Tag: climate change

Climate Solidarity: Workers vs. Warming

Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability has come out with a timely new book. We’re honored to present Chapter 7 in it’s entirety on the New Labor Forum website; the entire book is available as a free download.

From the introduction:

Workers have no greater interest than to prevent the destruction of the Earth’s climate. Yet workers often act as an organized force to oppose climate protection measures in the name of our interests as workers. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the United States, long opposed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it would hurt U.S. jobs and economic competitiveness. The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), with backing from the AFL-CIO, has fought to build the Keystone XL pipeline and charged that unions opposing it were under the skirts of “delusional environmental groups.” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union opposed the climate-protecting Clean Power Plan issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the grounds that it will lead to the closing of some coal-fired power plants.

For access to the whole book, visit Labor Network For Sustainability here

How can workers ensure that our labor protects the climate rather than destroying it? The previous chapter laid out the possible formation of a labor climate movement based on climate solidarity, network organization, and a challenge to authority utilizing both the institutional power of workers and a labor climate insurgency. What changes in society would such a movement need to make to realize its goals? This chapter presents a program for the emerging workers’ climate action movement.

Our challenge is to overcome climate alienation. This entails redirecting the activity of workers to eliminating the burning of fossil fuels. Abolishing climate alienation ultimately means eliminating GHG-producing labor.

In some ways, halting climate-destroying labor is simple. If all workers who produce and use fossil fuels simply refused to perform operations that produce or use them, GHG emissions would cease. But because GHG emissions are deeply enmeshed in a complex world order with many dependencies that militate against such an action, overcoming climate alienation requires a much more complex strategy.

Eliminating GHG-producing labor will cause some unintended consequences that will need to be overcome. It will eliminate most currently available energy, which will need to be replaced with a new energy system. It will lead to job loss for many fossil fuel producing and using workers and potentially to economic devastation of their communities. Forestalling such devastation will require a just transition that provides for the livelihoods of affected workers and communities. Both the energy and labor transitions hold the potential for broad economic disruption that could aggravate the economic problems already faced by workers and others. That possibility must be forestalled by macroeconomic policies that ensure prosperity. A strategy for overcoming climate alienation must both eliminate the burning of fossil fuels and provide solutions to the problems that their elimination may cause.

Halting climate alienation will require transforming not only the energy system, but also labor markets, workers’ roles, social control of the economy, and global coordination. Our worker climate action program includes five key elements.

First is a transition to an economy that does not produce GHGs. That requires a rapid phased elimination of fossil fuels and the labor that produces and uses them. It also requires their replacement by fossil fuel-free energy and energy efficiency.

All workers have a common long-term interest in climate protection. But many also have immediate or short-term interests that climate protection may threaten. The second element of a worker program is to design climate protection strategies so that they create a unified working class interest in climate protection. This means creating large numbers of jobs that are secure, well paid, and in line with labor and other human rights. It means protecting the well-being of workers and communities who may be threatened by climate protection measures. It means guaranteeing economic security and jobs for all who want them. And it means ensuring that climate protection strategies reduce inequality and injustice so that those who have been marginalized and discriminated against in the past are not excluded from the short-term benefits of climate protection measures.

Because workers have been largely excluded from power in the economy and the political system, our ability to combat climate destruction and implement alternatives has been limited. A third element of our program is to empower workers to protect Earth’s climate. This requires the workers’ climate movement to develop and fight for climate action plans that represent workers’ short- and long-term climate interests in every sphere of society. Workers must both pressure and cooperate with employers to impose worker-friendly climate action plans in their workplaces. We must cooperate with and help lead other groups in climate protection in our local communities. We must negotiate with and pressure the corporations we work for. We must help redesign entire industries such as electricity, transportation, and finance to function on a climate-safe basis. Finally, we must work with other climate protection advocates to reshape public policy at every level. This will require both utilizing organized labor’s clout within the political system and a worker climate insurgency that uses direct action and people power to force change.

Global warming has rightly been called history’s greatest market failure. Correcting it cannot be left to the market. Thus, a fourth element of our program is to expand the power of public policy to protect the climate in ways that are in accord with workers’ interests. It requires government institutions specifically designed to implement the transition to climate protection. It will need bold economic planning, industrial policies, and public investment to guide and facilitate the process. It will need full-employment macroeconomic policies that prevent unemployment, assure prosperity, and encourage full use of economic resources during the transition. And it will need public mobilization and redirection of human and material resources that are required for the transition.

Finally, global warming requires global cooperation. Governments must work together to create a global framework that supports climate-friendly jobs and development—what has been called a “Global Green New Deal.” Workers must cooperate globally to pressure their own and each others’ governments and corporations to make the transition to climate safety. A global climate protection investment fund is necessary on a scale that mobilizes all under-utilized human and material resources worldwide. Rather than fighting each other for climate-protecting jobs, unions in different countries should support national policies and international agreements that encourage countries to cooperate in sharing green technologies and expanding production for climate protection. Legally binding international agreements must phase out and ban the use of fossil fuels worldwide.

There is precedent for such a rapid economic transformation in labor’s response to the threat of World War II. As Nazi armies spread devastation across Europe in 1940, United Automobile Workers Union president Walter Reuther proposed a startling plan to retool the Depression-ravaged auto industry to build 500 warplanes a year. The auto magnates scoffed, but soon a massive mobilization put tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers to work producing what the war effort required, while shutting down wasteful and unnecessary production that would impede it. While there are many differences, climate protection is an emergency that can call forth a comparable effort today.[1]

Overcoming climate alienation is only one small part of creating a healthy and sustainable life for all. But it can be a critical starting point. The impact of climate change is universally devastating, creating an urgent global common interest to take action now. However, the dependence of the working class on fossil fuel energy and on gaining a livelihood through employment is a critical deterrent to effective climate action. Therefore this chapter proposes a program to overcome climate alienation by eliminating GHG emissions in a way that also significantly reduces workers’ dependence on employers and fossil fuels.

Transition to 100% fossil-free energy

Burning fossil fuel is currently disrupting the Earth’s climate system and if continued will eliminate the conditions that have been essential for human civilization. Fossil fuel energy, however, is an intrinsic feature of the modern world order, on which nearly all aspects of modern life depend. It is also essential for most of the jobs on which workers depend.

For these reasons, the American labor movement has accepted and implicitly advocated the continuation of fossil fuel burning, perhaps modestly reduced by cautious climate policies guaranteed not to interfere with jobs and economic growth. A program to end climate alienation and save humanity starts, in contrast, from the commitment to rapidly reduce and ultimately eliminate the burning of fossil fuels—while protecting against possible adverse consequences of doing so.

Rapidly eliminate fossil fuels

Climate scientists have identified the GHG reductions necessary for the survival of human civilization. The IPCC famously calls for a minimum reduction of 80 percent by 2050 in order to keep global warming below a 2° Celsius increase. Climate scientist James Hansen has identified any level of atmospheric GHGs over 350 ppm as incompatible with human life as we have known it. According to Hansen, to reach 350 ppm by the end of the century, starting from 2012 as a baseline, will require a global reduction of 6 percent per year in fossil fuel emissions, combined with the extraction of 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.[2] Global carbon emissions will need to be near zero by around 2050.[3] The fair share of GHG reduction would be substantially higher for wealthy countries like the United States which have contributed large amounts of GHGs in the past.

