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Real Climate Solutions are No Mystery

A Zero-Carbon Future for the Aviation Sector

By staff - International Transport Workers' Federation, November 15, 2022

Aviation workers are facing the twin threats of the climate emergency and the global jobs crisis. Criticism of aviation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has created job-loss fears for many aviation workers. Although it is understood that decarbonisation will involve many changes, and that some jobs and functions may change, it is important to mitigate this as far as possible with long-term planning. Recent experience demonstrates how harmful short-term thinking can be. An average of 40 percent of aviation workers lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the industry recovers, it is now facing critical labour shortages with vast amounts of expertise being lost to the industry forever. Employment security for all workers can be built around a long-term employment road map.

An aviation jobs plan that assesses the industry’s long-term employment requirements must be completed as a matter of priority. It must model the mix of skills and number of workers required to implement decarbonisation measures. On workforce numbers, it should take into account retirement rates and also additional workforce demands that could create future employment opportunities, for example from proposed climate measures such as reducing flight distances and slower cruising speeds. The assessment must also include quantifiable equality measures that consider the specific needs of women and young workers, such as equal opportunities for career development, quality entry-level jobs and training pathways.

The assessment will also provide the basis for employment security, skills upgrading, and career development. Every effort must be taken to retain workers in their existing roles. Where this is not possible, the assessment must provide a road map for retraining workers for different roles within the industry. Where redeployment is necessary, it must come with equal levels of pay, skill levels, and trade union representation.

The results of the long-term employment assessment must be built into all industry road maps for decarbonisation. This is vital that the industry can retain the necessary skills and expertise and avoid short-term job cuts that will harm the industry’s ability to conduct the transition most effectively.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

What Is Needed For A Just Transition To Renewables?

By Carolyn Fortuna - Clean Technica, November 2, 2022

Big Oil is trying to get climate liability lawsuits moved from state to federal courts, where they believe they’d be more likely to prevail against efforts to make them pay for damaging the environment. Key communities are laying out explicit steps to help move their economies away from coal. Debates are taking place in the tech sector that analyze the social and political changes inevitable to implement renewable energy at scale. These are all dilemmas within what’s called a just transition, and it’s at the core of renewable energy activism.

In its original incarnation, a just transition pointed to workers’ rights, but, over the past few years, the concept expanded into relevance for fields beyond the labor market. A just transition is a future-oriented concept, guided by principles of sustainability and climate justice.

Unfortunately, these concepts don’t always work in concert.

What is a Just Transition, Anyway?

The transition to a clean energy economy is escalating, yet it takes thoughtful planning and robust resources. There are several dimensions to a just transition to move economies and regions away from fossil fuels and towards creating sustainable value and solving issues of climate injustice.

An opposition point of view claims that the shift to clean energy will spur gaps in well paying jobs with good benefits, loss of health insurance, reduced property values, gaps in local tax revenues, unfunded liabilities for environmental cleanup, and uncertainty around future community economic development.

Include social and political participation of affected groups: A just transition is about focusing on support for communities that bear a disproportionate burden of industrial and fossil fuel pollution. These citizens suffer tremendous health effects and are denied commensurate economic benefits. Locations where deep pockets of industrial fossil fuel pollution occur are known as “sacrifice zones,” where toxic air inflicts health problems such as asthma and high rates of cancer. They’re also typically where low income communities of color live and where institutional barriers have afflicted generations of citizens.

Assist workers in unsustainable sectors whose jobs will get lost in the economic reorganization: For many advocates, a just transition encompasses not only support for displaced fossil fuel workers and front-line communities but also a tectonic shift in the design of the economy. For example, workers who engage with toxic materials face the likelihood of illness and death, yet these provide the world with the energy and the materials it needs to recreate energy systems.

Recognize where benefits are accumulated by only a small part of relevant stakeholders: A just transition considers less wealthy countries that depend on fossil fuels for a major part of their GNI. Many advocates are calling upon wealthier nations to help countries with less total domestic and foreign input to switch to clean energy.

Create reskilling and new opportunities for workers whose jobs are lost due to restructuring: A just transition means taking an extractive economy — one that exploits workers and resources — and transforming it into a regenerative economy — one that relies on renewable resources and puts people’s well-being before profit. Just transition initiatives shift the economy from climate polluting fossil fuels to energy democracy. No longer do highways receive mass federal funding; instead, an emphasis on public transit takes place. Costs for discarding waste in landfills skyrockets as do incentives to compost and purchase compostable packaging. Ecosystem destruction halts and ecosystem restoration becomes a huge focus. All of these will create new job opportunities.

