Our nation faces the dual crises of climate change and increasing economic inequality, crises that are undeniably linked. Last month, the BlueGreen Alliance alongside our labor and environmental partners released Solidarity for Climate Action, a first of its kind platform to address these crises simultaneously, fighting climate change, reducing pollution, and creating and maintaining good-paying, union jobs across the nation.
We know that in order to achieve the vision laid out in this platform we need to make sure that the policies and principles being implemented work for all Americans.
Any solution that does not acknowledge the nation’s lack of an adequate support system is doomed to fail and may cause more problems in the future than it solves.
Efforts to ease the transition into a clean economy on coal impacted workers and communities have been high profile illustrations of this issue. Communities that have built their economies around mines or power plants cannot be left behind as we strive to lower our emissions. To that end, Solidarity for Climate Action calls not only for the mandated reclamation of closed and abandoned industrial sites but also calls for a coupling of these policies with efforts to revitalize and diversify local economies. Additionally, it makes clear that local workers and community members and leaders must have a central role in these efforts.
For example, a current bill moving through Congress, the RECLAIM Act, will commit existing funds to clean up abandoned coal mines and spur economic development and diversification in impacted communities, giving these communities the tools needed to create good jobs and lasting economic opportunity. Bills like RECLAIM that address the need for economic as well environmental revitalization are a step in the right direction.
At the same time, we must guarantee pensions and a bridge of wage support, healthcare, and retirement security to impacted workers until they can find new employment or reach retirement.
It’s not just individual workers that may need help getting on solid footing in the new clean economy, but their communities as well, many of which rely on a tax base that will necessarily shift as well. Solidarity for Climate Action calls for massive investment in these areas, including remediating any immediate loss of tax base or public services.
Most importantly, we must build a path to prosperity for all Americans in the new clean economy. That means ensuring equitable access to high-quality employment, training, and advancement to all workers, especially those from low-income household and from communities that have historically been underrepresented or left behind.
The new economy envisioned by the BlueGreen Alliance and our partners is equitable, fair, and inclusive. If we do this right, implementing the right kinds of polices and practices as laid out in our platform, we can build a better, more sustainable, future for all Americans.