Most climate action plans are not designed to reach these scientific targets. They may list various desirable (and often politically expedient) policies or short-term goals but put off the heavy lifting to the future. The U.S. federal climate action plan, for example, does not even purport to lay out a pathway to reducing GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

A worker climate action plan for a fossil-free economy should include frequent interim targets that require steady year-on-year reductions rather than postponing more difficult reductions to the future.[4] It should provide for a phased development that takes advantage of early opportunities but also lays the groundwork for later programs. And it should provide for course correction along the way. This labor climate action plan is based on a phase-out of fossil fuel energy rapid enough to meet scientific goals, with a comparably rapid expansion of clean energy.

Rapidly expand energy efficiency and fossil-free energy

Simply halting the burning of fossil fuels would lead to immediate national and global catastrophe. The dependence of modern civilization on fossil fuel energy means that the proverbial “freezing to death in the dark” would be the immediate fate of millions or perhaps billions of people. The fossil fuel industry takes advantage of this basic dependence, as well as its own immense wealth and power, to discourage the implementation of alternative energy sources. Government climate action plans so far do not lay out a program for a transition to a fossil-free energy system. Markets have significantly failed to invest adequately in energy efficiency and renewable energy, even where it would have been profitable to do so.[5]

The American labor movement argues that abundant and cheap energy is economically essential, and it endorses an “all of the above” energy policy that is based largely on nuclear energy, hypothetical “clean coal” technology, and expansion of natural gas. It does not have a plan to compensate for a reduction of fossil fuel use and it has done little to develop one or to encourage others to do so.

Studies show that replacement of fossil fuel energy by renewable energy and energy efficiency is technically feasible, and suggest various pathways to achieve it.[6] It can be accomplished based on commercially available technologies, but rapid expansion of research and markets will likely lead to very rapid improvement in technology along the way. The transition can be based on renewable energy technologies that cut the GHGs released by production, and energy efficiency measures that reduce the amount of energy needed. It will not require nuclear energy, large-scale modifications of earth systems through geo-engineering, or carbon capture and storage, each of which is likely to be far slower, more costly, and more environmentally dangerous than rapid conversion to renewable energies and energy efficiency. There will be only a small need for natural gas as a transitional fuel.

The most important areas for transition are electricity, transportation, and buildings. Electricity produced by fossil fuels, the largest single emitter of GHGs, can be replaced by wind, solar, and hydro energy sources, smart grids, new energy storage technologies, and increased efficiency. Petroleum-based private transportation can be replaced with cars, trucks, trains, and public transit powered by renewable electricity. Freight transportation can be converted to rail transport and electric vehicles. Virtually all buildings can be made much more efficient through insulation, weatherization, cogeneration, and solar and geothermal heating, cooling, and hot water. Many other strategies, ranging from industrial redesign to “smart growth” integration of urban and transportation planning, and from expanding forests to reducing fossil fuel use and applying carbon-sequestering techniques in farming, will also contribute. Every workplace, industry, and community will have a role in building a climate-safe economy.

Numerous studies have detailed how this transition can be made. The Labor Network for Sustainability’s report, “The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs, and Saving Money,” for example, shows that the United States can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 while adding half a million jobs per year and saving Americans billions of dollars on their electrical, heating, and transportation costs.[7]

Ensure that climate protection benefits all workers

Working people have complex and contradictory interests in relation to climate protection. All workers, like everyone, have a common interest in climate protection. Many workers will find jobs helping protect the climate. If climate policy produces enough jobs to reduce unemployment, it will benefit nearly all workers. But if fossil fuel use is eliminated, specific groups of workers who extract, process, transport, and use fossil fuels are likely to lose their jobs. If eliminating fossil fuels leads to unemployment and economic disruption, all workers are likely to suffer. If established patterns of unequal access to good jobs remain unchanged, workers who are subject to discrimination and exclusion will receive little benefit from climate protection measures. If the new climate-safe economy replaces good jobs with poor ones, workers who get those jobs will receive little benefit and the conditions of other workers will be subject to downward pressures as well. Therefore, a worker program for climate protection must integrate common needs and the needs of specific groups into a unifying strategy that realizes them all.

World War II mobilization provides one model, though an imperfect one, for transforming the labor market to meet the needs of climate transition. The government recruited workers previously outside the workforce, led the training effort, steered the location of employers and workers, and created labor rights and standards that led to what well may have been the greatest gains in wages, job security, and union representation in American history. The number of Americans employed outside the military rose by 7.7 million between 1939 and 1944, even while millions more left the civilian labor force for the military. Government boards redirected workers to military production, sometimes by threatening to draft them otherwise. Women entered the industrial workforce on an unprecedented scale and government provided training for millions of workers. The National War Labor Board set wages and required employers to bargain collectively with their employees’ unions. Government built housing and provided healthcare and childcare for war workers.[8] War labor policies were often biased toward business and were frequently challenged by organized labor and wildcat strikes,[9] but there is little question that overall they provided a historic improvement in the power and living standards of American workers.

A worker climate action plan requires changes on the scale of World War II economic mobilization, but rather different specific policies. These policies are in line with traditional labor movement objectives such as full employment, high minimum standards for wages and working conditions, a skilled and educated workforce, protection for those who lose their jobs, and provision for those for whom work is not appropriate.

Protect workers and communities who may be threatened by climate policies

Workers largely depend for their livelihoods on jobs that produce and use fossil fuel energy. While climate protection will produce far more jobs than it eliminates, it may also threaten the jobs of some workers in fossil fuel producing and using industries. It is unjust that any worker should suffer through no fault of their own because of a policy that is necessary to protect society. A worker program must create alternative jobs and/or livelihoods or face mass unemployment—and a resulting rebellion against climate protection.

Adequate climate action plans must provide a just transition for workers and communities that may otherwise be negatively affected. This must include requirements that employers retrain and find jobs for those affected; give them priority for new jobs; provide economic benefits that allow not only a decent livelihood but a start on a new life; ensure decent retirement benefits for those who choose it; and invest in local communities to provide them a future beyond fossil fuels.[10]

Workers harmed by climate protection policies should receive full wages and benefits for at least four years; up to four years of education or training, including tuition and living expenses; and decent pensions with healthcare for those ready to retire.[11]

Workers and communities need not wait for public policy to pursue such protections. For example, when the Healthy Connecticut Alliance campaigned to close the Bridgeport Station coal-fired power plant, it included in its demands a series of protections for those who worked in the plant:[12]

  • Negotiate a jobs agreement with unions representing affected workers.
  • Find jobs for affected workers who want them.
  • Ensure job retraining for those who need it to fill new jobs.
  • Provide decent pensions with healthcare for workers who are not provided other jobs and who do not opt for retraining.
  • Create jobs restoring the site.
  • Re-utilize facilities to replace losses in the tax base.
  • Fund job-creating community economic development.

While programs such as the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) have often been inadequate at best, there are examples of transition programs that work. From 1994 to 2004, for instance, the U.S. Department of Energy conducted a Worker and Community Transition Program that provided grants and other assistance for communities affected by shutdown of nuclear facilities. A nuclear test site in Nevada, for example, was re-purposed to demonstrate concentrated solar power technologies.[13]

Alternative jobs can be provided not only in clean energy but also in other work the public needs; they should be provided not only where existing jobs are lost but where potential fossil fuel jobs are not created because of climate protection policies. For example, the Labor Network for Sustainability study, “The Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy,” laid out how more jobs could be created by renewing water and other pipeline infrastructure than by building the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil.[14]

Guarantee economic security and jobs for all who want them

Climate protection will create millions of new jobs. It will also require the recruitment, training, and deployment of tens of thousands of workers. A worker climate action plan should be designed to provide the maximum number of good, secure, permanent jobs with education, training, and advancement.

