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A California Strategy for a Just Transition to Renewable Energy

By Veronica Wilson - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 1, 2024

Workers in California have allied with environmental, environmental justice, and community groups to move the state closer to a just transition to renewable energy. 

California has a strong movement for Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which allows municipalities to bargain with electricity suppliers over both price and environmental responsibility. Nine Community Choice Aggregators are united in a joint power procurement agency called California Community Power. 

California’s Workforce and Environmental Justice Alliance has been pushing California Community Power to establish policies to protect workers in the transition to climate-safe energy. In a recent win, Ava Energy in the East Bay adopted these policies – the fourth member of California Community Power to do so. According to Andreas Cluver, Building Trades Council of Alameda County:

Any approach to climate action must also factor in the sustainability of our workforce. By passing this package of policies, Ava Community Energy uplifts local workers while fulfilling its obligation towards responsible environmental stewardship. We look forward to partnering with Ava on these important community projects. 

This marks a pivotal moment for workers and communities as the region looks to ramp up investments in green technology and decarbonization. Ava’s new policies underscore the positive impact CCAs can have on labor standards, environmental stewardship, and community well-being.

Learn more about the Alliance’s impactful work: https://action.greencal.org/action/wej 

The Future of Offshore Wind in New York State

California’s Oil Country Hopes Carbon Management Will Provide Jobs. It May Be Disappointed

By Emma Foehringer Merchant and Joshua Yeager - Inside Climate News, February 21, 2024

On a recent Tuesday evening, several oil workers in Kern County, California, spoke out in support of a project that they hope will create much-needed jobs.

“What I’m hoping to get out of this is hope for my grandson’s generation,” said Allen Miller, a third-generation oilman who came to work in the petroleum-rich region in 1984. “That they can provide for their family the way my grandpa did and the way I did.”

The audience applauded Miller’s comments during a crowded public meeting in Taft, a city of about 8,500, in the heart of the state’s oil country. 

The proposed project, known as Carbon TerraVault 1, would store millions of tons of planet-warming carbon a mile beneath the nearby Elk Hills Oil Field. Oil production in that field and others nearby has sustained the county’s economy for over a century. 

“This is our oil field,” said Manny Campos, a longtime Taft resident and businessman. “I’m glad to see we are being intentional about keeping it that way and keeping the benefits local.”

Some environmental advocates are skeptical of the carbon removal industry — and its ability to create a significant number of jobs — but California policymakers view carbon removal and storage as a necessary tool to manage greenhouse gas emissions. 

The fledgling technology is a key part of the state’s plan to fight climate change, which also includes phasing out oil drilling by 2045. The county and California Resources Corporation (CRC), the oil company hoping to build the TerraVault, see carbon management as a vital new revenue stream. Kern County stands to lose thousands of jobs and millions in tax dollars as drilling declines 

But carbon storage facilities themselves are not currently projected to generate large numbers of jobs, according to a report prepared for the county. Kern’s own analysis shows the initial phase of the TerraVault project will only produce five permanent positions.

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

Workforce and Env Justice: Local Advocacy Sets the Standards for Community Choice energy agencies

What Energy Companies Don't Want You To Know

Unjust Transitions: Climate Migration, Heat Stress, and Labour Exploitation in the United Arab Emirates

By staff - Equidem, November 20, 2023

Workers at the heart of the United Arab Emirates's renewable and gig sectors, and at the site that will host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) have left homes in Africa and Asia because of climate change only to be subjected to physical abuse, heat stress, exploitation and discrimination, a new report from Equidem reveals. Serious labour violations have taken place at the site of COP28, Expo City, as well as at five renewable energy firms, including Siemens Energy. 

Based on correspondence with 248 workers, and interviews with 102, the expansive report offers unprecedented insight into the renewables, construction, security, and delivery sectors in the UAE, shedding light on both industrial and service sector working conditions for 9 million migrant workers. 

The shining facilities at Expo City Dubai boast internationally lauded solar and wind parks and a booming local gig economy. Underneath that cheerful exterior, however, women and men from some of the poorest countries on earth are falling victim to an unjust transition: Migrant workers from Africa and Asia are being subjected to serious human rights abuses in a nation whose oil and gas-powered economy is at the heart of the planet’s climate crisis. 

