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”.

The Role of Work and the Labour Movement to Slow Global Warming

PrintWork in a Warming World, released by McGill Queen’s University Press on April 15, begins with the acknowledgement that the world of work – goods, services, and resources – produces most of the greenhouse gases created by human activity. In ten chapters, the book’s contributors demonstrate “how the world of work and the labour movement need to become involved in the struggle to slow global warming, and the ways in which environmental and economic policies need to be linked dynamically in order to effect positive change”. The book is organized into “Trends and Challenges”, such as the dilemma of the Canadian labour movement, and gender analysis of emissions reduction, and “Making Green Work”, with examples from the construction, hospitality, and energy industry, as well as chapters on sustainable infrastructure and its implications for the engineering profession, and the role of cities and the green economy. The book has a Canadian focus, but includes an international context. Chapters were written by associates of the Work in a Warming World research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, led by Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

Study Examines “High Road”, Unionized Jobs in the California Solar Industry

A study released on November 10 by the University of California at Berkeley examines the environmental and economic impact of a boom in utility-scale solar electricity generation in California since 2010.

The report describes the overall economic and policy situation, then calculates the new construction, maintenance, and operations jobs created, plus the upstream and downstream jobs. It estimates the income and health and pension benefits of these new construction and plant operations jobs, most of which are unionized.

In California, the union contracts have required payments into apprenticeship training programs; the study calculates the new monies that have been generated for apprenticeship programs, and asserts that the boom in utility-scale solar construction has set in motion a related boom in apprenticeship and other forms of training for electricians, operating engineers, ironworkers, carpenters, millwrights, piledrivers, and laborers. The author estimates how apprenticeship affects lifetime earnings- using the example of electrical apprentices, who are estimated to see a lifetime income approximately $1 million higher than that of workers without similar training.

Finally, the report describes the policy environment that has facilitated this solar boom, and makes recommendations for the future. The author, Peter Philips, from the University of Utah, is currently a Visiting Scholar at the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, at the Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy.

Union Should Embed Climate Change in their Core Agenda, says TUED Report

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is convening a 40-person strategy discussion on September 20 as part of the People’s Climate March activities in New York. The meeting will discuss “central political issues facing the global labor movement around energy, climate change, impacts of pollution, and the need to develop an inspiring vision of a truly sustainable political economy based on solidarity and sufficiency”.

To focus discussion, TUED has released a working paper, written by Sean Sweeney of the Cornell Global Labor Institute, taking stock of what he calls “the great inaction” – UN-led climate negotiations and labour’s participation in them. He advocates that “social dialogue and social partnership need to be replaced by a new trade union narrative around movement-building and alliances, coupled with a new agenda or program grounded in economic democracy and popular power”. He concludes: “Focusing on climate change as a distinct and separate issue is counterproductive. To connect with their own members unions will need to embed climate protection into the work they are presently doing to defend and promote workers’ rights, fight privatization, austerity, and defend public services…By integrating climate protection into their present battles, unions can broaden the social base of support for what they presently regard to be their ‘core agenda’. Furthermore, they can play a role in articulating a clear and inspiring alternative that mounts to a new ecological and economic development paradigm”.

Sweeney cites Naomi Klein’s speech at the founding convention of UNIFOR in September 2013 as a statement of a desirable approach. Ms. Klein will also speak at the TUED event about her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.

LINKS:

Climate Change and the Great Inaction: New Trade Union Perspectives by Sean Sweeney is at: http://unionsforenergydemocracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/TUED-working-paper-2-Final.pdf

Agenda for the TUED meeting, Power to the People: A Strategy Discussion on Advancing Social Ownership of Energy is at: http://unionsforenergydemocracy.org/tued-strategy-discussion-sept-20-draft-agenda

Naomi Klein’s website is at: http://www.naomiklein.org/main; see the book review of This Changes Everything in the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/book-reviews/naomi-kleins-this-changes-everything-a-convincing-case-that-global-warming-is-the-defining-issue-of-our-era/article20700657/, and an excerpt at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/naomi-klein-the-price-of-free-trade-is-unchecked-climate-change/article20578823/

Statements of European Policies for a Green Economy

In early July, the European Commission adopted the Green Employment Initiative Communication, a labour market and skills policy framework document which advocates developing labour skills and improving forecasting of which skills will be needed, anticipating sectoral change and promoting worker mobility, supporting job creation by shifting taxation from labour to pollution, and increasing transparency and data quality to better monitor changes to the labour market. See the European Commission press release is at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-765_en.htm; for more specifics see the FAQ’s re the Green Employment Initiative Communication at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-446_en.htm.
Much of the theory behind the policy framework is reiterated and elaborated in the European Environment Agency (EEA) report Resource-efficient Green Economy and EU Policy, released on July 15th. Noting that change is coming too slowly, it states: “what is required is a much bigger, deeper, and more permanent change in the EU economy and society to create both new opportunities and substitution processes across the economic structure”. The report then emphasizes the importance of strong fiscal reforms to support the green transition, including environmental taxation, emissions-trading, and phasing out subsidies to harmful industries, but notes that keeping the EU competitive will take delicate balance. The EEA report also underscores the need for eco-innovation and reducing barriers to adoption and diffusion through the free circulation of green knowledge, greater financial resources. See Resource-efficient Green Economy and EU Policy at: http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/resourceefficient-green-economy-and-eu.