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Still Digging: G20 Governments Continue to Finance the Climate Crisis

By Bronwen Tucker and Kate DeAngelis - Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth - May 2020

In 2015, governments around the world committed to hold global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (°C) and to strive to limit warming to 1.5°C by adopting the Paris Agreement. This analysis shows that since the Paris Agreement was made, G20 countries have acted directly counter to it by providing at least USD 77 billion a year in finance for oil, gas, and coal projects through their international public finance institutions. These countries provided more than three times as much support for fossil fuels as for clean energy.

With the health and livelihoods of billions at immediate risk from COVID-19, governments around the world are preparing public spending packages of a magnitude they previously deemed unthinkable. In normal times, development finance institutions (DFIs), export credit agencies (ECAs), and multilateral development banks (MDBs) already had an outsized impact on the overall energy landscape and more capacity than their private sector peers to act on the climate crisis. In the current moment, their potential influence has multiplied, and it is imperative that they change course. The fossil fuel sector was showing long-term signs of systemic decline before COVID-19 and has been quick to seize on this crisis with requests for massive subsidies and bailouts.1 We cannot afford for the wave of public finance that is being prepared for relief and recovery efforts to prop up the fossil fuel industry as it has in the past. Business as usual would exacerbate the next crisis— the climate crisis—that is already on our doorstep.

Read the report (PDF).

Resilient Societies or Fossil Fuel Bailouts?

By staff - Oil Change International - April 22, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis poses a threat to people’s health, their jobs and their lives, and like all crises, exacerbates already existing inequalities. Trillions in public finance will be needed to get through the current pandemic. This briefing outlines why continuing to rely on fossil fuels, in particular oil and gas, is not compatible with long-term recovery. It does not make sense to use the COVID-19 stimulus packages to try to revive a sunsetting industry which will not deliver on economic recovery, only to shut it down a few years later to meet climate goals.

Governments now face a choice: fund a just transition away from fossil fuels that protects workers, communities, and the climate — or continue funding business-as-usual toward climate disaster. Governments should invest in a green recovery that protects and creates long lasting jobs, resilient economies and accelerates climate action. This briefing details why this is the most effective route for recovery and lays out the dos and don’ts for governments in their response to the current crisis.

Key Recommendations (DO’s):

  • Ensure national and international equity and a just transition is at the heart of any government response to the current crisis.
  • Protect workers and communities affected by the crisis, including those in the oil and gas sector, and create long-lasting green jobs by investing in resilient infrastructure and emerging low carbon industries that will continue to create jobs for decades.
  • Ensure Green New Deal frameworks provide the basis for stimulus packages to help rewrite the social contract in a people-centered response to the current crisis. 
  • End fossil fuel subsidies and finance and ensure any carbon price reflects climate and equity imperatives in order to ensure renewables remain competitive and incentivize efficient energy use in light of low oil prices while supporting a just transition.
  • Introduce oil and gas production caps as a first step to limiting emissions. The world is running out of storage capacity and production limits are needed to ensure a managed decline of the industry.
  • Make decision-making processes and response measures transparent in order to allow public scrutiny.
  • Bring the oil and gas industry into public ownership in the right circumstances, as it may be the most straightforward path to ensure a just transition for workers and communities and a managed phase-out.
  • Link any support provided to the industry to a requirement to align with climate goals and plan for a managed decline.
  • Ensure the polluter pays principle is upheld. Broadly speaking, over the past few decades, the financial rewards of the industry have been privatized, while the risks have been socialized.

Key Pitfalls to Avoid (DON’Ts):

  • DON’T bail out oil and gas companies or increase fossil fuel subsidies.
  • DON’T bail out other polluting industries, such as the aviation and shipping industries.
  • DON’T continue the construction or operation of fossil fuel infrastructure at the expense of the health of workers and communities.
  • DON’T roll back existing policies or regulations, or extend licensing agreements.
  • DON’T delay responses to the climate crisis amid the flurry of immediate priorities. If anything, the current pandemic has shown that a crisis demands a timely response to prevent it from escalating further.

