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labor and environment

A Just Transition for U.S. Fossil Fuel Industry Workers

By Robert Pollin and Brian Callaci - American Prospect, July 6, 2016

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2015 was the globe’s warmest year since at least 1880, when such figures were first recorded. 2014 was the next warmest, and the hottest five years also include 2013, 2010, and 2005. Can it be any more obvious that we absolutely must stop playing Russian roulette with the global climate?

The two most important things we need to do to stabilize the climate are straightforward. First, the world must dramatically cut its reliance on oil, coal, and natural gas in energy production. This is because carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated through burning fossil fuels, along with methane emissions released during fossil fuel extraction processes, are responsible for about 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Second, as the alternative to fossil fuel consumption, again on a global scale, we must massively expand investments in energy efficiency and clean renewable energy sources—solar, wind, geothermal, low-emissions bioenergy, and small-scale hydropower.

Both parts of this climate stabilization program will produce large-scale impacts on the employment opportunities for working people as well as on the communities in which they live. The investments in efficiency and clean renewables will generate millions of new jobs. But workers and communities whose livelihoods depend on the fossil fuel industry will unavoidably lose out in the clean energy transition. Unless strong policies are advanced to support these workers, they will face layoffs, falling incomes, and declining public-sector budgets to support schools, health clinics, and public safety. This in turn will increase political resistance to any effective climate stabilization program.

It follows that the global climate stabilization project must unequivocally commit to providing generous transitional support for workers and communities tied to the fossil fuel industry. The late U.S. labor leader and environmental visionary Tony Mazzocchi pioneered thinking on what is now termed a “Just Transition” for these workers and communities. As Mazzocchi wrote as early as 1993, “Paying people to make the transition from one kind of economy to another is not welfare. Those who work with toxic materials on a daily basis … in order to provide the world with the energy and the materials it needs deserve a helping hand to make a new start in life.”

In this article, we propose a Just Transition framework for U.S. workers. Our rough high-end estimate for such a program is a relatively modest $600 million per year. This is about 1 percent of the annual level of public investment that will be needed to advance a successful overall U.S. climate stabilization program. As we show, this level of funding would pay for income and pension-fund support for workers facing retrenchments as well as effective transition programs for what are now fossil fuel–dependent communities.

From the Tar Sands to ‘Green Jobs’? Work and Ecological Justice

By Greg Albo and Lilian Yap - The Bullet, July 12, 2016

The ecological and social implications of climate change have – or should – become a central parameter for all discussions of work and capitalism. It is generally agreed that reliance on the burning of fossil fuels as the pre-eminent energy source for production and consumption over the history of capitalism is the critical factor in the ruinous greenhouse gas emissions triggering global warming, which would become irreversible if the earth's atmosphere were brought to a ‘tipping-point’. The leading scientific estimates project that a rise in average global temperatures of 2°C (and now often just 1.5°C) is the threshold for irreversible climate change; that this can be expected from an accumulation of 1 trillion metric tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere; that we are approaching 600 million tonnes; and that the carbon ‘tipping-point’ may well be reached in 30 years unless carbon emissions can be reduced by 2-5% per year (and now often even more severe reductions).[1] The unrelenting build-up of greenhouse gases has led to the jarring conclusion, drawn by climatologists, ecological militants and union activists, that an exit from reliance on fossil fuels for energy needs to occur with some urgency.

In Canada, the hyper-development of the Alberta tar sands, as well as the intensifying exploitation of both conventional and unconventional fossil fuel deposits across the country, has opened a major political divide over climate change strategies and their implications for work.[2] On the one side, the oil industry, governments and many workers in the oil and gas sectors have sought to lock-in the further tar sands development. They have argued that this could be done through a strategy of carbon intensity (more output per unit of carbon emitted from fossil fuels burned) by ‘green growth’ and a range of ‘market ecology’ measures to shift consumer behaviour toward energy saving. On the other side, many Aboriginal nations and ecological and labour organizations have pushed for a transition to an ‘ecologically-sustainable’ economy built around ‘green’ technologies, a renewable energy regime and ‘green jobs’ that would ‘de-carbonize’ production processes. (For the Aboriginal nations, this also could involve reclamation, if on an entirely different foundation, of traditional territories and economies.) This could be accomplished, it is argued, through ‘Keynesian-style’ public policies that build non-market institutions that embed and guide capitalist markets along a more sustainable and equitable growth path – in effect an ‘institutional ecology’.[3]