Realizing the Green Jobs Promise

By Raul Alfaro-Pelico, Charlie Bloch, Nick Pesta, and Madeline Tyson - Rocky Mountain Institute, November 2022

The switch to a carbon-free economy is the biggest economic opportunity of our era. The International Energy Agency and other analysts have predicted that this wave of market-driven innovation will create two to six “green jobs” for each fossil fuel job lost. The promised jobs are already arriving — the 2022 Annual Review by the International Labour Organization and the International Renewable Energy Agency reported that renewables alone had created more than 12 million jobs as of 2021.

But as well-researched and credible as such studies are, unfulfilled promises of prosperity have left many people skeptical about clean energy job claims, a skepticism that is commonly accompanied by the belief that the future holds less opportunity than the past. Even before COVID-19, two out of three people felt pessimistic that the gap between the rich and poor in their own country would ever improve. In fact, the U.N.’s World Social Report 2020 identifies four megatrends that are contributing to growing inequality for more than 70 percent of the global population: climate change, technological innovation, urbanization, and international migration. As a result, narrowly framing job numbers as a direct tradeoff between fossil fuel jobs lost and clean energy jobs gained risks undermining political and popular support for the clean energy transition.

A clean energy focus also misses the bigger picture of our rapidly changing global economy, obscuring the “hidden” costs and risks within our current economic system as well as the nascent opportunities embedded in a shift to a more sustainable economy. Compounding forces — pandemics and supply chain fragilities, new technologies and networked intelligence, and climate change and environmental degradation — are creating unprecedented rates of change in the global economy. Workers, communities, and companies cannot afford to ignore the big picture of what the future holds.

Read the report (Link).

Industrial Policy Without Industrial Unions

By Lee Harris - The American Prospect, September 28, 2022

In August, as President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, pledging to build American semiconductor factories, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker posed on the White House lawn, flanked by the chief executives of vehicle companies Ford, Lion Electric, and Rivian. Thanks to billions of dollars in federal and state investments, Pritzker said, his constituents could expect a manufacturing revival, and “good-paying, union jobs.”

Illinois is refashioning itself as a center for electric vehicle (EV) production and a cluster of related industries, such as microchips. The state just passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, its flagship industrial-policy plan, and has passed MICRO, a complement to federal CHIPS subsidies. Pritzker is hungry for Chicago to host the upcoming Democratic convention and take a victory lap at factory openings.

But he may have to trot out non-union autoworkers at the ribbon cuttings.

Ford, a “Big Three” union automaker, boasts that the F-150 is a “legendary union-built vehicle,” but battery production is being outsourced to non-union shops. Bus producer Lion Electric is under pressure to use organized labor, but has yet to make public commitments on allowing a union election without interference. Electric-truck startup Rivian, which is 18 percent owned by Amazon, has been plagued by workplace injuries and labor violations. Illinois’s attorney general recently uncovered a scheme to renovate its downstate plant with workers brought in from Mexico, who were cheated out of overtime pay.

Democrats are giddy about the arrival of green industrial policy. With last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, CHIPS, and the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Congress has poured money into setting off green growth. The main messaging behind this policy is that government investment can create attractive jobs, and a new political base, by manufacturing the clean technologies of the future.

If you squint, you could almost mistake the IRA’s robust Buy American provisions for worker protections. They are often mentioned in the same sentence. But while new spending is likely to onshore manufacturing, it largely lacks provisions ensuring that those new jobs will adhere to high-road labor standards, let alone that they will be unionized.

Instead, the political logic of the bill is a gamble. The energy sector is still dominated by oil and gas. To accelerate the transition, it will be necessary to create large countervailing industries. After decades of offshoring, the first aim for green manufacturing is to make sure that it happens here at all. The IRA alone could produce as many as nine million jobs over the next decade, according to an analysis by University of Massachusetts Amherst and the labor-environmental coalition BlueGreen Alliance. Many of those jobs will be in old Democratic strongholds where the party is now hemorrhaging support, like mining in Nevada and auto production in the Midwest.

Supporters hope that once new green jobs are created, a mass labor coalition could follow. As Nathan Iyer, an analyst at the climate consultant RMI, told the Prospect in a recent podcast, “It’s hard to have a workers-based movement, and build workers’ power, if there are no workers.”