While the fossil fuel sector may struggle to return to business as usual, without policies aimed at emerging from the crisis with a cleaner energy system, surviving companies may be in a position to capitalize on rising oil prices as the cycle turns. There are currently no safeguards against a future price spike and subsequent return to the volatile boom-bust cycle. This briefing advises governments to adopt recovery measures that will ensure a just transition off oil and gas, accelerate climate goals and build resilient societies, and center people instead of corporate executives and shareholders — all while tackling today’s parallel health, economic, and climate crises at once.

Read the report (PDF).

A Green Stimulus to Rebuild Our Economy

By various - Green Stimulus Proposal - March 22, 2020

Members of the IWW and IWW EUC have signed this statement as individuals.

As a nation we face three converging crises: the COVID19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession; the climate emergency; and extreme inequality.

Unemployment is rising at the fastest rate since the 2008 crash, and could eventually reach 20% — twice as high as the Great Recession. We need immediate and sustained intervention to protect people’s health and economic well-being, with a special focus on the most vulnerable. We must also begin planning our economic recovery in a way that protects us from the impact of climate change and lifts up workers and frontline communities.

Many other groups are focused on the emergency stimulus package to stabilize our economy, on preventing harm in an equitable way — which we fully support — so this letter focuses on the longer-term challenge of jumpstarting economic recovery and transitioning to a more sustainable economy. The question isn’t whether we will next need a major economic recovery stimulus, but what kind of stimulus should we pursue? In response we, climate and social policy experts in academia and civil society, have developed a menu of solutions that would collectively comprise a Green Stimulus.

The United States confronts the danger of an economic stimulus that restores — or even deepens — our reliance on fossil fuels. This danger comes from explicit proposals to bail out the fossil fuel sector and roll back workers’ rights, and also from generic general stimulus policies that do not take climate into account. Indeed, infrastructure spending as usual — e.g. highway expansion — will lock in more carbon pollution for decades. We can avoid these problems by crafting a recovery that accelerates the creation of a 21st century green economy.

Thus, we propose an ambitious Green Stimulus of at least $2 trillion that creates millions of family-sustaining green jobs, lifts standards of living, accelerates a just transition off fossil fuels, ensures a controlling stake for the public in all private sector bailout plans, and helps make our society and economy stronger and more resilient in the face of pandemic, recession, and climate emergency in the years ahead. This stimulus should be automatically renewed annually at 4% of GDP per year (roughly $850 billion) until the economy is fully decarbonized and the unemployment rate is below 3.5%. A Green Stimulus would make short-term interventions, restructure political and economic power towards workers and communities, and build toward deep long- term change.

Most of the physical work proposed here cannot begin immediately. We must focus on halting the spread of deadly illness. However, we can do all the preparatory work now to make green projects “shovel ready.” Right now, legislative action as well as planning work, done safely through online channels, including public debate and consultation, can ensure that physical projects can commence as soon as it is feasible to restart major in-person work across the economy.

This preparatory phase must include building up capacity within existing federal, state, and local government agencies (and chartering new ones as necessary) to help manage the implementation phase of this stimulus. In the weeks ahead, the government will undoubtedly pass further stimulus measures. At each step, we must push for that stimulus to be green.

Our proposal for a Green Stimulus is aligned with the “5 Principles for Just COVID-19 Relief and Stimulus,” as put forward by over 300 environmental, justice, labor, and movement organizations: (1) Health is the top priority, for all people, with no exceptions; (2) Provide economic relief directly to the people; (3) Rescue workers and communities, not corporate executives; (4) Make a down payment on a regenerative economy, while preventing future crises; and, (5) Protect our democratic process while protecting each other.

Additionally, our proposal is grounded four key strategies, cutting across industrial sectors and bureaucratic domains:

  • Create millions of new family-sustaining, career-track green jobs in clean energy expansion, building retrofits and sustainable homebuilding, local food economies, public transit maintenance and operations, electric appliance and vehicle manufacturing, green infrastructure construction and management, local and sustainable textiles and apparel, and partnering with existing pre-approved apprenticeship programs to bring more low-income and workers of color into good union jobs;
  • Deliver strategic investments — like green housing retrofits, rooftop solar installation, electric bus deployment, rural broadband development, and other forms of economic diversification — to lift up and collaborate with frontline communities, including communities of color, Indigenous communities, low-income communities, communities that have suffered disinvestment, and communities that have historically borne the brunt of pollution and climate harm;
  • Expand public and employee ownership by leveraging existing public agencies and assets (including public transit agencies, local housing authorities, public school districts, and electric co-ops), taking equity stakes in companies receiving substantial direct investment (including the airline, fossil fuel, and cruise industries), and conditioning strategic aspects of the stimulus package on worker self- determination measures and cooperatives; and,
  • Make rapid cuts to carbon pollution consistent with keeping global warming as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as the climate science tells us is required to limit further climate breakdown, and protect salaries, benefits, and retirements of fossil fuel workers.

