution that is providing financial support for this project; and

WHEREAS, the Sacred Stone camp, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin camp (Seven Council Fires Camp) and now also the Oceti Oyate Camp (One Nation camp) have become major camps of non-violent resistance which brought together more than 300 Native American tribes throughout the U.S, Mexico, Central America, South America, the First Nation people of Norway, Australia and the Polynesians and thousands of people from around the world, to stand with Standing Rock and participate in prayerful non-violent direct action and among those that have participated in the activities in the camps are native and non-native members of organized labor as well as 4,000 U.S. military veterans; and

WHEREAS, the prayer ceremonies and non-violent direct actions carried out by the water protectors have been met with a brutal military response from DAPL security and Morton County Sheriff’s Department and to the arrests of more than 500 Water Protectors. The military response is unwarranted against unarmed civilians whom are exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Lawsuits have been filed against Morton County and DAPL security for its disproportionate use of violence and its use of attack dogs and “non-lethal” weapons such as rubber bullets, LRADs, 5lb cans of far reaching mace, tear gas shot into crowds, water cannons sprayed in sub-freezing temperatures and concussion grenades in ways that have caused serious and permanent bodily injury; and

WHEREAS, solidarity with Standing Rock has been voiced by a growing number of labor bodies, including the Communications Workers of America; Academic Student-Employees-UAW Local 4123; Amalgamated Transit Union; American Federation of Teachers Local 2121-City College of San Francisco Faculty Union; American Postal Workers Union; Black Workers for Justice; Border Agricultural Workers; California Faculty Association; California Federation of Teachers, Climate Justice Task Force; Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Canadian Union of Public Employees; Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions; Chicago Graduate Employees Organization, IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297; City of Madison LIUNA local 236; GEO-UAW Local 2322; GEU-UAW Local 6950; GSOC-UAW Local 2110; GSU-UChicago, IFT/AFT Local 6300; Industrial Workers of the World; IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus; Labor Coalition for Community Action; Labor for Palestine; Labor for Standing Rock; National Nurses United; New York State Nurses Association; National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981; Rutgers AAUP-AFT; SEIU 503 OPEU; Service Employees International Union; TAA-Graduate Worker Union of UW-Madison; United Electrical Workers; and University of California Student-Workers Union-UAW Local 2865; and

WHEREAS, union members, including UPTE members have shown support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the water protectors by donating money and supplies to the Sacred Stone, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin (Council of the Seven Fires) and Oceti Oyate (One Nation) camps as well as by going to the camps individually and in delegations such as Labor for Standing Rock and providing donated labor to assist the camps in its preparations for the extremely cold North Dakota winter weather conditions and staying there to provide continued support; and

WHEREAS, University of California has committed itself to Global Sustainability goals and supports the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement yet its financial investments in the University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP Holdings) include more than $3 million dollars in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the main corporation behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of shares in many of the banks that are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, which contradicts the stated goals of the Paris Climate Agreement since the continued extraction of fossil fuels will undoubtedly put the planet at risk of surpassing the 2 degree mark; and

WHEREAS, the Solutions Project, known previously as the Wind, Water and Sun study by Stanford University provides an evidence-based approach towards reaching our sustainability goals and a renewable energy future by investment in clean energy jobs and would steer us away from the destruction of our planet and lead us towards a Just Transition away from a fossil fuel economy; and

WHEREAS, millions of people are realizing that the false dichotomy of jobs vs environment no longer is sustainable and are opposed to the violation of Treaty Rights as well as violations of Human and Civil Rights perpetrated against the Water Protectors and are actively withdrawing their personal and business accounts from the banks that are funding DAPL as well as for calling for the divestment of ETP shares from their CALPERS and CALSTRS;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT: University Technical and Professional Employees-CWA calls upon the federal government to immediately end construction of and remove the Dakota Access Pipeline, and

be it further RESOLVED, that UPTE calls for an immediate end to state violence against the water protectors at Standing Rock and dismissal of all charges against Water Protectors, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union urges the entire labor movement to actively promote just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that respects indigenous rights, the environment, and the rights of all workers to safe, well-paying union jobs, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union will seek divestment of all union, benefit and Retirement funds from Energy Transfer Partners, Citibank, Wells Fargo Bank and other DAPL funders and will seek to invest in a future that will reduce our carbon emissions and help create a just, sustainable and prosperous future for all.

The Fine Print I:

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