Studies such as the Labor Network for Sustainability’s “The Clean Energy Future” show that renewable energy and energy efficiency can potentially produce substantially more jobs than fossil fuels. They could contribute to job growth in manufacturing, construction, operations, and maintenance. Nonetheless, climate protection is unlikely in itself to fully eliminate unemployment.

To counter the insecurity of working class life in general and the specific fear that climate protection may lead to job loss, climate protection policies need to incorporate the principle of a job for everyone who wants one. The front-line of establishing full employment can be the expansion of jobs that support climate protection. Keynesian macroeconomic full employment policies are necessary both to ensure jobs for all who want them, and to mobilize the productive capacity needed to build a climate-safe society. Where other policies have not led to full employment, government should serve as the employer of last resort for all who want to work, putting them to work on climate protection and other socially needed activities. Such a program should be combined with a “Nordic-style” welfare system that provides financial support for the unemployed close to that of employed workers, combined with job training, regional economic development, and other strong support for re-employment.[15]

Use climate transition to remedy inequality and injustice

The power of those affected by climate alienation is weakened because working people and society are divided by inequalities and division along race, ethnic, gender, and other lines. Therefore challenging such unjust divisions is not only right in itself, it is necessary for developing workers’ power to overcome climate alienation.

Most climate action plans take for granted existing injustices and inequalities. Climate protection can serve as a means to counter inequality and social injustice, but it will require deliberate policies to do so. A worker climate action plan serves as a vehicle to move toward a more just and equal society.

Full employment and good, stable jobs that protect the climate provide part of the basis for this transition. However, specific policies are needed to provide a jobs pipeline for those individuals and groups who have been denied equal access to good jobs. And climate action plans need to be designed to remedy the concentration of pollution in marginalized and low-income communities, the lack of transportation, education, health, and other facilities in poor neighborhoods, and all other results of past discrimination.

Not only are jobs and unemployment distributed very unevenly to different groups and localities, so are job skills and experience. Climate protection jobs require a wide range of skills, from the most highly technical to just having the ability to show up for the job and follow instructions. While this makes it possible to provide jobs for a wide range of workers, it also has the danger of providing only low quality dead-end jobs for those who are already most economically deprived.

Recruitment needs to include strong racial, gender, age, and locational affirmative action to counter our current employment inequalities. Climate protection needs to make use of workers’ existing skills while at the same time developing new ones that reduce these inequalities. Programs need to provide job ladders within and across employers lest those who currently face only dead-end jobs continue to face only dead-end jobs in the climate protection economy.

Ensure quality of climate protection jobs

Climate protection will inevitably provide jobs. But can it provide good jobs?

For several decades, the tendency of the U.S. economy has been toward insecure, contingent work, often with low wages and few health insurance, pension, or other benefits. “Green jobs” can similarly be marked by low wages, health and safety hazards, and gross violation of labor rights. Climate protection will therefore require deliberate policies to raise wages and increase job security, especially for those at the lower end of the labor market, to counter that tendency.

A worker climate action plan should be designed for sustained, orderly development of the work sectors where climate protection jobs are concentrated.[16] This requires planning for technical and physical development and for financing. It needs to include pay and benefit standards that provide a decent standard of life and future for working families. It needs to support “high road” employers, prevailing wage provisions like those required by the Davis-Bacon Act, and project labor agreements negotiated between unions and employers to ensure that climate protection jobs elevate rather than depress wages and working conditions.[17]

The deterioration in quality of jobs is directly related to the reduction in the size and bargaining power of labor unions. Reinforcing the rights of workers to express themselves freely, organize, bargain collectively, and engage in concerted action on the job should be an explicit part of public policy for the climate protection sector, as it was for war industries during mobilization for World War II. Workers should be the ones to decide whether or not they want union representation; employers in the climate sector should be required to sign and abide by neutrality agreements.

Empower workers to protect the climate

While climate protection is a responsibility of the whole of society, we workers have our own collective role to play in it. Because of our position within the economy and our capacity for solidarity, self-organization, and challenge to authority, we can provide a direct counter-power to employers and fossil fuel corporations. Because of our established role as an organized force within the political arena and our capacity for direct action we can, in cooperation with other forces, reshape public policy on climate protection. Such a role involves workers moving into spheres of decision-making from which we have largely been excluded.[18]

Promote worker climate action plans

The U.S. federal government, many cities and states, and many corporations, universities, and other institutions have climate action plans, some of them in place for decades. But so far they rarely lay out a pathway to a fossil fuel-free energy system. Often targets are inadequate; they don’t include policies that will actually meet those targets; they don’t provide good or steady jobs; they conform to prevailing patterns of inequality and injustice; and they function as window-dressing rather than the actual basis of public policy. Workers need to present our own climate action plans that eliminate fossil fuels—and climate alienation.

Where organized labor has supported climate protection policy at all, it has generally simply echoed corporate and government “market-based” policies. The AFL-CIO Energy Task Force, for example, sharply criticized the cap-and-trade provisions that were the centerpiece of the Waxman-Markey bill, but instead of proposing alternative approaches to climate protection, they insisted that such a program should be made even weaker by protections for fossil fuel industries and pauses if the measures proved too effective. A labor climate action program must seek instead effective means to rapidly reduce and ultimately eliminate GHG emissions. The elements that should be incorporated into worker climate action policies are outlined throughout this chapter.

Many climate action plans are not really intended to be implemented—as revealed by their lack of concrete programs to implement goals, the infrequency of serious efforts to implement them, and the massive resistance that arises when serious efforts are made to implement them. Climate protection policies are regularly overridden by other official policies and concerns, such as fiscal needs, energy policies, and transportation objectives. They are also overridden by the ability of private interests to disregard them—or to shape public policy in their own interest. Rather than window dressing, worker climate action plans must become the bedrock of public policy, around which other policies are shaped to achieve the many objectives that society pursues for its betterment.

Empower workers on the job

Many workplaces already have their own climate action plans. Where they do not, workers can demand that they be established. Where that demand is resisted, workers can draft our own climate action plans, demand negotiations over them, and start implementing them on our own where we can.

Workers are the eyes and ears of their communities, the country, and humanity inside the workplace. We have a right to know about the carbon pollution produced by our workplaces and the materials they use and produce; the right to monitor implementation of climate action plans; and the right to blow the whistle on environmental abuses. Where workers are not accorded these rights, we have an obligation to protect the public through whistle-blowing and direct action, for example through “green bans” that authorize workers not to engage in climate-destroying labor.

Ultimately, public policy should mandate climate action plans for every workplace with a role for workers in designing and implementing them. It should authorize workers to serve as an independent check on what is really going on inside their workplace.

Such a role requires workers to act on behalf of society as a whole, rather than exclusively for the narrow interests of particular groups—indeed, this is justification for providing workers such authority. It challenges “management’s right to manage”—a doctrine currently asserted by the courts and generally accepted by unions. It inserts workers into the planning process that determines the purposes and methods of production and investment. It thereby challenges the bundle of property rights as currently defined.

Empower workers in their communities

Workers and workplaces do not exist as a separate sphere; they are embedded in communities and more broadly in the institutions of civil society. Workers are already organized in central labor councils based in cities, regions, and states. We can help form broad coalitions to enforce climate protection in communities, with leadership and support from civil society institutions such as schools and churches.