Protesta Y Propuesta: Lessons from Just Transformation, Ecological Justice, and the Fight for Self-Determination in Puerto Rico

By Brooke Anderson and Jovanna García Soto - Grassroots International and Movement Generation, February 2020

“De la Protesta a la Propuesta” (“From protest to proposal”). That’s the slogan that watershed protectors used when they successfully stopped open pit mining in the heart of Puerto Rico’s mountains then brought those same lands under community control. For those of us looking to build just transformation in place, we have much to learn from Puerto Rico’s social movements which are at once both visionary and oppositional, centering sovereignty and self-governance.

Just transformation, or just transition, is the work “to transition whole communities toward thriving economies that provide dignified, productive, and ecologically sustainable livelihoods that are governed directly by workers and communities.”

In the U.S., the term just transition was originally used by the labor movement to demand that with the phaseout of polluting industries, workers would be retrained and adequately compensated rather than bear yet another cost from working in that industry. Environmental justice communities on the fenceline of these polluting industries then built common cause with workers for a just transition that would not put the environmental or economic burden on workers or communities. In the U.S., the term has since further evolved to capture systemic transformation of the whole economy. While U.S. frontline groups often use the term just transition, some Puerto Rican social movements use the term just transformation—especially as a way to capture the necessity of achieving decolonization and sovereignty as part of any transition. As such, we’ll be using just transformation in this report, as well as other concepts such as self-determination and ecological justice.

Read the report (Link).

Regenerative & Just 100% Policy Building Blocks Released by Experts from Impacted Communities

By Aiko Schaefer - 100% Network, January 21, 2020

The 100% Network launched a new effort to bring forward and coalesce the expertise from frontline communities into the Comprehensive Building Blocks for a Regenerative and Just 100% Policy. This groundbreaking and extensive document lays out the components of an 100% policy that centers equity and justice. Read the full report here.

Last year 100% Network members who are leading experts from and accountable to black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and frontline communities embarked on a collective effort to detail the components of an ideal 100% policy. The creation of this 90-page document was an opportunity to bring the expertise of their communities together.

The Building Blocks document was designed primarily for frontline organizations looking to develop and implement their own local policies with a justice framework. Secondly, is to build alignment with environmental organizations and intermediary groups that are engaged in developing and advocating for 100% policies. The overall goals of the project are to:

  • Build the capacity of BIPOC frontline public policy advocates, so that impacted community groups who are leading, working to shape or just getting started on 100% policy discussions have information on what should be included to make a policy more equitable, inclusive and just
  • Align around frontline, community-led solutions and leadership, and create a shared analysis and understanding of what it will take to meet our vision for 100% just, equitable renewable energy.
  • Create a resource to help ensure equity-based policy components are both integrated and prioritized within renewable energy/energy efficiency policies. 
  • Build relationships across the movement between frontline, green, and intermediary organizations to create space for the discourse and trust-building necessary to move collaboration forward on 100% equitable, renewable energy policies. 

How Workers Can Demand Climate Justice

By Todd E. Vachon, Gerry Hudson, Judith LeBlanc, and Saket Soni - American Prospect, September 2, 2019

As Greenland experiences a record melt, Europe recovers from record-breaking heat, California braces for another fire season, and Puerto Rico still struggles to rebuild nearly two years after Hurricane Maria, it is becoming ever clearer how profoundly the climate crisis is changing everything, and how imperative it is that we act now if we hope to avert an existential disaster.

The latest report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2040. This will submerge coastlines, intensify droughts and wildfires, increase the frequency and strength of extreme storms, and worsen food shortages and poverty. The report also states that these dire consequences will come to pass well within the lifetime of most readers of this article.