Liz Truss’s Overturn of Fracking Ban in Britain Is Sparking Grassroots Resistance

By Gareth Dale - Truthout, September 21, 2022

Britain will soon see the first license to drill for shale gas issued since 2019, when the practice was banned following a Magnitude 2.9 tremor at a fracking test well near Blackpool in Lancashire.

Overturning Britain’s ban on fracking was one of the first initiatives announced this month by the incoming government under Tory leader Liz Truss. It belongs to a package of demand-and-supply interventions aimed at addressing the high price of gas.

The message from Downing Street is clear: This government will not seek to lessen the hold of fossil fuel corporations over citizens’ lives by transitioning from hydrocarbons through efficiency measures (such as building insulation), rapidly ramping up renewables, and a further windfall tax on the oil and gas industry. Instead, it will arrange payment of the full-market price for gas to the energy firms while subsidizing consumer and business bills, particularly for rich, energy-profligate households. The cost, estimated at £150 billion, will be loaded onto future taxpayers and energy consumers. It is the largest single act of U.K. state intervention outside wartime.

Given Truss’s market-fundamentalist instincts, this cannot have been easy. But she has coupled it with a laissez-faire thrust on the supply side: to tear up red tape and issue licenses to drill. The market, she believes, will resolve its problems as new supply brings prices back down.

The focus is North Sea oil, but fracking is part of the program. Fracking also offers the incoming government an opportunity to throw red meat to Tory Party members and the right-wing Daily Mail tabloid. To reactionaries, Truss’s move signals that her government intends to bash the tree-huggers, goad them into setting up camps at fracking sites where the security forces will persecute and ultimately defeat them, much as Lady Thatcher did to the feminists who peace-camped at Greenham Common.

The government’s rationale for fracking, then, has an economic and a political edge. Will either succeed?

On the economic side, the prospects are sufficiently enticing to have sent the shares of some fracking companies soaring, notably Union Jack Oil. (Its very name sets Tory hearts aflutter.) Some pundits are predicting a great British gas rush. Shale extraction, claims the Daily Mail, may begin slowly, but by 2037 could “eclipse” fossil gas output from North Sea wells. At the wilder end are predictions that Britain will enjoy a U.S.-style shale revolution, contributing to lower global prices and securing mega profits for the fossil fuel sector.

New Analysis Destroys Fossil Fuel Industry's Misleading US Job Claims

By Jessica Corbett - Common Dreams, September 19, 2022

"Their false claims do not add up and cannot be allowed to stall a rapid transition to 100% clean, renewable energy," says the Food & Water Watch report.

A Food & Water Watch report released Monday undermines the fossil fuel industry's claims about its positive impact on employment, showing that as oil and gas giants ramped up production and raked in record profits at the planet's expense, jobs have declined.

The advocacy group's fact sheet—titled Oil Profits and Production Grow at the Expense of Jobs, Consumers, and the Environment—comes as scientists continue to call for a swift transition to clean energy and critics around the world accuse the fossil fuel industry of war profiteering.

"The oil and gas industry would rather pay shareholders than workers," said Food & Water Watch (FWW) senior researcher Oakley Shelton-Thomas. "It should be clear by now that more production means more pollution, but it hasn't meant lower prices or more jobs."

Global Climate Jobs Conference 2022: Fossil fuel workers and climate jobs

The Promise and Perils of Biden’s Climate Policy

By staff - European Trade Union Institute, September 15, 2022

The recent Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is properly recognised as the largest climate policy in US history. In this short essay I will first summarise and comment on its provisions, then outline the reactions to it, with a focus on labour unions, and will close by providing my own thoughts.

The IRA allocates around $370 billion over a period of ten years. About 75% of that is in the form of incentives (rather than direct investments or regulatory mandates) to advance the transition to ‘clean energy’ that includes renewables but also nuclear power, biofuels, hydrogen, and carbon capture and sequestration. These incentives focus primarily on advancing the production of clean energy but also on stimulating its consumption. Smaller energy investments focus on tackling pollution in poorer communities and on conservation and rural development.

The IRA also authorises as much as $350 billion of loans to be disbursed by the Department of Energy. While such loans have been around since the Bush Administration, the amounts and the likelihood that they will be used during the Biden Administration are much higher. Finally, its main regulatory provision is the designation of carbon, methane and other heat-trapping emissions from power plants, automobiles, and oil and gas wells as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, one of the bedrocks of US environmental legislation, which the Environmental Protection Agency implements. Overall, it is estimated that by 2030 the IRA will help reduce emissions by around 40% of 2005 levels, compared to the about 25% reduction projected without it. 