Through these coalitions, we can establish climate action plans at the community level and ensure that they are adequate to achieve scientific targets and friendly to worker and allied constituencies. We can pressure local governments and institutions to shape such plans in ways that counter inequality and provide pathways to justice and employment for marginalized and discriminated-against groups. Where there is resistance to the necessary reduction in fossil fuel emissions and the infrastructure that supports it, workers and our allies should if necessary engage in direct action and civil disobedience designed to mobilize public action to force compliance.

Today, a large swath of community-based, local, and regional programs are already engaged in promoting the transition to a climate-safe economy and society. Even in a government-led transition, they can on their own initiative implement community-based renewable energies such as rooftop solar collectors, energy use reduction measures such as residential weatherization, financial mobilization through community investment funds, and new patterns of consumption such as shared bicycles. Perhaps most importantly, they can provide both popular participation in the transition to climate protection and a means to hold the institutions of transition accountable.

Climate protection programs can counter inequalities and vulnerabilities in local economies. They can require contractors to hire from the local community.[19] They can also use climate protection policies to encourage broad-based local ownership through locally owned small businesses, cooperatives, and public enterprises. Such enterprises can provide needed jobs and services while helping stabilize community economies, and protect them from the unpredictable fluctuations of uncontrollable outside forces.

Empower workers in corporations

The strategic decisions affecting GHG emissions are generally made not in the local workplace but at the level of the corporation. Most large corporations already have some kind of climate action plan for the corporation as a whole—and those that don’t can be pushed to establish them. Currently, such plans vary from serious efforts to reduce emissions to fig-leaf programs whose purpose is not climate protection but public relations. Workers can demand that corporate climate action plans achieve science-based targets. We can demand that workers be protected from adverse side effects of corporate climate action, for example through contract clauses that ensure that climate policy will not be used as an excuse to lay off workers or increase their workload. We can demand the right to monitor implementation of workplace climate action plans and to blow the whistle on environmental abuses.

At the same time, workers can participate constructively in employer climate protection efforts. Unions can negotiate over climate action plans and their implementation. In many instances, this will require new negotiating structures that involve the many different unions that typically represent workers in any corporation, as well the large proportion of workers who lack union representation. In the case of international corporations, some form of “international framework agreement” may be the appropriate vehicle for negotiations.[20] Workers can promote new climate protection goods and services or even present an alternative vision for their company’s future.

As with workplace initiatives, such actions challenge labor acquiescence to “management’s right to manage.” They can provide a starting point for participating in company planning more generally. They can also help initiate new systems of corporate governance, accountability, and reporting that are necessary to represent the interests of a wider range of stakeholders and to require corporations to act in line with environmental, economic, and social sustainability.[21]

Empower workers in industries

A fossil-free economy will require transformation not just of individual workplaces and companies, nor just of the economy as a whole, but of specific industries and economic sectors. Industry-wide planning is necessary to capture synergies and economies of scale, establish level playing fields, and ensure that different parts of an emerging climate protection system work together—large-scale, long-term necessities that cannot be provided by the market. Here, public climate action policies, industry-wide collective bargaining, and cooperation among businesses in the same industry need to go hand in hand.

A prime example of such cooperation was the reconstruction of the U.S. auto industry under President Obama’s economic recovery plan. Auto corporations and the UAW agreed to a large long-term increase in energy efficiency to cut carbon emissions. This involved cooperative planning for retooling the industry, large-scale federal support for developing new technology, and substantial public investment in modernizing the industry on a low-carbon basis. The result was a steady decrease in carbon pollution, an increase of jobs for auto workers, and an end to the crisis that threatened to nearly eliminate auto production in the United States.

Electricity provides another case where industry-wide coordination is necessary for successful GHG emission reduction. Energy production and distribution is an integrated system tied together by power lines and other infrastructure into the electric grid. Moving to 80 percent or more renewable energy requires a far more sophisticated and decentralized energy system that can integrate everything from rooftop solar installations to massive wind farms. It therefore requires long-term planning and investment; the public sector must provide these if the private sector is unable or unwilling to do so. Unions can be leaders in bringing together the players for such a transformation if they are willing to put the universally shared need to protect the climate front and center in the design of the new energy system.

Transportation similarly requires integrated transformation that includes massive expansion of public transit; reorganization of freight transportation to reduce emissions; conversion to electric, fuel cell, and other low-emissions vehicles; and practical access to walking and biking routes. This requires not just switching from one kind of vehicle to another, but restructuring of metropolitan areas, great expansion of renewable energies, and redesign of freight systems. The Teamsters union has taken a great leap forward here, advocating for a new intermodal transportation system and trying to draw the other public and private sector players into cooperation around it.

Finance is a principal means by which resources are allocated to future uses. Financialization has meant that a huge and growing proportion of wealth is invested not to produce needed goods and services, but rather to pursue speculative gains based purely on the fluctuations of markets, especially financial markets themselves. Downsizing the financial sector and returning it to the role of servant rather than master of the real economy is necessary to provide the resources for climate protection and other social needs and to stop magnifying the economic gyrations driven by a highly speculative economy. This can be achieved by such means as financial re-regulation, the imposition of a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions, and expansion of public purpose finance.

Similar programs are necessary for agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, waste management, and many other industries.[22]

Empower workers in the political arena

Organized labor is represented in the political process in the federal government, every state, and every large county and municipality. It participates in political parties, elections, and lobbying. While it rarely has power to govern on its own, it exercises influence over public policy by participating in coalitions and by exercising a leadership role.

Organized labor and the broader working class movement can help write party platforms and select and support candidates who back the worker climate protection agenda. We can lobby legislators and the executive branch to establish and/or improve—and implement—climate action plans. We can mobilize the public for legislation that implements climate protection. We can participate in lawsuits to force implementation of climate protection policies on public trust, human rights, and other grounds.

Government employees can play a special role. They have access to information that they can provide the public either officially or in a whistle-blower role. Those involved in climate protection-related activities and policies have a special legitimacy for speaking out to the public—as the union representing US Environmental Protection Agency employees did so powerfully against the Bush administration’s gag orders on EPA scientists. They are in a position to develop and present plans for more effective climate protection policies. They can influence elected government officials. And through their collective bargaining with their employers, they can promote worker climate protection policies—and create an avenue for their enforcement.

Despite these channels for worker influence, the unfortunate reality is that the dominant power over government is currently exercised by corporations and the wealthiest 1%. So an effective challenge to climate alienation must involve more than just action within the established framework of power. It must include a process of democratization that makes it possible for all people to participate on a level political playing field in which the common interests of the majority can determine public policy. And it must include worker participation in a climate insurgency that asserts the illegitimacy of existing governments as long as they are complicit in the destruction of the climate on which people and planet depend.

Empower the public to protect the climate

Replacing fossil fuel energy with clean energy requires enormous changes in the economy and society. Effective measures have been blocked by the power of the fossil fuel industry; the inhibitions produced by neoliberal ideology and policy; the weakness and corruption of democratic institutions; and the imperatives of a market that, if it is regulated at all, is regulated in the interest of the fossil fuel industry. Where they are unable to block climate protection entirely, the fossil fuel industry and its allies have advocated dubious programs such as cap-and-trade and carbon offsets that, with modest exceptions, have failed to reduce GHG emissions.

