You are here

Just Transition

This Is What Insurgency Looks Like

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 22, 2016

In a small church in the Albany, NY’s low-income, predominantly African-American South End, forty people were gathered for a community meeting. They were organizing a protest against trains carrying potentially explosive oil – dubbed by the residents “bomb trains” — that were running through their neighborhood. City Counselor Vivian Kornegay told the group that many municipalities had opposed the bomb trains and other dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure, but had little power to protect their residents; it was up to a “people’s movement” to do so. “What we want is for all of us to be free, healthy, and safe – and for our planet to be a better place to live.”

Maeve McBride, an organizer for 350.org, explained that the protest was part of a global campaign of direct action and civil disobedience aiming to keep 80% of all fossil fuels in the ground. Pastor Mark Johnson of the St. John’s Church of God in Christ said, “I heard at a meeting last night that we have a constitutional right to clean water and clean air.” Maeve McBride explained that the action was part of a “new wave” that was drawing on a “new paradigm” – “using civil disobedience to protect the public trust,” which included water, air, and the climate itself.

Organizers had met with officials from the police and sheriff’s offices and reported, “they abhor the trains – and are very supportive of us.” Then the group received direct action training. They read out loud the “action agreement” pledging nonviolent behavior and mutual support. Then they lined up to march and while police officers (played by the trainers) ordered them to move away, they scrambled onto an imaginary railroad track. Later that evening the steering committee for Albany Break Free planned outreach to supporting organizations, phone banks, canvassing, leafleting, and details of the action.

The Albany organizers had learned about the “new paradigm” when 350.org North American co-organizers of Break Free From Fossil Fuels had decided to use the “public trust” principle to frame US Break Free actions and formed a Break Free Public Trust Work Group to spread the idea. Some on the The Break Free Albany steering committee had participated in the working group’s webinar on using the public trust doctrine, and they decided to integrate the Public Trust Proclamation into their “topline message” and to hand out the Break Free Public Trust Proclamation to all participants. (The Proclamation appears at the end of this article.]

A week before the action the Albany Break Free steering committee defined their basic message. Potentially explosive crude oil “bomb trains” roll through Albany and surrounding communities, polluting the air and contributing to the climate crisis. Primarily low-income communities of color are put at risk. The urgent need to address climate change means that fossil fuels have to be left in the ground and a transition made to a “twenty-first century renewable energy economy.” They called for an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines, power plants, compressor stations, and storage tanks. And they called for a just transition away from fossil fuel energy with training and jobs for affected workers, so “no worker is left behind.”

Trump’s Energy Plan: A “Brighter Future” for American Workers?

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 28, 2017

Full PDF of the White Paper can be found HERE

The day he was inaugurated, President Donald Trump issued his “America First Energy Plan.”[1] It presented policies it said would “stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health” and thereby provide “a brighter future.” Trump has promised that his energy policy will create “many millions of high-paying jobs.”[2]

What do American workers need in an energy policy? Does President Trump’s energy plan provide it? Or does it threaten our future? Is it credible or deceptive? Does it put us on the road to good jobs in an affordable, reliable energy future? Or does it threaten to reverse a massive shift to a more secure, climate-safe, fossil-free energy system — a clean energy revolution that will benefit American workers, and that is already under way?

Some in organized labor have been attracted by President Trump’s energy plan, even echoing the claim that it will provide “a brighter future.” But one thing you learn when you negotiate a contract for a union is to take a hard look at proposals you are offered— however attractive they may appear, it is best to unwrap the package and see what’s really in it before you agree. Labor should conduct similar “due diligence” for Trump’s America First Energy Plan. Was it designed to meet the needs of American workers, or of the global oil, gas, and coal companies whose executives have been appointed to so many top positions in the Trump administration? Will it encourage or hold up the energy revolution that is making renewable energy and energy efficiency the way of the future?

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: How Unions and Allies Can Protect Affected Workers

By Joe Uehlein, et. al. - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 5, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just issued the final text of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a regulation whose purpose is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that climate scientists say are causing global warming. EPA and independent studies indicate that the CPP will create far more jobs than it eliminates. However, some jobs will be lost as a result of the plan, almost entirely concentrated in coal mining and electrical utilities. Affected workers and their communities should not have to bear the burden of environmental protection that benefits all. Public policy can and should provide a “just transition” that protects their wellbeing.

