Friday, March 27, 2009

Labor & Enviro Groups Seek Climate Change Act In 2009

Mar 27: Four labor unions and two environmental organizations announced their support for comprehensive cap-and-trade climate change legislation in 2009. The Blue Green Alliance, which includes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said this legislation is an effective way to rapidly put millions of Americans back to work building a clean energy economy and to reduce global warming emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Frances Beinecke, NRDC President said, “This agreement is one more sign of the growing consensus around the urgency of action on climate change. Environmentalists and labor groups are working together, standing side-by-side, and presenting a path forward for strong action on global warming that will repower our economy and protect our planet’s future.” Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers said, “We believe that climate change legislation is a critical step to jumpstarting the U.S. economy. And we agree that the U.S. must significantly reduce our emissions, something we can accomplish by retaining and creating millions of family-sustaining green jobs in the clean energy economy.”

The Blue Green Alliance supports a reduction of U.S. emissions by at least 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, and supports a renewed U.S. effort to forge a global treaty to reduce worldwide emissions by 50 percent by that same date. To meet these goals, domestic climate change legislation should reduce U.S. emissions significantly below 2005 levels by 2020, with individual partners advocating targets ranging from 14 to 25 percent.

The labor-environmental partnership also said climate change legislation must address several critical issues. Job loss from international competition can be avoided with allowance allocations to energy-intensive industries and border-adjustment mechanisms. Rising energy costs to low- and moderate-income Americans and adversely-impacted regions can be offset with rebates or tax credits. The Alliance also supports complementary regulation, including standards for renewable energy, energy efficiency resources and fuel and appliance efficiency. In addition, they said climate change legislation should include investments in a wide range of technologies -- including carbon, capture and sequestration technology -- and federal financing for the transition to a clean energy economy.

The consensus reached by the Blue Green Alliance partners also said that allowances should be auctioned or used for public purposes and that the legislation should link its solutions to a broad agenda for economic opportunities that engages high-unemployment communities first and funds training and transition needs. Finally, BGA partners said that climate change legislation should help to fund a clean energy economic development model for developing and emerging economies and fund adaptation measures that provide solutions to those immediately impacted by global warming both domestically and internationally.

Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “We share the common goal that climate change legislation is necessary to confront our greatest economic and environmental challenges. Standing together to advocate legislation that aggressively reduces U.S. emissions while creating good jobs is essential to building a broad consensus in this country around a clean energy economy.” David Foster, Executive Director of the Blue Green Alliance said, “The significance of this statement cannot be overstated. For the first time, a substantial number of unions representing workers across a broad section of the American economy have endorsed the principle that the way out of our current economic turmoil is through major investments in solving global warming. The labor and environmental movements have truly embraced a common vision for the future.”

The joint policy statement indicates that an "Economy-wide Architecture" is needed and says, "Although different sectors of the economy face different regional and international challenges, we believe that our economy is best served by an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. This architecture will best drive the innovation and investment necessary to transform our energy production and consumption systems. For an economy-wide system to work, however, both regional disparities and international competitiveness issues must be addressed. Otherwise, regions of our country most heavily dependent on fossil fuels will be unfairly penalized, and trade-exposed energy-intensive industries will be driven to less regulated countries."

The statement also says, "Climate change impacts and higher energy costs that may accompany a policy that puts a price on greenhouse gases will affect different sectors of our population and regions of our country unequally. Climate change legislation must provide a variety of mechanisms that offset rising energy costs to low- and moderate-income Americans and adversely impacted regions of the country. Such mechanisms might include energy efficiency programs, energy rebates and dividends, and tax credits and fiscal incentives for investment in the new energy economy."

The ambitious goal of legislation within 2009, will present a heavy challenge for Congress and the White House as it now appears likely that cap and trade legislation will be handled outside of the budget reconciliation process and thus will require near unanimous Democratic support and at least some Republican votes to achieve the necessary 60 votes for passage in the Senate [
See WIMS 3/26/09]. The group of Moderate Democrats (14 Democrats & 1 Independent), led by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), will likely exert significant influence over the crafting of the legislation [See WIMS 3/19/09].

Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the policy statement (click here). [*Climate]