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The Future of Offshore Wind in New York State

What Do Clean Energy Programs Mean for Workers?

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 30, 2024

It’s not every day that workers get to tell representatives of Congress how federal programs affect their work lives. But that’s just what happened when union members working on clean energy projects in Illinois, Maine, and New York spoke about the impact of federal climate investments in their communities to the Clean Energy Workers Roundtable hosted by the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC).

Kilton Webb, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 567 told the Roundtable how his union is training clean energy workers in Maine:

I’m in my final year as an apprentice, and after five years, I have put in 8,000 work hours on commercial, industrial, and solar fields. The work is hard, but rewarding because I am part of this new clean energy industry that is doing great things for the state of Maine. It’s also exciting because of the potential of having more union jobs ready for the next generation of workers. Students who were in middle and high school when I started my journey of becoming an electrician are now apprentices that I work with and teach every day.

Environmental Justice Community & Labor Victory at Ava Community Energy

A Sustainable Jobs Blueprint, Part II: Putting workers and communities at the centre of Canada’s net-zero energy economy

By Megan Gordon and Alex Callahan, et. al. - Pembina Institute, December 14, 2023

Canada has 26 years remaining to achieve net-zero by 2050. The focus of energy experts and government officials to date has been on the technical solutions needed to achieve deep emissions reductions. What is becoming increasingly clear is that a shift of this magnitude cannot happen without the participation of the workers and communities that drive Canada’s economic engine and who will drive its decarbonization efforts. Engaging Canadian workers and communities in the transition to net-zero requires a broad, systems-focused, and wholistic approach.

Reducing emissions without a plan for workers leaves workers and industries with unanswered questions. The Sustainable Jobs Blueprint series co-developed by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Pembina Institute aims to offer a pathway to ensure industrial change and decarbonization is informed by social dialogue focused on creating new, good jobs, ensuring workers have a clear path forward.

This second report offers advice on the tactics the federal government can use as it makes investments and develops programs, with the goal of better and more fair outcomes for present and future workers as well as communities. We recommend the federal government take steps to advance the following seven worker- and economy-focused actions, discussed in greater detail in the report.

Download a copy of this publication here (Link).

Is Offshore Wind in Oregon’s Future?

By Joshua Basofin - Climate Solutions, December 1, 2023

Offshore Wind Could Help Oregon and Our Region Meet Clean Energy Targets - If We Do it Right.

The Oregon Coast is known for its dramatic cliffs, rock formations, and scenic views. But did you know the south coast of Oregon has another unique distinction? It has some of the strongest offshore winds in the country. There is a possibility of harnessing those winds by building floating wind turbines in the ocean (some of them as tall as the Empire State Building to maximize energy generation per turbine). Offshore wind from the Oregon Coast could provide up to 3 gigawatts of renewable electricity to the grid. That’s enough to power at least one million homes (we currently have 1.5 million households in Oregon)! While Climate Solutions believes offshore wind power is an exciting prospect on the horizon for Oregon, we want to make sure it’s developed in a way that values and respects Oregon’s communities and marine environment. If we are thoughtful about offshore wind, everyone in the state will benefit. Oregon will have a more reliable and cleaner electricity grid and significant economic development on the coast.

The Green New Deal and the Politics of the Possible

What Energy Companies Don't Want You To Know

Working for Climate Justice: Trade unions in the front line against climate change

By Ben Crawford and David Whyte - Institute of Employment Rights: Centre for Climate Crime and Climate Justice, November 23, 2023

For further background, visit this site.

Co-authors of the report, David Whyte, Queen Mary University of London and Ben Crawford, The London School of Economics, argue that the transition away from a carbon-based economy relies on the collective action of workers and their organisations, challenging an economic system focused on extracting value at any cost. While the primary analysis addresses the British context, the authors acknowledge the global nature of ecological sustainability and its transformation of social existence both within and outside the workplace.

Focusing on the economic sphere of production as the engine of climate change, the authors contend that the future of the planet relies heavily on workers' power and collective action. Contrary to decisions made in boardrooms and cabinets, they stress that a sustainable transition depends on workers and their communities organising a new social and economic system.

Co-author of report Professor David Whyte, and Director of the Centre for Climate Crime and Climate Justice, Queen Mary University of London explains: “Time is running out for us. We don’t have time to wait politely until employers decide to do the right thing. This is why a transition to a low carbon economy has to be led by workers taking action in their workplaces. A sustainable planet has to be based on sustainable jobs and sustainable ways of working and living.”