The EPA has released a “regulatory impact analysis” of job and other effects of the CPP. Dr. Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) conducted a further analysis to evaluate and extend the EPA findings and has produced the recently-released study “A Comprehensive Analysis of the Employment Impacts of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”

Between now and 2020, the CPP will require large investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. It will also reduce jobs in power plants and mining. The new “direct” jobs created by 2020 will outnumber the jobs lost by 96,000 jobs.

Making the Promises Real: Labor and the Paris Climate Agreement

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 20, 2016

As nearly 200 nations gathered in Paris approved the UN Climate Change Agreement, the AFL-CIO issued a statement that broke new ground on climate. While the AFL-CIO opposed the Kyoto climate agreement and never supported the failed Copenhagen agreement, it “applauded the Paris climate change agreement as “a landmark achievement in international cooperation” and called on America “to make the promises real.”

Although it has frequently pointed out the harm that workers and communities might face from climate protection policies, the AFL-CIO has never proposed a “just transition” plan to protect them. Its Paris statement noted that “workers in certain sectors will bear the brunt of transitional job and income loss.” Recognizing that reality, it endorsed the Paris agreement’s recognition of “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs.” It called for investment in the affected communities and “creating family-supporting jobs like those that will be lost.”

This statement lays the groundwork for organized labor to take a new approach to climate change. How can labor now move forward to implement that approach? What should labor’s post-Paris climate program be?

Just Transition: Just What Is It?

A Joint Report by Labor Network for Sustainability and Strategic Practice - July 2016

We are now one-sixth of the way through the twenty-first century and well into the greatest economic transition ever experienced — one that will dwarf all that came before this one. This transition includes energy, creating a carbon-neutral economy, communications, manufacturing, transportation, health care, waste management, and more.

This transition has already produced road-kill with many thousands of workers thrown on the scrap heap and disintegrating communities — with no help in the offing for them. So many individuals and groups are now asking how we organize society, our economy, and our politics in such a way that our institutions serve the people, rather than capital.

The “just transition” frame is being used by an increasing number of organizing networks, grassroots organizations, groups affiliated with organized labor, and environmental organizations. This report aims to assess the notion of just transition, how it is being used, what kinds of ideas and approaches are surfacing for short and long-term strategies, and what kinds of relationships groups are developing in pursuit of a just transition. Its purpose is to open a broad and respectful discussion about the varied ways the “just transition” frame is being used, and whether they can contribute to a shared vision of how to make the transition we face a just transition.

This report is based on 17 interviews conducted between October, 2015 and March, 2016 by Christina Roessler, accompanied at times by Joe Uehlein and Richard Healey. Interviewees were offered the opportunity to revise their quotations and their revisions are included in this draft. This report represents a preliminary effort based on a limited number of interviews and a small amount of additional research. Leaders were interviewed from the following groups:

Organizing Networks

  • Climate Justice Alliance
  • GreenWave
  • National People’s Action
  • New Economy Coalition

Grassroots organizing

  • ALIGN: The Alliance for Greater New York
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Buffalo PUSH
  • Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
  • Movement Generation

Labor

  • AFL-CIO
  • BlueGreen Alliance
  • Labor Network for Sustainability
  • Oregon AFL-CIO

Environmental

  • North Carolina League of Conservation Voters
  • Sierra Club

Why Trade Unionists Should March for a Clean Energy Revolution

By Joe Uehlein - March for a Clean Energy Revolution, June 14, 2016

Labor Network for Sustainability is calling on trade unionists to go to Philadelphia to march for a  Clean Energy Revolution on Sunday, July 24. Why?

We face the reality of climate change around the world as we digest shocking new data gathered by climate scientists in just the past six months. Climate chaos is upon us and it’s far worse than anyone ever thought.

It is not evident that we, as a society, will meet this challenge.  It’s even less clear that the labor movement will rise to this challenge.  However, the transition is still happeningthe clean energy train left the station a decade ago and many are working to keep it moving.