There are three main approaches to GHG reduction. The first, which has dominated climate legislation and treaty negotiation, consists of “putting a price on carbon emissions” to discourage GHGs through taxation, fees, cap-and-trade systems with markets for emission quotas, or similar means. The second, which is widely discussed and frequently implemented on a small scale, consists of local, often community-based initiatives designed to produce renewable energy and reduce energy consumption on a decentralized basis. The third, perhaps less often delineated by proponents than excoriated by opponents, consists of a government-led approach based on economic planning, public investment, resource mobilization, and direct government intervention in economic decisions. While rapid reduction of GHG emissions will undoubtedly require all three, labor should lead the breakout from neoliberalism and propose a government-led plan—drawing on the example of economic mobilization for World War II—to put people to work converting to a climate-safe economy.

Establish governmental agencies to implement the transition

Mobilization for climate protection is an emergency that, like mobilization for World War II, requires powerful governmental agencies dedicated to the purpose that can plan and implement the transition to a climate-safe economy. This will require transcending the shibboleths of neoliberalism.

Such institutions will need to establish financial incentives and disincentives; raise capital; implement labor force strategies; organize funding for infrastructure such as transmission lines, railways, and pipelines; fund research and development; set and monitor energy efficiency standards for buildings, appliances, and equipment; train and retrain workers and professionals; and set industrial location policies. Further, they will need to coordinate the multifaceted activities of federal agencies, state and municipal governments, corporations, and civil society groups.

Such coordination, as during World War II, will require a central governmental authority. However, because of the extended period of transition, measures are necessary to prevent such an authority from pursuing its own aggrandizement or that of other social forces. We don’t need another body like the Pentagon or National Security Agency provided with vast powers and resources but no genuine accountability.

One proposed solution is to create two independent agencies.[23] The first, following the general model of the War Production Board, would have overall responsibility for GHG reduction. Such a climate mobilization authority would conduct technical requirement studies, set and enforce production goals, institute efficient contracting procedures, cut through inertia and bureaucratic red tape, and serve as the coordinating agency for all transition activities. The second agency, independent of the executive branch and above the climate mobilization authority, would report to Congress and the public. It would define GHG reduction targets and timetables, lay out a national climate action plan, ensure transparency in the climate mobilization authority, identify problems and failures, and initiate course corrections.

Use economic planning, industrial policy, and macroeconomics to guide the transition

The British government’s Stern Report in 2006 called climate change the “greatest market failure in history.” While market mechanisms should be used where they have proven effective, where they haven’t, public authority, planning, and investment are necessary. A worker climate action program will rely on public planning and investment to provide a planned, orderly, sustainable transition to a climate-safe economy.

If America’s economic mobilization for World War II had been left to the market, it is doubtful that Detroit’s auto production would have been shut down to allow more production of airplanes or that a company like Hamilton Propellers would have increased production to 60 times over pre-war levels. While markets were not eliminated during the war, war production required that public authorities take responsibility for critical decisions previously left to the market. If today’s climate emergency is to be effectively met, where the market cannot or will not do the job, government and citizens must similarly step in to ensure that the job gets done.

Climate protection requires the capacity to make long-range plans that affect many aspects of life. Governing climate protection is in some ways similar to governing the nation’s transportation system. It requires making decisions, such as whether to build highways or railways, that will shape the life of the country for decades to come. It requires the technical capacity to design and engineer such complex systems. It requires taking into account a wide range of economic, environmental, and social factors—and maximizing beneficial side effects and minimizing undesirable ones.

Government will need to map out what is needed to realize climate action plans; lay out the sequence of economic development; find sources of funding; find and eliminate bottlenecks; help develop public or private enterprises that will do what is needed; keep the pipeline full to provide stable demand and employment; and step in to meet needs that the private economy is not addressing. Some of this can be done by expanding the role of existing agencies; some may require new, non-market institutions such as public purpose non-profit developers, part of whose mission is to provide stable jobs for local workers and communities.

Planning will be necessary to see that climate protection produces not just a flurry of economic activity, but also a stable growing sector that provides steady jobs and advancement for hundreds of thousands of workers. It must involve planning for the transition to climate protection as a whole, not just a collection of separate programs. For example, expansion of energy efficiency and fossil fuel -free energy are interdependent and must go hand in hand, with planned sequencing of the entire transition. Similarly, expansion of manufacturing for climate protection will need to be coordinated with the installation of the products.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, despite its inadequacies and ambiguities, requires states and corporations to make defined GHG emission reductions on a legally enforceable schedule. While it gives them great flexibility in how to do so, it does not allow them to evade targets by simply providing incentives that may or may not lead to GHG reduction in the real world. It requires them to plan, invest, and dis-invest to meet a compulsory emission reduction schedule. Auto companies were led to cooperate with the Obama administration’s plan for reconstruction of the auto industry on the basis of GHG reduction because their survival depended on the plan’s massive public investment in the auto industry. Where necessary, such compulsory planning and implementation should be included in all climate action plans.

While neoliberalism has condemned Keynesian macroeconomic policies designed to provide full employment, the abandonment of such regulation of the economy as a whole has led to the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression and an ongoing aftermath of income polarization and impoverishment for working people. In such a context, rapid transition to climate safety carries the risk of broad economic disruption. That possibility must be forestalled by macroeconomic policies that ensure full employment. Such policies, implemented in the context of the transition to climate protection, will reduce the fear that climate protection may threaten prosperity, and give working people a greater stake in the transition.

Acquire the resources for climate transition

The principal elements of a new, climate-safe economy are energy efficiency, demand reduction, and low-GHG renewable energy. All of these are cost-efficient—in the long run, they will be cheaper and provide more benefits than burning fossil fuels. The Labor Network for Sustainability report, “The Clean Energy Future,” shows a pathway for meeting climate protection goals that will simultaneously create more jobs and save money, and reduce the cost of electricity, heating, and transportation by $78 billion compared to current projections from now through 2050. In the long run, climate protection pays for itself.

Climate protection will inevitably have some start-up costs, however, so investments have to be made in order to realize the benefits. The payback period is far shorter than many other investments, providing a high rate of return on investment. Nonetheless, private markets have failed to make adequate investment in renewable energies and increased energy efficiency, even where it would have been profitable to do so.[24] If the market won’t pay for climate protection, how can it be paid for?

Today, as at the outset of World War II, the U.S. economy, along with the global economy, is mired in the aftermath of a severe economic decline with vast quantities of underutilized resources. Macroeconomic policies aiming for full employment would produce hundreds of billions of dollars a year more than today, generating the resources needed to convert to renewable energy and provide a just transition for workers, communities, and carbon-dependent regions.

Public borrowing through bond sales can provide substantial and inexpensive funds due to the ability of the Federal Reserve to buy public infrastructure bonds at low rates. Public purpose banks, credit unions, and investment and loan funds can provide more decentralized financial resources, especially for smaller-scale and community-based projects. If need be, the Federal Reserve could simply buy infrastructure bonds, just as it did with Treasury securities in 1940 to finance the war effort.

During World War II, 85 million Americans bought $185 billion in war bonds and similar securities—the equivalent of more than $2 trillion in 2010 dollars. They did so both because it was a good investment and because it was perceived as a patriotic duty. Today, the federal government should establish a program of climate bonds for the public. These should be a good investment for individuals, particularly as an alternative to today’s gutted pension plans and unattractive retirement investments. And they should be promoted as a way that individuals and institutions can participate in the mobilization for climate protection. If we are to provide tax credits for energy investments, they should go first and foremost not to the 1% but to ordinary citizens who can use them to increase their economic security and retirement savings.

A tax on GHG emissions or “cap-and-dividend” programs can provide market incentives that complement more direct climate protection measures. Progressive taxation, particularly on carbon-wasting luxury goods such as private jets, can counteract any negative effects on income equality. Such devices as energy pricing incentives, user fees, and on-bill financing (which allows energy consumers to pay for energy-saving investments out of the resulting savings on their energy bills) can also play a role.