Trade unions, historically not prioritising climate change in bargaining, have a rich history of environmentalism and struggles against the commodification of labour. The pamphlet argues for a "secret solidarity" between workers and nature, emphasising the shared interest in slowing down production processes causing social and environmental harm.

To achieve a transition at the necessary scale and pace, the pamphlet proposes priorities for the trade-union movement:

  1. Empowering Members: Workers must put climate change on an industrial footing, building a grassroots power base through coordinated workplace representatives and political education.
  2. Integrating Climate Bargaining: Climate bargaining should be integrated into campaigns for employment rights, demanding a statutory basis for the right to bargain on climate and ecology.
  3. Allocating Resources: Trade unions must allocate greater resources to climate campaigning, countering the false dichotomy between jobs and a green economy and advocating for public ownership of key sectors.
  4. Engaging Globally: Unions should organise and recruit along global supply chains, recognising the need for international coordination and bargaining.

The report concludes by urging a transformative approach to just transition, where workers and trade unionists rethink the production and purpose of value, ensuring products and services align with socially useful and sustainable goals. The call is clear: workers must harness their collective power to lead the way towards a low-carbon economy.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Ignoring Climate Scientists and Environmental Justice Advocates, DOE Awards Billions to Fossil Fuel Hydrogen

By Abbe Ramanan - Linked In, October 30, 2023

On October 13th, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the recipients of the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (“H2Hubs”) funding. H2Hubs will award up to $7 billion to seven regional hydrogen hubs around the country. Disappointingly, more than half of the money from this massive federal investment will go towards Hubs producing hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as blue hydrogen. This massive investment ignores major concerns cited by climate scientists, environmental justice advocates, and clean energy experts.

One major concern identified by climate scientists is especially worrying: hydrogen gas leaked into the atmosphere is an indirect greenhouse gas that extends the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere, which means hydrogen has 35 times the climate warming impacts of CO2. A massive buildout of hydrogen infrastructure at this scale, without further research into how to safely and securely transport and store hydrogen, will almost certainly lead to significant short-term warming.

Although DOE has stated that each Hub’s projected benefits played a large role in determining awards, the H2Hubs process has suffered from a lack of transparency. Prospective awardees were not required to publish their proposals publicly, so while many of the Hubs promise community benefits, how these community benefits will be generated – and how those benefits will outweigh the potential harms of each Hub – remain opaque. DOE is hosting a series of local engagement opportunities for each Hub, which will hopefully provide opportunities to cut through the hype and learn more about what these projects will mean for the communities impacted.

While we don’t know much about these Hubs, what we do know suggests that most of these projects will do more harm than good:

National Climate Change and Biodiversity Service: A PCS workers’ plan for an alternative civil service

By staff - Public and Commercial Services Union, October 25, 2023

The UK civil and public services have been under a decades old drive to reform in the name of efficiency savings and cost cutting. This is from both Labour and Tory administrations, and the ConDem coalition.

The reality of this for workers has been a relentless attack on their pay, jobs, terms and conditions. With increasing privatisation of public services and outsourcing, it has weakened the services they deliver and led to an ideological rolling back of the welfare state.

Today we have multiple crises facing us from the costs of living and energy crises, to public health and climate change. The twin impacts of Brexit and Covid-19 revealed two important things that were not surpising to those working in the UK civil and public services at least.

In the case of Brexit, the extent of which the hollowing out of expertise and experience showed that major transformations to our economy cannot be done on the cheap without both financial and human resources. In terms of the Covid-19 pandemic, the extraordinary commitment and adaptability of civil and public service workers illustrating just how vital they are to the economic, political, and social well-being of the nation.

Covid-19 gave a glimpse of what could be possible when the vital role of the civil and public services was briefly recognised. It also showed how the state can be transformative, act with urgency, and coordinate resources for the public good. Key civil service departments had to rapidly adapt for example in delivering the Coronavirus Job Retention or furlough scheme and benefit changes. Factory production lines, in consultation with unions, were quickly repurposed to produce ventilators or PPE equipment.

Now there is also the increasingly pressing challenge to respond to of climate change and biodiversity loss. Unfortunately we have politicians so hostile to public and democratic institutions, that it promotes inefficiency and profit making at the expense of organising the civil and public services in a way that can lead on the rapid and far reaching action that we need to address the climate crisis.

This is why we urgently need to develop an alternative vision and call for a radical rethink about how the machinery of government is configured to achieve our climate change and biodiversity targets. At the heart of this is the proposal for a National Climate Change and Biodiversity Service which for the rest of this pamphlet we will refer to simply as the National Climate Service (NCS).

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

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