For reasons of both theoretical clarity and the political injunction to address climate change, the varied strategies for ‘greening work’ need dissection. If the levels of carbon emissions are to be stabilized, it will be necessary to not be limited by plans acceptable to the capitalist classes and their interest in endless accumulation. An ambitious vision of possible eco-socialist alternatives for Canada needs, we argue, to connect the restructuring of work to wider transformations in the socio-ecological system. This is a key task of the growing movement, in Canada and globally, to stop the tar sands and stand for climate justice.

EcoUnionist News #113

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 19, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistleblowers:

Wobbles:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

EcoUnionist News #112

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 12, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

EcoUnionist News #111

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 6, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

EcoUnionist News #110: No Coal in Oakland Prevails and other Green Union news

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 29, 2016

Image, right: Alameda County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council president, Josie Camacho, flanked by dozens of Bay Area union leaders and members, representing 21 Bay Area unions (including the Bay Area IWW), join in with Oakland residents to oppose coal handling, storage, shipment, and exports in the Port of Oakland at a special City Council hearing, held June 27, 2016. At the conclusion of the meeting, the City Council voted unanimously, 7-0 with one member absent, in support of the coal ban. Image by Brooke Anderson.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

EcoUnionist News #109

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 21, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistleblowers:

Why work and workers matter in the environmental debate

By Caleb Goods - Green Agenda, March 19, 2016

It is not hard to imagine that the world of work is a place of deep ecological impact that will be fundamentally changed by endeavours to green the economy. The implications of climate change for all workers and employers are enormous: the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests that 80 per cent of Europe’s CO2 emissions come from industrial production. Thus, the world of work is a critical site of ecological harm and therefore needs to be a site of deep environmentally focused transformation. The interconnection between work and climate change has lead Professor Lipsig-Mumme to conclude, ‘[g]lobal warming is likely to be the most important force transforming work and restructuring jobs in the first half of the twenty-first century’.1 The reality is all work and industries must fundamentally change, and will be changed by the climate we are creating as we enter a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene2 Climate change is challenging the future of work in highly polluting industries, such as coal, and climate change related events are already impacting workers. For example, a 2015 heat wave in India resulted in taxi unions in Kolkata urging drivers to avoid working between 11am and 4pm to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion.

The question of how work-related environmental impacts could be reduced is urgent. It is clear that all jobs and all workplaces will need to be significantly greener to preserve a liveable planet. I am not suggesting that jobs in highly polluting fossil fuel industries can be greened, greening work will require industry restructuring and transformation, but it will demand the closing down of some industries in the medium to longer term. Thus, the transition I am referring to here, the “greening” of our economy, is a societal transformation whereby economic, social and political processes are shifted away from an economic growth imperative to an ecological feasibility focus that demands work, and all that this encompasses, is both environmentally and socially defensible.

Unfortunately, the complexity around transitioning the Australian economy and work to a greener future is currently skirted over in political discussions, and tends to be presented as a straightforward transition via environmental efficiency, greener consumer lifestyles and technologies, or overlaying broad environmental aims onto existing industries and jobs. More particularly, the challenges for workers in this transition are rarely dealt with adequately. In what follows I argue that continuing to leave workers’ concerns aside is an unacceptable option for workers, the environment, the environment movement and government.

A Climate Plan that Works for Workers

By James Hutt - Our Times, Summer 2016

For the first time in over a decade, Canada has a government that is not ideologically opposed to even talking about climate change. Instead of criminalizing environmentalists, muzzling scientists and actively lobbying on behalf of the oil industry, Trudeau has promised a new age of cooperation.

Before the election, he committed to developing a national climate strategy by the end of 2016. Last March, all 13 provincial and territorial leaders met in Vancouver to develop that framework.

As the next step, Trudeau has promised to hold countrywide consultations to give people input into the development of the strategy. This is the perfect moment for the labour movement to lead the fight for a solution that tackles unemployment and catastrophic climate change.

By tackling inequity and creating good, unionized jobs, a climate strategy could represent a giant leap forward for the labour movement — but only if we force politicians to act.

EcoUnionist News #108

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 14, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistleblowers:

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