$1.5 billion will buy new renewable energy projects, good green jobs, and environmental justice in New York State

On  June 2, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state would invest $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects through the Clean Climate Careers Initiative.  The program has three elements:  “supercharge” clean energy technologies, create up to 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020, and  achieve environmental justice and Just Transition for underserved communities. Both the Governor’s press release and one from the Worker Institute at Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School attribute the inspiration for the new renewable energy initiative to the  “Labor Leading on Climate” program at the Worker Institute.

The  Institute has just published Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State (June 2017),  in which Lara Skinner and  co-author J. Mijin Cha argue for an “audicious”  job creation plan which would create decent green jobs in the building, energy, and transport sectors.  The report provides case studies and specific proposals to reduce GHG emissions – for example, to retrofit all public schools in the state to reach 100 percent of their energy efficiency potential by 2025, reduce energy use in all public buildings by 40 percent by 2025, install 7.5 GW of offshore wind by 2050,  rehabilitate New York City public transit, and construct and improve the existing high-speed passenger rail corridor between Albany and Buffalo, and between New York City and Montreal.  The report also includes a recommendation to establish a Just Transition Task Force – a recommendation incorporated in Governor Cuomo’s plan.

In the plan announced  by Governor Cuomo, $15 million has been committed “to educators and trainers that partner with the clean energy industry and unions to offer training and apprenticeship opportunities, with funding distributed to the most innovative and far-reaching apprenticeship, training programs and partnerships.  ”  The state is also committed to the use of a Project Labor Agreement framework for the construction of public works projects associated with the initiative.

A Working Group on Environmental Justice and Just Transition has been appointed and staffed, with a first meeting scheduled for June.  It will advise the administration on the integration of environmental justice principles into all agency policies, and to shape existing environmental justice programs.  The press release includes endorsements from the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance and unions, including: Greater New York Building Construction Trades Council, New York State AFL-CIO, New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, IBEW Local 3, Transport Workers Union, Utility Workers Union Local 1-2,  United Association Plumbers & Pipefitters, and the past Secretary Treasurer of Service Employees International Union.

Governor Cuomo’s  Renewable Energy initiative was announced one day after Donald Trump’s  withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and after the Governor had signed an Executive Order  reaffirming New York’s  commitment to the Paris goals, and had launched a Climate Alliance with the states of California and Washington.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement : how did Canada react? How did the labour movement react?

Front de Seine at night as seen from Pont Mirabeau

From Wikimedia Commons

As anyone alive must know by now, Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, 2017. NPR offers an annotated, fact-checked transcript of Trump’s announcement here.   The Editorial Board of the New York Times called it  “Our Disgraceful exit from the Paris Accord” ; Bill McKibben called it “Trump’s Stupid and Reckless Decision” in a New York Times OpEd, and  Vox headlined: “Quitting the Paris Climate Agreement is a moral disgrace”  . Leaders from business, government, and civil society around the world reacted with dismay: see a compilation of global reaction from the Daily Climate,  or from The Conversation, a compilation of analysis by academic experts: “Why Trump’s decision to leave Paris accord hurts the US and the world”    – including Simon Reich from Rutgers University who states:  “many may well claim that June 1, 2017 was the day that America’s global leadership ended.”

Almost immediately,  the states of California, Washington and New York stepped forward into the leadership gap with the June 1 launch of a U.S. Climate Alliance. By June 5, according to a New York press release , 10 more states had joined : Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.  The mayors of hundreds of U.S. cities have also committed to the Climate Alliance, including Atlanta, Washington, D.C.,  New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose.  The Alliance is committed to achieving the U.S. Paris Agreement goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels, and to meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.  Read “Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord”  in the  New York Times  and “These Titans of Industry just broke with Trump’s decision to exit the Paris accords”  in the Washington Post (June 1) to see the extent of immediate push-back over the decision.

HOW DID CANADA REACT TO TRUMP’S DECISION?  The official government position was stated by Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change :  “While Canada is deeply disappointed that the United States has chosen to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, we remain steadfast in our commitment to work with our global partners to address climate change and promote clean growth. It is the right thing to do for future generations and will create good jobs as we grow a clean economy.

Canada will continue to take leadership on climate change.

In September, we will co-host a Ministerial meeting with China and the European Union in Canada to move forward on the Paris Agreement and clean growth…. With or without the United States, the momentum around the Paris Agreement and climate action is unstoppable.”

And by June 5, Canada was on the world stage as the official host of World Environment Day .

Other Canadian reaction to Trump’s decision:  In the mainstream press: “World reacts to Trump’s climate move: ‘He’s declaring war on the planet itself’” in the Globe and Mail (June 2); from the CBC, “Trump quitting the Paris accord might not necessarily be the end of the world” .   In Maclean’s magazine, Catherine Abreu, Director of Climate Action Network Canada, wrote “What Trump’s retreat really means for Global Climate Action”     ( June 2), which provides a concise analysis of the impacts, affirming a theme put forth by others – Trump’s move is damaging but not an insurmountable problem, and others are stepping up to the task, and in fact, are galvanized to greater effort.