It is time for those of us in the labor movement to rise to the challenge and become a central player in the movement to build a sustainable future for the planet and its people – not only for the survival and well-being of all but also for organized labor’s own self-interest.

Workers need jobs.  The Labor Network for Sustainability’s (LNS) report “The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs, Saving Money” outlines a path to 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions by 2050 while creating a lot of high quality jobs in construction and manufacturing at no new costs. It is part of our new  Climate, Jobs, and Justice Project. We consider the Clean Energy Future plan a baseline.  If we are willing to spend more money, we can achieve a lot more.

In fact, organized labor needs to develop its own, worker-friendly plan to protect the climate. Ron Blackwell, former Chief Economist at the AFL-CIO joined with Jeremy Brecher and myself to outline such a plan:  If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change. It calls for a massive national program- on the scale of economic mobilization for World War II- to address income inequality and climate change.

Of course, naysayers are fond of repeating that jobs dedicated to fixing the climate aren’t “real jobs,” or good jobs with security, family-supporting wages and benefits. They also like to point out that if these jobs are real, they are mostly non-union. And this is true. We — the labor movement — really need to get busy with strategies to make climate-fixing jobs unionized and part of that is working hard to make them real.

Jobs for Climate and Justice: A Worker Alternative to the Trump Agenda

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, April 24, 2017

We are in a critical political moment. The impacts of climatechange are increasingly severe, taking a toll on our health, environment and our economies. In the midst of this growing crisis, the United States now has a President and Congressional leadership that simultaneously attack climateclimate science and aim to comprehensively roll back climate protection measures and the rights of workers to organize.

Jobs for Climate and Justice exposes and challenges the Trump agenda and proposes the kind of economic program we must fight for. It also offers examples of the great organizing efforts around the country – led by working people – that provide the foundation for the a transition to a just and climate-safe economy. It is organized based on 4 elements:

  1. Create good jobs fixing the climate
  2. Protect threatened workers and communities
  3. Remedy inequality and injustice
  4. Lay the basis for a New Economy

The full working paper can be found [Here]

Climate, Jobs, and Justice: A plan for a just transition to a climate-safe economy

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 12, 2016

Can we radically reduce the climate-destroying greenhouse gases (GHGs) we put into the atmosphere, yet also increase jobs for American workers, protect those whose jobs may be threatened by climate policies, and reduce America’s inequality and injustice? A series of reports from The Labor Network for Sustainability and Synapse Energy Economics shows we can.

The plans to create jobs and build a more just society by putting people to work protecting the climate are laid out in the LNS Climate, Jobs and Justice Project. They project an effective, workable program for a just transition to a climate-safe economy. They include a broad national jobs program and detailed studies of local, state, and regional plans that provide opportunities for organizing around and creating economic alternatives while developing examples that can inspire further changes at a national level.

The Clean Energy Future

The Climate, Jobs, and Justice project begins with a report titled “The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money,” prepared for the Labor Network for Sustainability [1] (LNS) and 350.org, [2] with research conducted by a team led by economist Frank Ackerman of Synapse Energy Economics. [3] It shows that the United States can reduce GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050 — while adding half-a-million jobs annually and saving Americans billions of dollars on their electrical, heating, and transportation costs. While protecting the climate has often been portrayed as a threat to American workers’ jobs and the U.S. economy, this report shows that a clean energy future will produce more jobs than “business as usual” with fossil fuels and will save money to boot.

“The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money” lays out an aggressive strategy for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will:

  • Transform the electric system, cutting coal-fired power in half by 2030 and eliminating it by 2050; building no new nuclear plants; and reducing the use of natural gas far below business-as-usual levels.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, in the sectors analyzed (which account for three-quarters of US GHG emissions).
  • Save money – the cost of electricity, heating, and transportation under this plan is $78 billion less than current projections from now through 2050.
  • Create new jobs – more than 500,000 per year over business as usual projections through 2050.

“The Clean Energy Future” presents a practical, realistic way for the United States to stop aggravating global warming. It does not depend on international agreements, science-fiction technologies, or sacrifice of Americans’ well being. Indeed, it provides financial, health, and job benefits for American workers and consumers that include much more than climate protection.