Thousands of individuals and institutions are currently joining the fossil fuel “divest-invest” movement, modeled on the highly successful movement to dis-invest from Apartheid South Africa. Religious organizations, unions, municipalities, foundations, and many other institutions are withdrawing their investments from fossil fuel companies; disinvestment pledges are now in the trillions of dollars. But strategies to invest the freed-up money in climate protection have only just begun. Federal and state governments should take the lead by divesting from all fossil fuel investments and creating revolving funds for the transition to a climate-safe economy. They should then lead a campaign for all individuals, institutions, and businesses to divest from fossil fuels and invest the proceeds in the revolving funds.

Municipal governments and institutions such as universities, museums, churches, and schools are important economic actors. They should make investment in reducing their GHG emissions their first investment priority. They can invest in fossil fuel reduction programs in their neighborhoods and communities and share and invest the resulting savings in their individual climate protection initiatives. They can serve as “anchor institutions” for the transformation of their surrounding communities, using their purchasing power to support and encourage local economic development.

Another potential source for funding the transition to climate safety could be legal damages and fines collected from corporations for environmentally harmful practices. Governments may take legal action to recover “natural resource damages”—as seen in the settlements for the 1989 Exxon Valdez and 2010 BP oil spills, for example. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) enacted in 1980, known as the “Superfund” law, provides broad federal authority to clean up hazardous substance releases and authorizes the US Environmental Protection Agency to compel the parties responsible to pay for the cleanup—even if the releases happened long before the legislation was passed. Comparable legislation could hold major fossil fuel producers and emitters responsible for their colossal damage to the atmosphere—and the colossal cost of remediating it.[25]

Protect the climate and promote jobs globally

Overcoming climate alienation is a global task. It requires eliminating GHG emissions and providing secure livelihoods for all. This ultimately requires binding international agreements that outlaw GHG emissions and provide the international basis for a just global economic system. Worker climate protection need not wait for such agreements, however. International cooperation can start on an ad hoc basis long before it is institutionalized in international agreements. And international agreements will be far more meaningful in the context of effective local and national climate protection measures.

While existing international institutions are inadequate for these purposes and provide little opportunity for influence by workers, the labor movement is playing a global role nonetheless. Unions around the world have lobbied their governments for worker-friendly climate policies. The International Trade Union Confederation has mobilized workers worldwide to provide a worker voice in global climate negotiations.

American unions have played an ambiguous role in this process. While a few have supported binding international agreements embodying scientific targets and timetables for GHG reduction, most have not. The AFL-CIO has not done so either. Few have campaigned for the global labor program endorsed by the ITUC and most unions in the rest of the world. American unions have tended instead to regard international cooperation on climate protection as a potential threat to American workers’ jobs. A worker climate action movement, in contrast, will forge international labor cooperation around a program that represents the common interests of the workers and citizens of the world.

A workers program can use global climate protection as the starting point for challenging other disastrous consequences of neoliberalism and unregulated globalization. It can promote an alternative model for the global economy that replaces growing inequality and the downward leveling of labor and environmental conditions with one that protects the Earth’s climate while creating jobs and improving livelihoods for workers and the poor.[26] It can replace trade wars over climate-protecting goods and services with cooperative, mutually managed trade whose purpose is to rapidly increase production of GHG-reducing goods and services and create jobs.

Unions can promote the formation of a “coalition of the willing” among governments that are prepared to act seriously on climate protection. They can also play a direct global role through negotiations with global corporations and industries. They can push for the inclusion of a worker climate agenda in International Framework Agreements where they exist. And they can participate in a global climate insurgency that challenges the legitimacy of all governments and corporations unless and until they undertake necessary climate protection policies and measures.

Develop a “Global Green New Deal”

A solution to both the climate and jobs crises requires that the world abandon neoliberalism and adopt a new strategy that puts the world’s human resources to work meeting the world’s desperate need for economic transformation that radically reduces GHG emissions. Such a global regime has often been referred to as a “Global Green New Deal.”[27]

In the depths of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the New Deal—a set of government programs to provide employment and social security, reform tax policies and business practices, and stimulate the economy, as well as establish environmental programs such as reforestation and soil conservation. It included the building of homes, hospitals, school, roads, dams, and electrical grids. The New Deal put millions of people to work and created a new policy framework for American democracy.

In response to the Great Recession and the climate crisis, unions from around the world, represented by the International Trade Union Confederation, partnered with the United Nations Environment Program to promote a global green new deal as a solution to both crises.[28] UNEP said the objectives of a global green new deal should be to create jobs and restore the financial system and global economy to health, to put the post-crisis economy on a sustainable path that deals with ecological scarcity and climate instability, and to end extreme poverty.

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said the financial, fuel, and food crises result in part from “speculation and a failure of governments to intelligently manage and focus markets.” Enormous economic, social, and environmental benefits are likely to arise from “combatting climate change and re-investing in natural infrastructures—benefits ranging from new green jobs in clean tech and clean energy businesses up to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation-based enterprises.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the financial crisis required massive global stimulus, and called for “an investment that fights climate change, creates millions of green jobs and spurs green growth.” What the world needs, in short, is a “Global Green New Deal.”

The imagery of the New Deal evoked opposition to laissez-faire capitalism and a call for government leadership and investment. As the ITUC’s statement to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference put it: “Economic transformation cannot be left to the ‘invisible hand’ of the market. Government-driven investments, innovation and skills development, social protection and consultation with social partners (unions and employers) are essential.” We cannot trust “failed market mechanisms” to “steer out of this crisis.” The problem has to be solved through “regulation, democratically decided and implemented public policies and most importantly political leadership.” Indeed, as an ITUC resolution said, “A full-scale transformation of global production systems and consumption patterns is required in order to safeguard societies and workplaces, while protecting and promoting decent work for all. Trade unions must play a central role in that unprecedented transformation.”

For a brief period, many countries in fact launched initiatives that resembled a green new deal. In the United States, for example, the Obama administration initiated a recovery program based on massive public spending for job creation, much of it contributing to climate protection.[29] The U.S. government invested heavily in the auto industry and used the authority gained thereby to redesign the entire industry on the basis of GHG reduction. Many other countries instituted similar programs. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called for trillions of dollars of deficit spending, and governments around the world did in fact provide trillions of dollars of budgetary economic stimulus, although much of it went for bailouts to banks and financial institutions rather than job creation or climate protection.

Once the most acute phase of the financial crisis was over, however, global economic policy rapidly shifted to extreme austerity and, in the aftermath of the Copenhagen summit, largely abandoned climate protection programs. The result has been unending mass unemployment, burgeoning inequality, unending debt crises, and ever-mounting GHG emissions.

The idea of a global green new deal epitomizes the interests of working people worldwide for full employment through climate protection. It represents a program that can unify climate protection and anti-austerity forces in all countries and provide an alternative to the failures of neoliberalism.

Establish a global fund to mobilize under-utilized resources for climate protection

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 200 million workers were unemployed worldwide in 2013. Unspent cash in the accounts of large enterprises reached $5 trillion. A worker climate action plan should include a global trust fund designed to mobilize global human, financial, and material resources for job-creating climate protection.[30]

How large should such a fund be? At least large enough to mobilize all unused and underused human and material resources that can help the transition to a climate-safe world. A study sponsored by the World Economic Forum evaluated how much global investment is needed for “clean-energy infrastructure, sustainable and low-carbon transport, energy efficiency in buildings and industry, and for forestry” to limit the global average temperature increase to 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.[31] It found that at least $0.7 trillion needs to be invested annually beyond current levels. Therefore, between 1 and 2 percent per year of global GDP needs to be invested effectively in climate protection worldwide.