However, the policy mandates that renewable energy siting permits cannot be approved during any year unless accompanied by the opening up of 2 million acres of land or 60 million acres of ocean to oil and gas leasing bids, respectively, during the prior year (for more details see 50265 of Act). In either case, the amount of actual leasing and drilling is subject to market dynamics rather than regulatory limits, while the Act also streamlines the permitting process for pipelines. The growing transition to electric vehicles will lessen the market for oil but the strategic repositioning of natural gas in energy production (as well as plastics) suggests that it (along with nuclear power) will be a long-term source of energy, including in the production of hydrogen. Nevertheless, overall, it is the prevailing view that the IRA will decisively transition the US into renewable energy as part of a broader energy mix.

Democratising Work in the 21st Century

By Isabelle Ferreras - Green European Journal, September 14, 2022

With digitalisation and shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather, the world of work is changing rapidly. But this transformation should not become an inevitability that workers must passively endure. Rather, it should be a democratic process shaped and decided by workers themselves. On the sidelines of the European Trade Union Institute’s Blueprint for equality conference, we sat down with Isabelle Ferreras, who has co-authored a new book calling for a re-organisation of the economy, to discuss democratising work in the 21st century.

Green European Journal: Digitalisation and automation are transforming how we work. How do you see the new face of work?

Isabella Ferreras: What is most notable about digitalisation is the loss of work’s physicality. As soon as jobs adopt technological tools that allow remote or computer-assisted working, workers cease to come together in the same place. In Marx’s analysis of the first age of industrial capitalism, the concentration of workers in factories was an important factor in the development of class consciousness. It enabled the working class to shift from what he called a “class in itself” to a “class for itself”. The opportunity to come together in one place, at a frequency imposed by industrial capitalism, meant that workers could get to know one another, take their breaks together, talk to one another. They realised that they shared very similar lives and problems that needed shared solutions.

The digitalisation of the economy individualises the experience of work. You might find an engineer based in Delhi, another in Boston, and a third who is subcontracted to write some lines of code from South Africa or Ukraine all working on the same project. All these people interact via an online platform, without getting to know one another and without the opportunity to realise that they are all part of the same “work investment” necessary for a business. By work investment, I mean all the workers required to successfully produce something or provide a service.

So the fragmentation of work, brought about by digitalisation, leads to a less social experience of work and, in the end, a loss of power for workers?

As this fragmentation has taken root, workers have grown more aware. Workers aspire to something else. We can see this in two ways. First, since the pandemic, there is a massive rise in people changing careers because they aspire to more meaningful work. There was a real misery for “non-essential” workers slaving away in front of their computers, stuck at home with this interface. In the hope of keeping their workers, some British companies have embarked on a full-scale experiment: the biggest ever trial of a four-day working week has just begun in the UK. About 50 businesses are implementing it, offering a better work-life balance for the same salary. Workers are expected to be just as productive over four days and gain a better quality of life.

Second, businesses are going to great lengths to improve job satisfaction. This is essentially a retention strategy whereby companies work to increase job satisfaction so that employees remain loyal. Employers are giving workers more say in decisions that affect them, such as combining working from home and the office.

In France, a survey conducted by the Association Pour l’Emploi des Cadres (APEC) in January 2021 revealed that 9 out of 10 managers are listening much more, building bonds within teams, and empowering employees as a result of the pandemic. This is an opportunity to be seized. On 16 December 2021, the European Parliament passed a historic resolution demanding, among other things, a revision of the European Works Council Directive. In Democratize Work, we call for a collective veto right for workers so that they can influence decisions taken by company boards or works councils.

The opposite trend is the growing physicality of work in the care sector. What does the rising need for care, both for people and the planet, mean for the world of work?

Alongside the trend towards automation is a realisation that we’re going to need more human labour and, let’s hope, not more unrecognised and unpaid exploitation. Taking care of both the planet and other human beings, like through public services, requires more and more work but nobody is talking about paying for this work. Neglecting the remuneration side of care comes from misconceptions about the future of work.

The intrinsic content of all jobs has changed with each technological revolution. But the key issue we must grasp here is that there’s much more work for us to do so that we’re no longer dependent on our energy slaves [the quantity of energy required to replace human labour]. We must also formalise that part of the care sector which just exploits women’s labour. Equalising living standards and giving men and women the same number of opportunities means investing massively in childcare, for example.

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