“Hosting this peak global conference in a climate and rights abusing state was bad enough. Equidem’s research starkly reveals that the UAE is failing on almost every metric of the UN’s own human rights benchmarks for addressing climate change through the COP process,” said Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem. 

Abuses include workplace violence, wage theft, working in extreme heat and other occupational health and safety risks, nationality-based discrimination, exploitative hiring practices, understaffing and overwork, lack of opportunities for promotion, overcrowded accommodations, inadequate food allowances, and inadequate channels for workers to seek relief from these violations. 

Investigations by Equidem were carried out between February and October 2023 at Expo City Dubai and in the renewables and delivery sectors, including at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Al Dhafra Solar Power Project, Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Plant, Sir Bani Yas Wind Farm Project; and in the delivery sector in the UAE. 

  • Together, 57% of the migrant workers interviewed come from climate impacted areas of Asia and Africa.
  • 41 % of the workers reported nationality-based discrimination.
  • 77.% of the workers in renewable sector reported living in overcrowded accommodations, with up to 20 people in a room fit for six or fewer workers.
  • 83% of the African and Asian workers interviewed reported being unable to afford nutritious and healthy food.
  • 40% of the workers said they were skipping meals.

Equidem’s research found that African and Asian workers have migrated for employment based upon climate impacts in their own country, and then find employment in the industrial and service sectors in the UAE. These migrant workers are doubly impacted by the global climate crisis—they migrate in response to climate impacts and find employment in exploitative industrial and service contexts where they work long hours in extreme heat. These rights violations take place against a backdrop of racially delineated exclusion from labour rights protections, denial of freedom of association, and authoritarian suppression of dissent in the UAE. 

Download a copy of this publication here (Link).

Building an Equitable, Diverse, & Unionized Clean Energy Economy: What We Can Learn from Apprenticeship Readiness

By Zach Cunningham, Melissa Shetler, et. al. - Cornell University, ILR School, Climate Jobs Institute, October 2023

With this report, the CJI addresses another core aspect of tackling the dual crises of climate change and inequality: ensuring that frontline, historically underserved communities have expansive, effective pathways into high-quality union clean energy careers. The Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act have brought increased attention to two important clean energy workforce questions. First, does the U.S. have enough trained workers to meet the demands of the clean energy economy? And second, how do we ensure that the clean energy workforce is diverse and inclusive? This report responds to both of these questions by showing that there are model programs across the U.S. that create pathways for underserved communities into apprenticeship readiness, union apprenticeship programs, and ultimately, good union careers. This study, as well as our many years of experience in the field, have taught us that there is no simple or easy solution to creating or scaling successful pathways.

These pathways exist in an ecosystem of essential and interdependent actors that must be focused on the common goal of building a diverse, equitable and unionized clean energy workforce. Key actors and components include: union-led climate coalitions advocating for bold, equitable climate action; policymakers implementing ambitious, jobs-led climate policy; strong labor and equity standards that ensure clean energy jobs are good union jobs; high-quality union apprenticeship programs that pay apprentices well and make sure that the clean energy workforce is highly-skilled and well-trained; trusting partnerships between labor unions, environmental justice organizations, community groups, employers, MWBE contractors, government, and academic institutions; and the focus of this report, high-quality apprenticeship readiness programs that provide participants with the support they need to successfully enter union apprenticeship.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

The Climate Contradictions of Gary Smith

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, September 21, 2023

In agreeing to be interviewed by the Spectator under the title the folly of Net Zero GMB General Secretary Gary Smith lets his members down; not least because remarks like these from a leading trade unionist help give Rishi Sunak encouragement to accelerate his retreat from the government’s already inadequate climate targets.

The phrase “the folly of Net Zero” makes as much sense as “the folly of getting into the lifeboats when the ship is sinking”

Difficulties in making a transition to sustainability does not mean that making it isn’t essential, and the faster we move the less damage is done. We can see that damage all around us even now. 

Gary doesn’t seem to get this, any more than Rishi Sunak does, and he latches on to some of the same lines as the PM does, albeit with a more pungent turn of phrase. To go through these point by point, quotes are either directly from Gary Smith or the Spectator.

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