BlueGreen Alliance Deputy Director Mike Williams focused on the need to take action immediately, the economic opportunity addressing climate change will bring and how action now can make us a more equitable society, and the importance of repairing America’s infrastructure systems to be ready for the economic and environmental transformation our nation needs.
Below is Williams’ testimony as delivered. The full written testimony can be downloaded below.
ORAL TESTIMONY AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Deputy Director, BlueGreen Alliance
Before the 116th United States Congress, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change
Time for Action: Addressing the Environmental and Economic Effects of Climate Change
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2123
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Thank you Chairman Tonko, Republican Leader Shimkus, and distinguished members of the committee. I’m honored to be here alongside my fellow panelists as we strive to find common, comprehensive solutions. My name is Mike Williams, and I am the Deputy Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations.
The BlueGreen Alliance unites America’s largest labor unions and its most influential environmental organizations to solve today’s environmental challenges in ways that create and maintain quality jobs and build a stronger, fairer economy. We believe that Americans don’t have to choose between a good job and a clean environment—or a safe climate—we can and must have both.
The world’s leading scientific organizations have been unambiguous that climate change is a dire and urgent threat—and and we need comprehensive action and solutions to rapidly drive emissions down. I’m heartened by the common commitment to action I’m hearing today.
Our communities bear the burden of climate change and the wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts and sea level rise it spawns. At the same time, our nation is struggling with deep and crippling economic inequality. The majority of American families are less able to deal with these problems as their wages have fallen and their economic mobility and power in the workplace has declined.
For too long, the debate on the economic impact of climate action has been framed as either disaster or miracle, yet neither aligns with the complicated realities in which American workers live.
This flawed debate has prevented us from addressing climate change at a level commensurate with the size of the challenge. The driving forces behind the challenges of climate change and inequality are intertwined and we must tackle them together as equal priorities and place good jobs and working families at the center of a massive economic transformation.
Thankfully, we are starting to see examples across the country of the kinds of solutions needed to achieve this outcome and justice for all Americans.
Take Buy Clean California, a landmark law that requires state agencies to consider the embedded carbon emissions of industrial products. This law will reduce emissions globally, while also leveling the playing field for domestic manufacturers who are investing in clean, efficient manufacturing technologies and processes.
Or in the state of Illinois, where the Future Energy Jobs Act provides sweeping changes to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency, while protecting the jobs of workers at current energy generation facilities in the state, including existing nuclear power plants, and establishing standards for the solar industry to use a skilled and qualified workforce.
Finally, critical federal efforts—like America’s landmark fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks—drive investment, innovation, and job growth. Our research finds more than 1,200 U.S. factories and engineering facilities in 48 states—and 288,000 American workers—building technologies that reduce pollution and improve fuel economy for today’s innovative vehicles.
A significant transformation is needed to truly address climate change and inequality at the speed and scale demanded by scientific reality and the urgent needs of our communities. It will require bold ideas and a guarantee that no worker or community is left behind, and instead of leaking jobs and pollution overseas we invest in our industries and people.
This is a big task, but I cannot stress firmly enough that no solution to climate change or inequality will be complete if Congress does not move forward with an ambitious plan to rebuild and transform America’s infrastructure so that it is ready for the significant transformation we need to tackle climate change.
This plan must address all aspects of our infrastructure needs, from strengthening the electric grid and modernizing our water systems to reducing methane leaks in the natural gas distribution sector, improving surface transportation, investing in natural infrastructure, and making our schools, hospitals, and other buildings safer, healthier, and more energy efficient.
These investments can reduce air and water pollution and make our communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. They will also create millions of jobs.
But we have to make sure we tackle this challenge the right way. This means:
- Ensuring all projects are subject to Buy America and Davis-Bacon;
- Using project labor agreements, community benefit agreements, and local hire provisions;
- Prioritizing the use of the most efficient, resilient, and cleanest materials and products;
- Enhancing workforce training and development programs;
- Increasing pathways to economic opportunities for communities and local workers, especially for people of color and low-income communities; and
- Prioritizing public funding and financing.
Repairing America’s infrastructure systems should be a bipartisan legislative priority in the 116th Congress.
In closing, I want to reiterate that tackling the crisis of climate change—if done right—is a significant opportunity to ensure a more equitable society, increase U.S. global competitiveness, and create quality, family-sustaining jobs across the country.
We look forward to working with this Committee as you move forward your agenda for the 116th Congress. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today.