We no longer have time to continue the “jobs versus environment” debate that has distracted us from acting with the boldness this moment requires. Saving our deteriorating environment is the job of our time. The Green New Deal resolution introduced to Congress by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey has spurred a wave of activism. And while it is important to channel that energy into electing a president and Senate that will treat the crisis as a crisis, it’s equally important that we fight climate change locally, from below.

Workers, people of color, Native peoples, and the poor have borne and will continue to bear the brunt of this crisis if we don't find the means to avert it. We must forge alliances that can fight for climate justice and a sustainable and resilient future. That will require working together across movements and organizations toward a common purpose.

Fortunately, we have a tool at hand that can help us build those alliances and organize those fights locally. It is called Bargaining for the Common Good.

A Roadmap to an Equitable Low-Carbon Future: Four Pillars for a Just Transition

By J. Mijin Cha, JD, PhD - Climate Equity Network, April 2019

The signs that the climate crisis is already happening are clear. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report detailed the evidence from more than 6,000 studies that found that over the past decade, a series of record-breaking storms, forest fires, droughts, coral bleaching, heat waves, and floods have taken place around the world in response to the 1.0 °C of global warming that has taken place since the pre-industrial era. These events, and the losses associated with them, are expected to become substantially worse with 1.5 °C of warming currently targeted by global climate agreements, and far worse if these agreements are not effective. Without major cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, this warming threshold could be reached in as little as 11 years, and almost certainly within 20 years. Even if such cuts were to begin immediately, reaching this threshold would not be prevented, only delayed.

Any chance of staving off even worst impacts from climate change depends on significant reductions in GHG emissions and a move from a fossil fuel- based economy to a low-carbon economic future. While this transition is fundamentally necessary, the challenges it poses are great. Every aspect of our economy and our society is dependent upon fossil fuel use – from the reliance on electricity provided by fossil fuel power plants to the tax revenue local communities receive from fossil fuel extraction and facilities to the jobs held by those working in an industry that may keep their incomes high but often puts their communities at risk. The imprint of fossil fuels is so deeply embedded within our way of life that ceasing its use will require a fundamental shift in how we procure and use energy.

The good news is that this shift is possible—and California is already on a path to a low-carbon future. In addition to several ambitious climate targets, in September 2018, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order pledging the state to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045. As the world’s fifth largest economy, the commitment California made to reduce greenhouse gases can provide a pathway to a low-carbon future that could lay the groundwork for others to follow. But to get there, we need to aim even higher than California’s already ambitious goals.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels must be done more quickly and also in a manner that protects workers and communities economically dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Transitioning is also an opportunity to include those who have historically been excluded from the jobs and economic benefits of the extractive economy and expand the populations who have access to future jobs and economic opportunities. As we move to a low-carbon future, environmental justice communities should be prioritized for job creation and renewable energy generation. Without protecting displaced workers and expanding opportunities to other workers, transitioning to a low-carbon future will replicate the mistakes and inequalities of the extractive past and present.

Read the report (PDF).

Trading Up Equipping Ontario Trades With the Skills of the Future

By staff - Canada Green Building Council, April 2019

Equipping Canada’s labour force with the skills required for designing, constructing and maintaining low-carbon building infrastructure is critical to achieving a greener economy and to reducing Canada’s emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. We are pleased to support Canada’s green building industry with a new report, Trading Up: Equipping Ontario Trades with the Skills of the Future, aimed at facilitating a low carbon workforce transition.

This report provides an action plan to close the low-carbon building skills gap in the Ontario construction industry. Green infrastructure investments are expected to create an estimated 147,000 job openings for skilled tradespeople over the next 15 years in the Toronto region alone. The inability to close the skills gap in Ontario is estimated to have an impact of $24.3 billion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in foregone company revenues, with an additional $3.7 billion lost in foregone taxation.

The report identifies where shortages in low-carbon skills training currently exist, and highlights the risks to the quality of low-carbon buildings being constructed. It defines specific actions that labour, governments, post-secondary institutions and industry organizations can take to optimize green building skills training.

The “Trading Up” report was compiled by CaGBC with Mohawk College, McCallumSather, The Cora Group, the City of Toronto and the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA). The project was funded, in part, by the Government of Ontario. While the report examines the Ontario construction industry, its recommendations can be applied throughout Canada.