Why is this possible? The “Clean Energy Future” does not depend on any new technical breakthroughs to realize these gains, only a continuation of current trends in energy efficiency and renewable energy costs – but the cost of renewables is falling so fast that they are already cheaper than fossil fuel energy in some places and soon will be in most. And reducing our energy use through energy efficiency is already far cheaper than burning more fossil fuels. “The Clean Energy Future” shows in detail how we can use these new energy realities to meet our climate goals.

Most of the additional jobs will be in manufacturing and construction. Such jobs tend to have higher wages and better benefits than average, providing new opportunities for American workers. Manufacturing and construction also provide a high proportion of the better jobs held by people of color. Expanding these sectors will help counter the growing inequality within the American labor market. The report advocates deliberate policies to create new opportunities and job pipelines for those groups who have been most excluded from good jobs.

The study covers the entire electric system, light vehicle transportation (cars and light trucks), space heating and water heating, and waste management. It assumes conversion of all gasoline-powered light vehicles and most space heating and water heating to 100 percent renewable electricity. This strategy achieves three-fourths of the total emission reduction needed to reach the 80 percent by 2050 target. The report also cites other studies suggesting that sufficient GHG reduction can be achieved in the remaining sectors – freight and transit, industrial process emissions, and non-energy GHG emissions in agriculture – to meet the 80% by 2050 GHG reduction target. Indeed, that target requires only moderate reductions in these other sectors; accelerated reduction in these other

sectors would make possible even faster and larger national progress, doing better than 80 percent by 2050.

The plan will put the US on a trajectory to contribute its share of GHG emission reduction sufficient to reach the minimum target established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.

Other studies have, at times, projected even larger job creation from a climate protection agenda. Frequently this is based on assuming much greater spending, accelerating the transition to clean energy. And indeed, in order to stabilize the climate and avoid worst-case risks of damage from climate change it may be necessary to go faster.

“The Clean Energy Future” is designed to show how much can be done with no increase in costs. It provides a floor, not a ceiling, for what can be accomplished. It shows how we can meet basic climate goals with no net cost, and that doing so will create more jobs. But we can, and indeed should, do more. By accelerating implementation of the plan and expanding efforts to other sectors we can approach zero net GHG emissions before 2050. That will take more up-front investment – but it will also create more jobs.

Climate protection strategy can be designed to provide the maximum number of good, secure, permanent jobs with education, training, and advancement that provide maximum possible improvement in our job shortage. Because some jobs will be lost in the clean energy future (about one job lost for every five new jobs created), we need a vigorous program to provide new, high-quality jobs and/or dignified retirement for workers displaced from the old energy industries.

“The Clean Energy Future” will help bring together environmental and labor advocates around their common interest in putting Americans to work saving the earth’s climate. Climate protection has caused significant friction as labor unions and environmentalists have disagreed about whether it is more important to create jobs or address climate change. The report demonstrates that this is a false choice. Climate protection is also a great jobs program. We can create many more jobs by protecting the environment than by expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure.

In the states

What does the Clean Energy Future mean at a state level? The Climate, Jobs, and Justice Project includes case studies on Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois, and Eastern Kentucky, as well as forthcoming studies on North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest. Each reveals a different dimension of the transition to the clean energy future.

“The Connecticut Clean Energy Future: Climate goals and employment benefits” shows how a largely non-industrial state with extreme economic inequality can create a rapidly growing climate protection sector that creates stable jobs for unionized workers, effective job ladders for those previously excluded from good jobs, and expansion of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sectors.

“Maryland’s Clean Energy Future: Climate Goals and Employment Benefits” presents a Clean Energy Future plan to reduces Maryland’s net emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) 80 percent below the 2006 level by 2050 – while adding more than ten thousand jobs per year. The report also indicates that Maryland can use the burgeoning state and national demand for clean energy to create good, stable jobs in a growing climate protection sector: manufacturing jobs, jobs for those who have been marginalized in the current labor market, and jobs for skilled union workers in the construction trades. It argues that Maryland needs a robust job creation and clean industry development strategy to realize that potential.

“Illinois Jobs and Clean Energy: Protecting the Climate and the State Economy” report lays out a climate protection strategy that will produce more than 28,000 net new jobs per year over business as usual projections through 2050. That represents almost 0.5 percent of total employment in the state, so it should reduce the unemployment rate by one-half percent. Three-quarters of the jobs created will be in the high-wage construction and manufacturing sectors.