Where can the money come from? As with funding for national programs, global funding can come from taxing, borrowing, recovery of damages, and mobilizing unused resources through global fiscal policies. Taxes should include a tax on carbon emissions and a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions. Global fiscal policy should include the use of IMF Special Drawing Rights or other forms of “paper gold.”[32]

Such a fund can be the starting point for global macroeconomic policies designed to counter inadequate and fluctuating global economic demand and the “race to the bottom” of unregulated global competition. If such an approach represents a breach with the dominant neoliberal ideology, so much the better.

Mutually manage trade in climate-protecting goods and services

Globalization, neoliberalism, and trade agreements like the World Trade Organization have pitted the workers of the world against each other in a fight for climate-protecting jobs. For example, China is allocating massive public resources to developing a “green energy economy.” In the context of global competition, this is harming the solar and wind power industries in the United States. In response, U.S. labor and others have advocated punishing China under WTO rules—for encouraging climate protection.

A labor climate movement cannot support a policy that pits workers against workers and discourages the growth of climate-protecting industries and jobs. It should oppose both escalating trade wars and the free trade utopia of neoliberalism. Instead, it should advocate a strategy of mutually managed trade that encourages all countries to develop their climate protection industries and technologies as rapidly as possible, while allowing the benefits to be shared in a way that protects workers in both developing countries and developed countries—not to mention the planet as a whole. Far from discouraging government subsidies for climate protection jobs, labor should encourage all countries to compete to see who can provide the most effective subsidies for climate protection.

Unions should cooperate globally to propose their own agreements for trade in climate-protecting goods and services that will provide an alternative to both free trade and protectionism. The purpose of such agreements is to create jobs for all by accelerating production of climate-protecting goods and services. Such an agreement could also promote technology sharing, to help reduce the cost and expand the market for climate-protecting goods and services. Such agreements could revise, trump, or carve out an exception to WTO rules for climate-protecting trade. Cooperation could start on a bilateral basis—for example, between the U.S. and China—but should expand into a global regime for promoting the climate protection economy. Such agreements could be the beginning of an alternative to WTO-style unregulated globalization.

Legally ban fossil fuels worldwide

Humanity will not be safe until binding, enforceable global agreements require rapid reduction of GHG emissions to zero. Global climate negotiations have failed to reach such an agreement. Such an agreement is unlikely to be achieved until it embodies changes that already have been fought for, won public support, and been at least partially realized at the local and national levels. The struggle to eliminate fossil fuels locally and nationally can lay the basis for doing so globally.

The abolition of slavery—perhaps the greatest struggle for labor and human rights of all time—took more than a century. It was conducted simultaneously by an international abolitionist movement and local and national movements within each country. It was pursued by both legal and extra-constitutional means. Slavery was abolished country by country and empire by empire. It was ultimately outlawed globally in 1948 by Article 4 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The abolition of climate alienation is a task of a similar magnitude—and similarly one that is difficult though not impossible. But it must be accomplished in half the time.



[1] Jeremy Brecher, Joe Uehlein, and Ron Blackwell, “If Not Now, When: A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change,” New Labor Forum, Fall 2014, http://www.labor4sustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/NLF541793_REV1.pdf.

[2] James Hansen et al, “The Case for Young People and Nature: The Path to a Healthy, Natural, Prosperous Future,” available at http://science.the-environmentalist.org/2011/05/case-for-young-people-and-nature-path_05.html.

[3] There is no cure for climate change as long as we continue putting GHGs into the air. But once we approach zero emissions, the expansion of forests and other carbon sinks can begin to draw carbon out of the atmosphere and restore climate balance. This is a huge global task which will require the labor of people around the world.

[4] For an analysis of the “equity curve” required to balance reductions over time see John Humphries, “GHG Emissions Reduction Trajectories,” CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, July 15, 2015, http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/climatechange/gc3/member_communications/humphries_2015_0717b.pdf.

[5] “The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs, Saving Money,” Labor Network for Sustainability, 350.org, and Synapse Energy Economics,” “c. Why Is This Affordable?” http://climatejobs.labor4sustainability.org/national-report/.

[6] For a review of such studies see Laurence L. Delina and Mark Diesendorf, “Is wartime mobilization a suitable policy model for rapid national climate mitigation?” Energy Policy, July 2013, section 2. Available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513002103. See also Robert Pollin, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, and James Heintz, Green Growth: A Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding U.S. Job Opportunities (Washington, DC: Center for American Progress, September, 2014), http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/PERI.pdf. See also Labor Network for Sustainability, “The Clean Energy Future.”

[7] Labor Network for Sustainability, http://www.labor4sustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cleanenergy_10212015_main.pdf.

[8] Brecher, Climate Insurgency, “Chapter 8: Making a country climate-safe.”

[9] Jeremy Brecher, Strike! Revised, Expanded, and Updated Edition (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2014), “Chapter 6: The War and Post-War Strike Wave,” p. 209ff.

[10] Arjun Makhijani, “Beyond a Band-Aid: A Discussion Paper on Protecting Workers and Communities in the Great Energy Transition,” Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Labor Network for Sustainability, http://labor4sustainability.org/files/pdf_06142016_final.pdf.

[11] For a fuller account of just transition policies, see Jeremy Brecher, “A Superfund for Workers: How to Promote a Just Transition and Break Out of the Jobs vs. Environment Trap,” Dollars and Sense November/December 2015, http://www.labor4sustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/1115brecher.pdf.

[12] Healthy CT Alliance, “Worker Protection Demands for Coal Retirement Campaigns,” http://www.healthyctalliance.org.

[13] Green Growth, p. 310.

[14] http://www.labor4sustainability.org/files/__kxl_main3_11052013.pdf

[15] For Nordic welfare systems see Jeremy Brecher, “Labor, Sustainability, and Justice,” Labor Network for Sustainability, August 17, 2011, http://www.labor4sustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/labor-sustainability-and-justice.pdf.

[16] While in most instances public policy should aim to provide stable long-term employment, in the case of construction workers who normally work on relatively short-term jobs, it should include mechanisms to provide steady employment as workers move from project to project.

[17] Good Jobs First, “High Road or Low Road? Job Quality in the New Green Economy,” February 3, 2009, recommends among other things that “green jobs” specify wage requirements for subsidies, http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/gjfgreenjobsrpt.pdf; wage standards and prevailing wage requirements for contractors; and web-based disclosure of company compliance.

[18] Worker and public participation in workplace and corporate decisionmaking is essential via climate action plan formulation, implementation, and review. This provides a vehicle for incorporating the public interest without requiring continuous state supervision. This approach draws on ideas from Peter Dorman, “The Publicly Controlled Economy: Crisis and Renewal,” Legal Studies Forum, 21/1 (1997).

[19] “Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs,” NAACP, February, 2014, presents such requirements as a vehicle for racial and economic justice, http://action.naacp.org/page/-/Climate/JustEnergyPolicies%20Compendium%20EXECUTIVE%20SUMMARY%20FINAL%20FEBRUARY%202014.pdf.

[20] SustainLabor, “Occupational Health and Safety and Environmental Clauses in International Framework Agreements,” http://www.sustainlabour.org/documentos/en335_2010.pdf.

