BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Dec 3 12

US Groups Call on US Delegation for Stronger Show of Leadership

This post is by Michael Williams, Senior Legislative and Policy Advocate for the BlueGreen Alliance, reporting from Doha, Qatar, where the United Nations climate change negotiations are underway.

In Doha, a diverse group of US-based organizations called on our US delegation to use the forum to stake out a more aggressive approach in President Obama's 2nd term to addressing climate change. Additionally, the groups called for our delegation to work towards a more productive atmosphere at the talks and concrete progress towards a new treaty by 2015 during the second week of negotiations.

Leading the panel was Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists - one of the BlueGreen Alliance’s valued partners. In addition to Alden, the other speakers included Bob Baugh, Executive Director of the AFL-CIO's Industrial Union Council, Lisa Jacobson, President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, David Waskow, Climate Change Program Manager for Oxfam America and Hannah Bristol from SustainUS.

In particular, I wanted to highlight Bob's remarks included below. 

AFL-CIO Perspectives on COP 18 and US Leadership
UNFCC COP 18 Doha, Qatar
November 30, 2012
Remarks as prepared for delivery 

The AFL-CIO is in Doha with our colleagues from the International Trade Union Confederation to work in support of a global agreement on climate change involving commitments by industrial and developing nations. We must take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower the vulnerability to climate change and ensuring a Just Transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society. 

Recent events bring this message home. 

President Obama noted the devastation of hurricane Sandy in his post-election press event and his commitment to focus on climate change in the next four years. Sandy was preceded by  extreme weather events: Hurricane Irene, June’s derecho – a violent wind storm over 500 miles long - and one of worst droughts in recent history that threatens to close barge traffic on the Mississippi River in the next few weeks. 

The AFL-CIO believes that the US government must play a leadership role, internationally as well as at home. And, we are committed to working with the Obama Administration to help it lead. 

We have legitimate concerns about the potential impacts of climate policies on workers and communities but inaction is the worst option. Many more jobs will be at risk without taking measures to save the climate, and most importantly, we will forego the economic opportunities that putting our societies on a path towards sustainability offers. This is a matter of vision and political will. 

We are guided by a global vision for a Just Transition defined by ambitious objectives and containing a long term sustainable industrial strategy. 

A Just Transition to a greener economy requires an aggressive sustained commitment of national resources to create and retain good union jobs in the United States, increase per capita income, modernize industry, develop and deploy technology and educate and train current and future workers. It requires assistance for any workers, families or communities that may be adversely affected by the transition, and a democratic voice for workers in their workplaces and in their communities. 

The ideals embodied in a Just Transition are reflected in the climate and related energy legislation our unions have worked on at the federal, state and local level. We have also promoted other government actions as well as joining other public and private sector initiatives. For example:

•The UAW helped develop and promote some of the most aggressive fuel efficiency standards in the world which will make a significant contribution to reduced greenhouse gas. 

• The AFL-CIO has joined with the Clinton Global Initiative to drive domestic private and public sector investment in commercial building energy efficiency. Union pension funds have already surpassed their commitments and the AFL-CIO will shortly begin an energy efficiency retrofit of our headquarters. 

• The AFL-CIO encouraged President Obama’s recent executive order on industrial energy efficiency. We are working with our affiliates to educate their members and their employers about industrial energy efficiency. We are also working with the investment community to create vehicles that will enable employers to partner with pension funds and private sector capital to accelerate this transition.   

Finally, sustained investment is critical to a sustainable future. The US needs to be a leader on this. 

The AFL-CIO strongly supports the enactment of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) in the U.S. and across the globe as a means of providing a steady secure source of income for nations to meet their domestic and international climate finance obligations. We encourage the Obama Administration to join with other nations around the world in supporting such a tax. 

A tax on financial transactions (of between 0.02% and 0.05%) could raise USD $650 billion a year globally. The Federation has helped introduce FTT legislation in Congress and is working closely with the ITUC to get the G20 and other nations to implement the same. Nations must ensure that a portion of the revenue goes to development and climate finance. 

The Federation applauds President Obama’s declaration that his Administration is committed addressing climate change. We welcome his leadership. We are here today to encourage that leadership at home and in Doha.