While the country as a whole will benefit from the transition to a clean energy future, workers and communities in the fossil fuel industries are likely to face adverse effects. The coal mining area of Eastern Kentucky is a case in point. “Employment after coal: Creating new jobs in Eastern Kentucky,” lays out a practical approach to creating a new economy for Appalachian Kentucky. It analyzes the potential for job growth in six sectors: energy efficiency; local food production; healthcare; forest products; tourism; and environmental remediation. It presents a plan that will produce nearly 25,000 new jobs by 2030– enough to replace half of today’s coal jobs and to bring the unemployment rate down to the national average.

Whenever there is opposition to a pipeline, power plant, oil well, or other fossil fuel project, it raises a legitimate question: Where are the people who would have built and operated them going to find jobs? The forthcoming report “The Economic Impact of Clean Energy Investments in the Pacific Northwest: Alternatives to Fossil Fuel Exports” examines job prospects for such an area, Grays Harbor County in western Washington state. It compares a recently-defeated coal export terminal to possible clean energy projects. It finds that the clean energy projects will create more jobs, but that public policies are needed to ensure that they are good jobs.

Additional reports are in the works and will be added to the Climate, Jobs, and Justice website as they are completed.

The world must go fossil-free – and fast. Americans have often been told that meeting climate targets is impossible without threatening jobs and costing a fortune. But the Climate, Jobs, and Justice Project shows that the opposite is true. The Clean Energy Future represents a pathway away from climate destruction that is far better for workers and consumers than our current economy based on fossil fuels. Should we let greed and inertia prevent us from taking the better path?

Notes

[1] The Labor Network for Sustainability was founded in 2009 based on an understanding that long-term sustainability cannot be achieved without environmental protection, economic fairness, and social justice. LNS believes we all need to be able to make a living on a living planet.

[2] Founded in 2008, 350.org is building a global climate movement with online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions coordinated by a global network active in over 188 countries.

[3] Synapse Energy Economics is a research and consulting firm specializing in energy, economic, and environmental topics. Since its inception in 1996, Synapse has grown to become a leader in providing rigorous analysis of the electric power sector for public interest and governmental clients.

New Report: Protect the Climate, Save Money, and Create Jobs

By Joe Uehlein - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 14, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Today labor and environmental organizations released a new report, The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money, showing that the United States can reduce greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions 80 percent by 2050 — while adding half-a-million jobs and saving Americans billions of dollars on their electrical, heating, and transportation costs.

Joe Uehlein of the Labor Network for Sustainability says, “This report is good news for American workers. Protecting the climate has often been portrayed as a threat to American workers’ jobs and the U.S. economy. But this report shows that a clean energy future will produce more jobs than “business as usual” with fossil fuels.”

May Boeve of 350.org says, “This report presents a practical, realistic way for the United States to address the climate crisis and proves that we don’t have to choose between jobs and the environment.”

The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money refutes the claim that meeting the IPCC targets will cause economic devastation. Indeed, not only can these targets can be met, but meeting them will create more jobs and save money. This report, prepared by the Labor Network for Sustainability and 350.org, with research conducted by a team led by economist Frank Ackerman of Synapse Energy Economics, lays out an aggressive strategy for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will:

Transform the electric system, cutting coal-fired power in half by 2030 and eliminating it by 2050; building no new nuclear plants; and reducing the use of natural gas far below business-as-usual levels.

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, in the sectors analyzed (which account for three-quarters of US GHG emissions).
  • Save money – the cost of electricity, heating, and transportation under this plan is $78 billion less than current projections from now through 2050.
  • Create new jobs – more than 500,000 per year over business as usual projections through 2050.

This program will help bring together environmental and labor advocates around their common interest in putting Americans to work saving the earth’s climate. Climate protection has caused significant friction between labor unions and environmentalists around whether to create jobs or address climate change. The report demonstrates that this is a false choice. For unions and other jobs advocates, climate protection is also a great jobs program. We can create many more jobs by protecting the environment than by expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure.

Read the full report here: PDF

Pages