Positive examples of climate action needed to bring unionists into the climate fight, says veteran activist

“The Climate Movement Doesn’t Know How to Talk with Union Members About Green Jobs” appeared in The Intercept on March 9, transcribing an interview with Jane McAlevey,  a veteran labour activist in the U.S. and now a senior policy fellow at the University of California Berkeley’s Labor Center.  One interview  question: “What do you think organizers should be doing right now to make sure a climate-friendly platform can win in a presidential race where Trump will argue that ending fossil fuel investment means lost jobs?” In response, McAlevey urges activists to allay workers’ fears about the future with examples of positive changes – citing as one of the best examples  the “New York wind deal”  when,  “unions won a far-reaching climate agreement to shift half of New York State ’s total energy needs to wind power by 2035. They did it by moving billions of subsidies away from fossil fuels and into a union jobs guarantee known as a project labor agreement.”   (A previous WCR post  summarizes the campaign which culminated in the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in the summer of 2019).  Ultimately, McAlevey calls for “spade work” which educates workers about the climate crisis and reassures them by providing positive solutions. Citing the deeply integrated nature of the climate and economic crises, she concludes: “We have to build a movement that has enough power to win on any one of these issues that matter to us….. We’re relying on the people that already agree with us and trying to get them out in the streets. We can’t get there with these numbers.”

McAveley CollectiveBargain-book-cover-329x500The Intercept interview is one of many since Jane McAlevey’s published her third book  in January 2020.   A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy  discusses the climate crisis, but is a much broader call to arms for  the U.S. labour movement.  A very informative review of the book by Sam Gindin appears in The Jacobin, here .

U.K. makes progress on a Green New Deal amid the chaos of Brexit

Understandably, the Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom are preoccupied with the chaos of the Brexit crisis – which in itself, has huge implications for environmental policy in the country.  “How Brexit will impact the UK’s environmental policy”  provides a good summary of the specifics, and an active website publishes analysis by “a network of impartial academic experts analysing the implications of Brexit for UK and EU environmental policy and governance” . Greener UK, a network of 14 environmental NGOs, is also focused on Brexit “in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. ”

Lucas UK screenshot gnd billProgress on a Green New Deal  amidst the chaos:  But while Brexit rages, and  the country awaits the May 2 publication of recommendations on long term net zero emission targets by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC),  the Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill  was tabled in the House of Commons by two members of Parliament – Green Party member Caroline Lucas  and Labour Party member Clive Lewis .  Although the bill doesn’t use the term “Green New Deal”,  Caroline Lucas  does in her Opinion piece in The Guardian, “The answer to climate breakdown and austerity? A green new deal” (March 27).  She states: “Our bill would introduce a “green new deal” – an unprecedented mobilisation of resources invested to prevent climate breakdown, reverse inequality, and heal our communities. It demands major structural changes in our approach to the ecosystem, coupled with a radical transformation of the finance sector and the economy, to deliver both social justice and a livable planet… This is purposely radical territory. We must push the boundaries of what is seen as politically possible. Because climate justice and social justice go hand in hand.”  The official summary  of the Bill appears on page 7 of the parliamentary Order Paper for March 26 including a 10-year time line with reporting requirements, and a stated goal for  community and employee-led transition from high-carbon to low and zero-carbon industry, and the eradication of inequality.

UK Green New Deal coverGreen Party MP Caroline Lucas has a long history with the concept of “green new deal”, as part of the Green New Deal Group which was founded in the U.K. in 2007  and published its first policy statement :  A Green New Deal Joined-up policies to solve the triple crunch of the credit crisis, climate change and high oil prices  in 2008.

The Labour Party has also been in the news recently for its new grassroots initiative, the Labour Green New Deal.  For example,  “Labour scrambles to develop a Green New Deal” in Climate Change News (Feb. 14);  “Labour members launch Green New Deal inspired by US activists” in The Guardian (March 22) ; and “Our new movement aims to propel Labour into a radical Green New Deal”  (March 22) in The Guardian,  an Opinion piece by  Angus Satow, co-founder of the coalition, who states that the party’s  Green Transformation Environmental policy statement, is a starting point, but “ a GND means a new settlement for Britain. It would give local communities the funding and power to control their future, while democratising industry and the economy. Communities with control of utilities will have great power over their lives, while tackling fuel poverty, as the profits go to ordinary people, not shareholders.” “Labour for a Green New Deal – because climate change is a class issue” by Chris Saltmarsh at Labourlist(March 22) lays out the role of unions in the initiative, with specific and detailed plans: “A Green New Deal in the UK is therefore nothing without participation and leadership from our unions. Rank-and-file trade unionists across the country are ready to organise for this from below. We’ll work with them to build support, host events, pass motions from branches to policy conferences, and develop regional plans for a Green New Deal that put workers first.”

TUC Report calls for a Just Transition with “Skilled work at its heart”

GreenCollarNationThe Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Greenpeace released a joint report on October 19, Green Collar Nation: A Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy. Acknowledging that the TUC and the environment movement have had their differences in the past, this report looks to a future which identifies “the shared agenda of managing the costs and reaping the benefits of the move towards a cleaner and stronger economy”. The report cites several U.K. economic studies of the potential of clean energy and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, discusses the differences between TUC and Greenpeace policies re the aviation industry, and makes practical recommendations  for energy and climate policy. The spirit of the paper lies in a concluding statement: “Drawing on the key pillars proposed by the International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) for a just transition, we have argued in this paper for a transition that puts skilled work at its heart. Achieving this transition cannot rely on a political narrative of guilt, debt and punishment, either at an individual or national level. Instead it should build on the politics of the common good, seeking active co-operation in solving a shared problem, developed through strong relationships, robust institutions and the harnessing of technological innovation and optimism wherever it can”.

U.S. Labour as a Force for Climate Protection

A recent article in The Nation online describes dozens of examples of cooperative actions by labour and environmental justice groups in the U.S. since the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014. Author Jeremy Brecher, one of the founders of the Labor Network for Sustainability, highlights the work of LNS, which is “working to pull together a “convergence” gathering of trade unionists who want to make the labor movement a climate-protection movement” … “ Fortunately for labor-climate activists, there is no element of American society that will gain as much from such a program as the labor movement, and no force as crucial for bringing it about.” Read How Climate Protection Has Become Today’s Labor Solidarity here. Read another article by Jeremy Brecher , The Paris Climate Summit and the Power of the People here  , and see his details of his newly-released book, Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival here  (Paradigm/Routledge 2015).

ILO Statisticians Adopt New Guidelines to Measure the Greening Economy

At the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) in Geneva in early October, labour statisticians discussed and adopted new guidelines for the statistical definition of employment in the environmental sector. The guidelines define the environmental sector as consisting of “all economic units producing, designing and manufacturing goods and services for the purposes of environmental protection and resource management”. The discussion identified as two distinct concepts: 1) employment in production of environmental output, and 2) environmental processes. While both are aspects of greening of employment, the report states that they are different targets for policy-making, and should be measured separately using different methods.

LINK:

Green jobs: Draft guidelines for the Statistical Definition and Measurement of Employment in Environmental Sector is available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—stat/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_223914.pdf