Labour unions disagree over NextGen Climate alliance

On  May 13, NextGen Climate announced the formation of the For Our Future Political Action Committee (PAC)  , which includes labour unions and youth groups, to campaign for environmental justice issues.   Subsequently, seven building trades unions send a letter to Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO,  demanding that the AFL-CIO cut its ties with Tom Steyer, the billionaire who funds NextGen Climate . The Labourer’s International Union (LIUNA) also  sent its own letter, which characterized the AFL-CIO relationship as a “politically bankrupt betrayal” of union members.  Both letters were reproduced in “Rift Between Labor and Environmentalists Threatens Democratic Turnout Plan” in the New York Times (May 16).  The New York Times article prompted the Labor Network for Sustainability to write:  “The Times characterized this as a “rift between labor and environmentalists.” It is much better understood, however, as an effort by a small group of unions to retain their veto power within the AFL-CIO.”…  “The great majority of unions that accepted the alliance with NextGen Climate should proudly defend it as a way to express this historic tradition of meeting their members’ needs by addressing the most pressing needs of society.”

The AFL-CIO officially endorsed Hillary Clinton on June 16 ; LIUNA  has also endorsed Hillary Clinton, and  launched a campaign promoting natural gas as a bridging fuel and as an important fuel for the future on June 23; see their campaign website Clean Power Progress .   The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not one of the NextGen PAC allies,  but was endorsed by Tom Steyer  when it recently voted to add environmental justice to the list of the union’s priorities.   According to the SEIU, climate change disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities where many of its members live, so the union is committing resources to “broadening environmental justice”.  See “Leading US Union SEIU Makes Fighting Climate Change a Campaign Priority” in The Guardian (May 24) .

New Research Initiatives Underway

1) In the U.S., a new research initiative led by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, former U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, and outgoing mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg aims to calculate the true financial cost of climate change. In a report expected in summer 2014, “Risky Business” will “combine existing data on the current and potential impacts of climate change with original research to reveal the most vulnerable sectors and assist with preparation”. According to Bloomberg Markets Magazine, the team also hopes to show that the eventual consequences of “business as usual” will outweigh its short-term benefits. See http://riskybusiness.org/about or http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-01/climate-change-rescue-in-u-s-makes-steyer-converge-with-paulson.html  

2) Launched on September 24, the new Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, co-chaired by Nicholas Stern, will conduct a “year-long, $9 million study to analyze the economic costs and benefits of acting against climate change”. The study will use macroeconomic modeling techniques to analyze possible outcomes, factoring in potential policy mechanisms, economic growth, investment, employment, poverty reduction, income distribution, and the need for improved health, energy, and food security. The commission hopes to uncover pathways to a resilient, resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. See http://newclimateeconomy.net/

3) Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario will launch a Centre for Sustainable Food Systems on November 14, to bring together researchers from the departments of Geography and Environmental Studies, Psychology, Biology, Global Studies, Religion and Culture as well as the School of Business and Economics. From their website at: https://www.wlu.ca/homepage.php?grp_id=13686: “Our vision is to conduct research that is both grounded in practice and theoretically informed, and to disseminate this co-generated knowledge through local, national and global networks to advance opportunities for and educate about more sustainable food systems.”