Other Canadian reaction:   From Mitchell Beer in Policy Options (June 7), “Trump’s Paris Withdrawal, Canada’s Opportunity”;   Matt Horne’s Opinion piece, from a Vancouver point of view,  in the Globe and Mail (June 4) “Environmental progress is possible despite Trump’s climate-change agenda”;  from the Energy Mix:  “World Leaders Respond, U.S. States and Cities Step Up as Trump Blunders Out of Paris Agreement” (June 2) ; “Canadian big city mayors defiant in face of Trump’s exit from Paris Accord” in the National Observer (June 1), which quotes Canadian mayors  assembled at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Big City Mayors’ Caucus in Ottawa on June 1;  and Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montréal and president of Metropolis, a 140-member world association of major cities : “in spite of this setback, cities will not just stand down; ….Mayors from around the world will be meeting in Montreal from June 19 to 23 at the Metropolis World Congress. … climate change will be at the heart of our deliberations, in collaboration with other networks of cities such as the C40 Climate Leadership Group and ICLEI.”

HOW DID UNIONS REACT TO THE TRUMP DECISION?  In “Unions respond to US announcement on Paris climate change agreement” (June 2), Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff states: “While President Trump’s decision on Paris represents a set-back to united action on climate change, it doesn’t change the fact that the rest of the world is moving forward. Canadian government, civil society and industry recognize the need to adapt to a low-carbon economy.” The CLC  also references the response by the ITUC  (included below).

From the AFL-CIO, a brief 2- paragraph response:  “Paris Climate Agreement Withdrawal a Failure of American Leadership” (June 1) ; from the Service Employees’ International Union, “Trump’s wrong decision on Paris won’t stop working Americans from pushing for progress on climate change” , and in his blog on June 2, Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers’ International President  states: “Workers Want a Green Economy, Not a Black Environment”  .   He refutes Trump’s reference to serving Pittsburg not Paris by detailing the pollution problems caused by the steel mill and zinc plants in Pittsburg in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and concludes:  The U.S. “has an obligation to lead the world in combatting climate change. Great leaders don’t shirk responsibility. ” The Labor Network for Sustainability Facebook post of June 1 concludes with:  “In taking this step, Trump has abandoned his opportunity to lead, and it is up to the U.S. labor movement to step up and provide support and leadership to communities, cities and states who are committed to solving the climate crisis; to ensure that workers are not left behind, and that we can all make a living on a living planet.”

Internationally,  the International Trade Union Confederation reacted with:  “The clear commitment by governments in the Paris Agreement to give workers, including those depending on the fossil fuel economy, a key role in developing a Just Transition strategy, will be undermined by the US announcement, which will also inhibit industrial and economic transformation in the US.”  The ITUC statement continues with a statement from the Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO , which interestingly does not name Donald Trump, but rather blames the decision on the advice of  EPA head Scott Pruitt.

From UNI Global Union: “Planet first, Trump last – UNI condemns Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal” , which states that “President Trump is on the wrong side of history,” … “This latest miscalculated act makes us even more determined than ever to work for people and planet.”

And on June 9,  in advance of the G7 Environment Summit in Bologna:  Our jobs, Our planet was released by the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), with the support of trade union confederations from G7 countries. The declaration states: “ Today, we reaffirm once again our commitment to support ambitious climate action and the Paris Climate Agreement. Pulling out of the Paris climate agreement  from ambitious climate pathways equals abandoning a cleaner future powered by good jobs”.

In the U.K., the Greener Jobs Alliance  reaction, Reasons to be Fearful ,  is written in the context of the British national elections, scheduled for June 8, and criticizes Prime Minister May for her weak criticism of the Trump decision.   This theme is taken up by DeSmog UK, “How the UK’s Climate Science Deniers (and Government) Reacted to Trump’s Paris Agreement Withdrawal”  (June 2) .

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, in response to the Australian government’s reaffirmation of its own commitment to the Paris Agreement on June 2, released their position: “Commitment to Paris crucial for ensuring a Just Transition for workers“.

Why U.S. unions supported the Washington March for Climate, Jobs and Justice

LNS at 2017 Washington Climate MarchThe May 5th Newsletter of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy provides an early assessment of  “Why U.S. unions marched for the climate” . The article lists some of the many unions who marched in Washington D.C. on April 29 in the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, highlighting the unique perspective of the National Nurses Union and 1199 SEIU, who see the public health effects of climate change in their daily work.  TUED also mentions  a meeting convened by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis and hosted by the American Postal Workers Union, “bringing together roughly 30 labor, community and social movement activists and organizers, to reflect on possibilities for building on the Canadian Leap Manifesto framework to advance the struggle for energy democracy and just transition in the U.S. context.”

Finally, the TUED article credits the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) with much of the work in building participation in the March.  The latest LNS newsletter reports that over a dozen unions and more than 3000 members marched in Washington,  including 100 members from AFSCME’s local DC37 in New York. The newsletter also describes marches on the West Coast, where climate change was included in the May 1 messages. The LNS Facebook page has more details and photos. 

joint press release  (April 26)  includes brief statements from each of the members of the labour steering committee for the march:  Service Employees International Union  ( SEIU), Communications Workers of America (CWA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) (including the local from the EPA),  and BlueGreen Alliance.

