Introduction and overview:

LNS Climate, Jobs, and Justice Project:
A plan for a just transition to a climate-safe economy

art_13Can we radically reduce the climate-destroying greenhouse gases (GHGs) we put into the atmosphere, yet also increase jobs for American workers, protect those whose jobs may be threatened by climate policies, and reduce America’s inequality and injustice? The Labor Network for Sustainability’s Climate, Jobs, and Justice report show that it can be done.

The plan to create jobs and build a more just society by putting people to work protecting the climate is laid out in a series of reports available on the project website. These reports project an effective, workable program for a just transition to a climate-safe economy. They include a broad national jobs program and detailed studies of local, state, and regional plans that provide opportunities for organizing around and creating economic alternatives while developing examples that can inspire further changes at a national level.

The first goal of this project is to present a credible, workable plan for a just transition into the public debate at local, state, and national levels. Its second goal is to provide organizers and advocates with examples of concrete objectives and programs that can be implemented through local struggle. Its third goal is to contribute to the development of a national legislative proposal embodying this plan.

The project will help draw together a community of allies, including unions, social justice advocates, students, and environmentalists around their common interest in putting Americans to work saving the earth’s climate. Climate protection has caused significant friction between labor unions and environmentalists around whether to create jobs or address climate change. The project demonstrates that this is a false choice. Climate protection is also a great jobs program. We can create many more jobs by protecting the environment than by expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure. Most of the jobs created by climate protection are in construction and manufacturing, in blue-collar, frequently unionized occupations.

 

The Clean Energy Future

art_12The Climate, Jobs, and Justice project begins with a report titled The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money,” prepared by the Labor Network for Sustainability [1] (LNS) and 350.org, [2] with research conducted by a team led by economist Frank Ackerman of Synapse Energy Economics. [3] It shows that the United States can reduce GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050 — while adding half-a-million jobs and saving Americans billions of dollars on their electrical, heating, and transportation costs. While protecting the climate has often been portrayed as a threat to American workers’ jobs and the U.S. economy, this report shows that a clean energy future will produce more jobs than “business as usual” with fossil fuels and save money to boot.

The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money lays out an aggressive strategy for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will:

  • Transform the electric system, cutting coal-fired power in half by 2030 and eliminating it by 2050; building no new nuclear plants; and reducing the use of natural gas far below business-as-usual levels.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, in the sectors analyzed (which account for three-quarters of US GHG emissions).
  • Save money – the cost of electricity, heating, and transportation under this plan is $78 billion less than current projections from now through 2050.
  • Create new jobs – more than 500,000 per year over business as usual projections through 2050.

The Clean Energy Future presents a practical, realistic way for the United States to stop aggravating global warming. It does not depend on international agreements, science-fiction technologies, or sacrifice of Americans’ well being. Indeed, it provides financial, health, and job benefits for American workers and consumers that include much more than climate protection.

The plan will put the US on a trajectory to contribute its share of GHG emission reduction sufficient to reach the minimum target established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050. Accelerated implementation of the plan could lead to an even greater GJG reduction even faster.

Other studies have, at times, projected even larger job creation from a climate protection agenda. Frequently this is based on assuming much greater spending, accelerating the transition to clean energy. We, too, would like to go faster, but that is not the focus here. This plan is designed to show how much can be done with no increase in costs. If it is politically feasible to spend more, it is surely desirable to do so. Our Clean Energy Future represents a floor, not a ceiling, on ambition, a demonstration of how much can be achieved for what we are already spending. There are good arguments for doing more, After all, climate protection is not the only pressing social need that requires labor, effort and creativity; jobs can and should be created in multiple arenas in the construction of a humane, just and sustainable society. What this report shows definitively is that there is no reason at all for doing less.

Local, state, and regional case studies

art_11The project includes case studies on Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, and the Pacific Northwest.

“The Connecticut Clean Energy Future: Climate goals and employment benefits” shows how a largely non-industrial state with extreme economic inequality can create a rapidly growing climate protection sector that creates stable jobs for unionized workers, effective job ladders for those previously excluded from good jobs, and expansion of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sectors.

“Illinois Jobs and Clean Energy: Protecting the Climate and the State Economy” report lays out a climate protection strategy that will produce more than 28,000 net new jobs per year over business as usual projections through 2050. That represents almost 0.5 percent of total employment in the state, so it should reduce the unemployment rate by one-half percent. Three-quarters of the jobs created will be in the high-wage construction and manufacturing sectors.

While the country as a whole will benefit from the transition to a clean energy future, workers and communities in the fossil fuel industries are likely to face adverse effects. The coal mining area of Eastern Kentucky is a case in point. “Employment after coal: Creating new jobs in Eastern Kentucky,” lays out a practical approach to creating a new economy for Appalachian Kentucky. It analyzes the potential for job growth in six sectors: energy efficiency; local food production; healthcare; forest products; tourism; and environmental remediation. It presents a plan that will produce nearly 25,000 new jobs by 2030– enough to replace half of today’s coal jobs and to bring the unemployment rate down to the national average.

Whenever there is opposition to a pipeline, power plant, oil well, or other fossil fuel project, it raises a legitimate question: Where are the people who would have built and operated them going to find jobs? “The Economic Impact of Clean Energy Investments in the Pacific Northwest: Alternatives to Fossil Fuel Exports” examines job prospects for such an area, Grays Harbor County in western Washington state, site of a proposed oil terminal and storage facility. The report compares the proposed oil facility with three clean energy projects, each approximately half its cost. The first is a plant that would create ethanol from the byproducts of other forestry programs right in Grays Harbor county. The second is an energy efficiency program designed to reduce residential energy wastage and thereby reduce energy demand and consumer utility costs. The third is a community-scale (solar or wind) renewable energy project. “The Economic Impact of Clean Energy Investments in the Pacific Northwest” shows that any two of these would cost about as much as the proposed oil facility, but would create far more jobs.

Additional reports are in the works and will be added to the Climate, Jobs, and Justice website as they are completed.

[1] The Labor Network for Sustainability (http://www.labor4sustainabilty.org) was founded in 2009 based on an understanding that long-term sustainability cannot be achieved without environmental protection, economic fairness, and social justice. LNS believes we all need to be able to make a living on a living planet.

[2] Founded in 2008, 350.org (http://www.350.org) is building a global climate movement with online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions coordinated by a global network active in over 188 countries.

[3] Synapse Energy Economics (http://www.synapse-energy.com) is a research and consulting firm specializing in energy, economic, and environmental topics. Since its inception in 1996, Synapse has grown to become a leader in providing rigorous analysis of the electric power sector for public interest and governmental clients.