Read the text (PDF).

Navigating Hope Through Crisis: Disaster and a Politics of Possibility

By Raven Cretney - Resilience, March 14, 2019

It has been over eight years since the devastating earthquakes that affected the city of Ōtautahi Christchurch in Aotearoa New Zealand. Initially triggered by a 7.1 magnitude quake in September 2010 and followed by the fatal 6.3 magnitude earthquake on the 22nd of February 2011, the disaster wrought large scale destruction on residential and urban areas.

Yet as the old and damaged has been dismantled, the new has slowly and hesitantly emerged. Over these years the physical and political landscape has continued to shift and change throughout the amorphous phases of response and recovery.

Since the earthquakes I have been involved in research on the community level response and recovery to disaster and the potential for social and environmental change to emerge from these times of crisis. As we face an increasingly uncertain future we can learn much from the long-term recovery efforts at the grassroots scale.

Every year the frequency and scale of so called ‘natural disasters’ grow as the climate shifts and an increasing number of people populate urban areas in geologically active regions. In September 2018, a terrifying satellite image emerged of seven ‘super storms’ lining the equator. This stark representation of our changing climate is becoming more common as we continue to increase emissions and avoid the necessary changes to our society and economy.

We can, and should, theorise the broader politics of disaster. However, everyday stories of post-disaster action and resistance shed light on the small-scale, experimental grassroots interventions that bring forward hope in the midst of crisis. With the growing phenomenon of climate grief and despair, it would seem crucial to maintain some hopeful sense of the alternatives we can still create for ourselves. Either that, or we become paralysed into despondency.

Doing Away With Private Utilities Is a Matter of Life and Death

By Ryan Smith - Broke Ass Stuart, January 16, 2019

The toll of this year’s wildfires is the second in as many years to break entirely too many state records, increasing the call to hold private utility companies like Pacific Gas & Electric to the flames of their own making. When the last embers cooled there was no question that the Camp Fire that ravaged Butte County, along with the devastating fires that tore through Malibu and Ventura, were among the most destructive in California history inflicting an estimated $10 billion in property damage. This was only topped, in dollar value, by last year’s devastation where the state suffered an unprecedented $12 billion in direct property damage. From a purely economic standpoint these figures don’t consider the secondary impacts such as loss of tourism, rebuilding and the opportunity cost of once thriving communities no longer capable of any sort of economic activity.

These numbers, already adding up to a truly staggering cost, don’t even touch on the immeasurable human cost. 2017 set a grim toll of 43 confirmed dead, a total that was already greater than all loss of life from the previous decade of California wildfires combined. This past season is on track to double that with a confirmed 89 dead so far. One can only imagine how many more will join them in the coming months and years thanks to the long-term damage from noxious fumes released by this year’s fires. The sheer quantity of toxic particulates in the air during the height of the blaze made Butte County’s air the most hazardous on the planet.

There is little doubt who is responsible for this blaze. The most recent investigations have all but concluded the cause of the fires was due to improperly maintained wiring, property of PG&E, setting a deadly inferno ablaze. In the face of an estimated $30 billion in liability for the Camp Fire, PG&E, earlier this week, filed bankruptcy. They are not alone in such negligence, with SoCal Edison suspected of similarly irresponsible practices in Southern California. Such a failure to perform such basic, fundamental tasks – maintenance of consistent power flow and safety of California’s communities – is astonishing all by itself. Unfortunately this is far from the first time PG&E has screwed up this badly.

In the wake of the 2017 wildfires investigators concluded the most likely cause of an already horrific disaster was PG&E’s inability to do their jobs. Gerald Singleton, an attorney specializing in wildfire cases, argued PG&E’s history shows this was no surprise as the privately-owned utility company has a history of disregarding basic maintenance necessary both for community safety and delivering power. In 2010 PG&E’s lax management piled up until one of their natural gas pipelines exploded, snuffing out the lives of eight San Bruno residents. Their cost-cutting is so extreme that, only two years after the San Bruno disaster, PG&E found they didn’t have enough staff to properly mark all of their gas lines so the company hid the mistake by filing false claims stating they had. This reckless culture even extends to data management as shown by reports from earlier this year where PG&E managed to lose 30,000 people’s personal information in a single data breach.

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