Union/Community Cooperation Builds on De Blasio’s Proposal to Reduce NYC GHG Emissions

A strategy document released in December tackles the triple bottom line, with ten proposals that would create jobs – up to 40,000 per year – while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. The report is notable for two reasons: it was produced by a broad group of community, environmental and labour union groups in New York, including ALIGN, the National AFL-CIO, the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the BlueGreen Alliance, and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
Secondly, the  proposals in Climate Works for All: A Platform for Reducing Emissions, Protecting Our Communities, and Creating Good Jobs for New Yorkers are specific and detailed. They include mandatory energy efficiency retrofits for large buildings; installing solar energy systems on the rooftops of the 100 largest schools in New York City; investing in microgrids; investing in more bus lines and restoring train lines; improved flood protection and storm water management; improved commercial waste management and recycling.
For each of the ten proposals, there is a detailed discussion which includes consideration of workforce issues: for example, the energy efficiency retrofit proposal includes a recommendation that, “building owners should ensure that building operators are trained in energy-efficient operations. To this end, the City Council should pass Intro 13-2014, a bill that will require large buildings in New York City to have at least one building operator who is certified in energy efficient building maintenance”.

New York Climate Summit: Labour Marches and Business Makes Pledges

The New York Times Editorial Board pronounced its verdict on the U.N. Climate Summit – focussing on the People’s March rather than the official meetings, and noting “a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity, and not a burden”.

The article notes that cooperation between the U.S. and China could create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement in 2015, “But what might really do the trick – if Climate Week is any guide – is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change”. In an article in Truthout, Abby Scher summarizes the support for the People’s March by national unions in the U.S., including Service Employees (SEIU) and Communication Workers of America, as well as the New York state and city unions and the community-labour alliances which have taken root in New York since Hurricane Sandy.

The business community made headlines with its reports and announcements over the Climate Summit week: a Global Investor Statement by nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets, calling for stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing and a phase-out of fossil fuels; the Carbon Tracker Initiative published a report for investors to measure their risk exposure and start directing capital away from high cost, high carbon projects; the new We Mean Business coalition released The Climate has Changed report; and iconic companies like Kellogg’s, Nestle, Apple, and IKEA and others released their own statements supporting climate change action.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the U.S., pledged to measure and publicly disclose the carbon footprint of its $300 billion investment portfolio, and the California State Teachers Retirement System announced that it will increase its clean energy and technology investments from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion over the next five years. And according to a New York Times summary of business initiatives: “The major Indonesian palm oil processors, including Cargill, issued a separate declaration on Tuesday pledging a crackdown on deforestation, and asking the Indonesian government to adopt stronger laws. Forest Heroes, an environmental group, called the declaration “a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening”.

And for an interesting, more neutral point of view: consider the special report Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement, presented to the German Federal Government on the occasion of the UN Climate Summit in New York. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) recommends a dual strategy for international climate policy: governments should negotiate the global phasing-out of fossil CO2 emissions at the Paris meetings in 2015, while civil society initiatives, including those of trade unions and religious organizations, should be supported and encouraged.


“A Group Shout on Climate Change” Editorial in the New York Times (September 27) is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/opinion/sunday/a-group-shout-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_th_20140928&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67440933&_r=0. In contrast, see also “Moving Forward after the People’s Climate March” in Canadian Dimension at: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/moving-forward-after-the-peoples-climate-march

“At Least Some Unions Step Up for Big Climate March!” by Abby Scher in Truthout at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26137-at-least-some-unions-step-up-for-big-climate-march, with a list of the unions who officially endorsed the People March at: http://peoplesclimate.org/organizedlabor/. See also the BlueGreen Alliance statement at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/latest/members-of-labor-environmental-partnership-front-and-center-in-peoples-climate-march

For Business documents, see Global Investor Statement is at: http://investorsonclimatechange.org/; Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating Financial Risk to Oil Capital Expenditures is at the Carbon Tracker Initiative at: http://www.carbontracker.org/report/carbon-supply-cost-curves-evaluating-financial-risk-to-oil-capital-expenditures/; We Mean Business website is at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/, with The Climate has Changed at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/stories. CalPERS statement is at: http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/newsroom/news/montreal-carbon-pledge.xml; California Teachers Retirement System press release is at: http://www.calstrs.com/news-release/calstrs-commits-increase-clean-energy-and-technology-investments; “Companies take the Baton in Climate Change Efforts” in the New York Times at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/business/energy-environment/passing-the-baton-in-climate-change-efforts.html?_r=3

Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement by the German Advisory Council on Global Change is at: http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/sondergutachten/sn2014/wbgu_sg2014_en.pdf

People’s Climate March Under the Eyes of the World

The Climate Leadership Summit convened by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York City on September 23 has created a flurry of reports and statements, some of which are summarized below. Most world leaders are expected at the Summit, with the notable exceptions of the leaders of China, India, and Canada – which will be represented by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. See the official U.N. website at: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit. Oxfam International has published The Summit that Snoozed, which calls for government action at the meeting and provides a checklist/toolkit for sorting out promises from greenwash at: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bkm_climate_summit_media_brief_sept19.pdf.

On September 21, the People’s Climate March, organized by 350.org and Avaaz, brought together people from diverse social movements from across the globe to demonstrate the size and diversity of the support for urgent climate action. In New York, Avaaz presented a petition containing 2.1 million signatures. Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress marched – as did an estimated 311,000 other people, including U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray as well as Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. According to the New York Times coverage at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/nyregion/new-york-city-climate-change-march.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, “the People’s Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big”… and it was only one demonstration of hundreds across the globe. The official March website is at: http://peoplesclimate.org/; see also the Toronto Star coverage, which reported 3000 demonstrators including leaders from the Sierra Club, Toronto 350, and Quebec-based Equiterre, at: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/09/21/3000_join_climate_march_at_nathan_phillips_square.html; CBC Vancouver estimated a crowd of 1000 for that city at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/un-climate-summit-vancouver-joins-thousands-in-worldwide-rallies-1.2773535, see the CTV video from Calgary for a taste of the demonstration there at: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canadians-join-global-climate-protest-in-nyc-1.2017167#, and the Montreal Gazette at: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Montrealers+march+back+climate+summit/10223004/story.html.

Coastal Cities at Risk from Climate Change: Vancouver, New York

According to an article published in Nature Climate Change online in mid-August, Vancouver ranks 11th amongst the world’s 136 large coastal cities at risk of flooding, as measured by annual average losses of people or “assets”. Most at risk: Guangzhou, Miami, New York, New Orleans, and Mumbai. The article is part of an ongoing OECD project to explore the policy implications of flood risks due to climate change and economic development. Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities is available for purchase (with a brief free preview) at the Nature Climate Change website at: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1979.html#access. Also see a summary at the OECD website at: http://www.oecd.org/env/resources/future-flood-losses-in-major-coastal-cities.htm

Vancouver adopted a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in July 2012 to guide building and maintenance of streets, sewers, building infrastructure, parks and greenspaces. See http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/climate-change-adaptation-strategy.aspx for links to the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, plus implementation reports for 2011-2012, and 2012-2013.

In June 2013, New York unveiled a plan in response to Superstorm Sandy, which proposes more than 250 initiatives, costed at $19.5 billion – most of which would be spent to repair homes and streets damaged by Sandy, retrofit hospitals and nursing homes, elevate electrical infrastructure, improve ferry and subway systems and fix drinking water systems. See A Stronger, More Resilient New York, at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/sirr/html/report/report.shtml