Solar Job Training report and growth forecasts for solar and wind energy

solar farmSolar job growth is strong in the U.S., according to The Solar Training and Hiring Insights report  ,  released by the Solar Training Network ,  a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and administered by The Solar Foundation. The report aggregates data from several sources, including an extensive survey of more than 400 solar installers, as well as smaller case studies and in-depth interviews with dozens of solar employers, trainers, and workforce development boards in the U.S. Amongst the findings: Solar employers expect to add 26,258 positions in 2017, a 10% growth in the workforce; the largest growth in the industry has occurred in installation, with 93,199 installation-related jobs added between 2010 and 2016; average wage range for an inexperienced, new installer was $10 – $23, progressing to $20 – $48  for a crew-leader; 77% of industry respondents did not have formal mentorship or apprenticeship programs.   The report also provides insight into the prevalence and structure of in-house training programs, and employer attitudes to such issues as the importance of experience and certification in hiring decisions.

The  2016 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, released on April 19th by the  American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), states that wind power added jobs at a rate more nine times greater than the overall economy in 2016;  domestic wind-related manufacturing jobs grew 17% to over 25,000 factory jobs in the U.S.  According to the Association spokesman, “bigger, better technology enables new wind turbines to generate 50 percent more electricity than those built in 2009 and at 66 percent lower cost …  With stable policy in place, we’re on the path to reliably supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020.”  Further,  “The average modern wind turbine installed here in the U.S. creates 44 years of full-time employment over its lifetime.”  The report also emphasizes the importance of jobs and revenues to rural economies, where wind projects are concentrated.   Other reports re wind energy:  also from the  AWEA,  a  white paper, Wind brings jobs and economic development to all 50 states ;  from Navigant Consulting, Economic Development Impacts of Wind Projects   released in March 2017 states that “the U.S. wind industry will drive over $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years while wind-related employment will grow to reach 248,000 jobs in all 50 states in 2020.”  The Navigant forecasts measure the impact of the extension of  the Production Tax Credit (PTC) programs in the U.S.

 

How Trump’s budget will rob coal workers and communities of federal aid for transition and retraining

An April Issue Brief from the Center for American Progress examines the Trump actions to date and concludes that “The Trump Budget Cuts Hit Coal Communities and Workers Where It Hurts”  . In a concise, well-documented overview, the paper explains the widely-accepted facts about the decline of the coal industry – that it is caused not by over-reaching environmental regulation, but by market forces and declining productivity, especially in the Appalachian coal mines. But the thrust of the report is to estimate in detail how the Trump budget proposed for 2018  would eliminate $1.13 billion in federal funding for  7 of the 12 Obama-era programs, undoing the current  efforts to diversify the economies of coal mining communities and provide workforce training.

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama launched the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization, or POWER, Initiative, which funded efforts by  12 federal agencies to align, scale up, and target federal economic and workforce development assistance to coal communities and coal economy workers . Coordinated by the Department of Commerce, the Initiative included the Appalachian Regional Commission, which had been established in 1965 to invest in economic and workforce opportunities  in Appalachia, and the National Dislocated Worker Grants program, part of the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, which channeled funding to state workforce development agencies to provide employment and training services.   The CAP issue paper was co-authored by Jason Walsh,  who  was a senior policy adviser in the White House under President Obama, involved in the design and coordination of the POWER Initiative.

A new report from Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy asks “Can Coal make a Comeback?”    and with detailed statistics and  discussion of coal in the context of the global energy industry, answers the question as “No”.   The paper concludes with some examples of local economic diversification  programs, stating: “There is a lot the federal government can do to help accelerate locally driven economic diversification efforts… But this all requires a clear-eyed assessment of the outlook for the coal industry and a commitment to put sustainable solutions ahead of politically expedient talking points.”

The Columbia paper also calls for the federal government to help provide retirement and healthcare security by passing the Miners’ Protection Act  .  But an April 19 article in the New York TimesRetired Miners Lament Trump’s Silence on Imperiled Health Plan”(April 19)  describes the uncertainty for the miners and the political horsetrading in Congress – part of the government funding showdown due April 30.  The fates and possibly the lives of more than 20,000 retired miners rests on extending federal funding to the health benefits fund, depleted by coal industry bankruptcies . For the best explanation  see “ Mine wars: The struggle for coal miners’ health care and pension benefits comes to a head”  in The Conversation,  published April 26 and updated April 30th with the news that Congress  had extended health care benefits until May 5. This will be the latest of several extensions, without a resolution to the issue.

In addition to the economic analysis of the Columbia University report, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis ( IEEFA) published a brief on April 21, “U.S. Coal Phase-out, Blow by Blow: Plant Closings and the Likely Corresponding Effect on Specific Companies and Mines”—  which “focuses on how the scheduled closures, conversions or curtailments of 46 coal-fired generating units at 25 electricity plants in 16 states stand to affect the U.S coal-mining industry through 2018, including the loss of nearly 30 million tons of coal demand.”   It does not estimate job losses or community impacts.