[21] See Labor Network for Sustainability, “Labor, Sustainability and Justice: A review essay on ‘Exiting from the Crisis: A Model for More Equitable and Sustainable Growth.”

[22] For an example of a plan for worker friendly industry-wide transition see Jeremy Brecher, “Fixing Bad Chemistry: Workers, Jobs, Toxics and the Future of the Chemical Industry, A Discussion Paper for Chemical Industry Workers and Allies,” Labor Network for Sustainability, 2014, http://labor4sustainability.org/files/pdf_badchemistry.pdf.

[23] This approach is based on the papers by Delina and Diesendorf.

[24] Private investment in fossil fuel reducing activities has not been forthcoming even in many cases where such investments would have paid for themselves or even made a profit. A 2007 study by the McKinsey consulting firm found that the U.S. could rapidly cut 28 percent of its greenhouse gases at fairly modest cost and with only small technological innovations. According to study director Jack Stephenson, “These types of savings have been around for 20 years.” But according to another research team member, “There is a lot of inertia, and a lot of barriers.” To give but one example, if tenants pay for their heating, landlords have no incentive to buy any but the cheapest, least energy efficient furnaces. Matthew L. Wald, “Study Details How U.S. Could Cut 28% of Greenhouse Gases,” New York Times, November 30, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/business/30green.html.

These findings raise doubts that policies that rely on charges for carbon emissions will in fact promote massive investment in climate protection activities.

[25] See Mary Christina Wood, Nature’s Trust (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), “Recouping Natural Resource Damages,” p. 185ff. For a proposal on recouping natural resource damages at a global level, see Julie-Anne Richards and Keely Boom, Carbon Majors Funding Loss and Damage, (Berlin: Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2014), http://www.boell.de/sites/default/files/carbon_majors_funding_loss_and_damage_kommentierbar.pdf.

[26] Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello, “Outsource This? American Workers, the Jobs Deficit, and the Fair Globalization Solution,” North American Alliance for Fair Employment, April 2004, http://web.mit.edu/outsourcing/class5/OutsourceThis.pdf.

[27] Both climate protection and economic cooperation ultimately require demilitarization and policies of global common security.

[28] United Nations Environment Program, “Green Jobs: Toward Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World,” 2008, http://www.unep.org/PDF/UNEPGreenjobs_report08.pdf, and

International Trade Union Confederation, “Trade Unions and Climate Change,” 2009,

http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/climat_EN_Final.pdf. See also Jeremy Brecher, “Green Jobs in a Global Green New Deal,” http://www.jeremybrecher.org/green-jobs-in-a-global-green-new-deal/.

[29] For an evaluation of these programs see Robert Pollin et al, Green Growth.

[30] For a fuller discussion of a global trust fund see Climate Insurgency, Chapter 9, “A Global Trust Fund for the Global Public Trust.” For an interesting historical precursor, see also Brecher, Costello, and Smith, “Global Labor’s Forgotten Plan to Fight the Great Depression,” History News Network, March 22, 2009, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/69169.

[31] Climate Insurgency, p. 103.

[32] See Climate Insurgency, p. 104-7, for the use of Special Drawing Rights—“paper gold”—for a global climate protection fund.

Unions Weigh in on the Dakota Access Pipeline

Here’s a roundup of recent union statements regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline.


Pro-DAPL Statements

The AFL-CIO proclaims “Dakota Access Pipeline Provides High-Quality Jobs” and offers its full support of pipeline construction as it is “ part of a comprehensive energy policy that creates jobs, makes the United States more competitive and addresses the threat of climate change. Pipelines are less costly, more reliable and less energy intensive than other forms of transporting fuels, and pipeline construction and maintenance provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers.”

AFL-CIO acknowledged the concern of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the following terms. Exerpt:

“We believe that community involvement in decisions about constructing and locating pipelines is important and necessary, particularly in sensitive situations like those involving places of significance to Native Americans. However, once these processes have been completed, it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay. The Dakota Access Pipeline is providing over 4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs.”

Read the full AFL-CIO statement here.


LIUNA also released a statement of support for the pipeline construction project and included some angry words at other unions who have chosen to release statements of solidarity with the protestors.

Delegates unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attacks on the livelihoods of LIUNA members working on the Dakota Access Pipeline by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), National Nurses United (NNU), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), and American Postal Workers Union (APWU) who have come out publicly against the pipeline. The resolution stated in this exerpt,

“These four unions have no equity in this pipeline, it will not put a single one of their members to work yet they choose to take food off of our members’ tables. A central tenet of the labor movement has always been that when it comes to a project in which you have no equity at stake, you either support it or remain silent. We look forward to reciprocating the “solidarity” shown to LIUNA members by these unions.”

Read the full LIUNA statement here.


No DAPL Statements

The Service Employees International Union issued the following statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from disturbing their sacred lands and burial grounds and to avoid the threat of contaminating the Missouri River which provides the Tribes’ drinking water. Exerpt:

“Historical disregard for low income communities and communities of color, including those where many SEIU members live and work, has subjected them to toxic air pollution and contaminated waterways for decades. In these communities, asthma and other respiratory ailments caused by toxic air and poisonous toxins such as lead in the water supply, affect our children’s health and ability to thrive. As the nation’s largest healthcare union, we stand with the growing movement of environmental organizations, businesses, students, parents and others demanding cleaner air and water and to address the growing threat of climate change for the health and safety of our families and communities. As a union of service employees deeply committed to making sure all work is valued and respected, we know that workers employed by the fossil fuel industry are caught in the middle. SEIU members recognize the importance of these jobs for these workers and their families and we demand that our government protect all workers whose lives and livelihoods are impacted by a shift away from fossil fuels. Our government must make the needed investments into building a new clean economy, including a just transition of workers from the fossil fuel workforce, by investing in clean energy and rebuilding and repairing much of our nations aging infrastructure, including existing pipelines which are in great need of repair.  We will fight for an economy and democracy in which working families can live and work in a clean environment with good jobs for all.”

Read the full SEIU statement here.

National Nurses United has released a statement in support of the federal government’s construction halt and called for a permanent end to the project. Exerpt:

“We commend the leaders and members of the Standing Rock Sioux, the many First Nation allies who have joined them, and the environmentalists and other supporters who have participated in the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. The decision of the Departments of Justice, Army and Interior is a direct result of the efforts of the pipeline opponents who have taken this courageous stand on behalf of all of us,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

Read the full NNU statement here.


And the CWA Committee on Human Rights also released a statement of support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Exerpt:

“CWA, through our Committee on Human Rights, stands with working people and against corporate greed, whether we’re fighting for clean water in Flint, Mich., against bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would hurt U.S. jobs and communities, or the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to safeguard their community.
The labor movement is rooted in the simple and powerful idea of solidarity with all struggles for dignity, justice and respect. CWA will continue to fight against the interests of the 1% and corporate greed and firmly stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against the environmental and cultural degradation of their community.”

Read the full CWA statement here.


It also should be noted that the AFL-CIO constituency group, the Labor Coalition for Community Action, has released a statement in support of #NoDAPL. Exerpt:

“We remain committed to fighting the corporate interests that back this project and name this pipeline “a pipeline of corporate greed.” We challenge the labor movement to strategize on how to better engage and include Native people and other marginalized populations into the labor movement as a whole. Lastly, we applaud the many labor unions working to create a new economy with good green jobs and more sustainable employment opportunities for all. We also encourage key stakeholders — labor unions including the building trades, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others who would be impacted — to come together to discuss a collective resolution.”

The Labor Coalition for Community Action includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work. You can read the full LCCA statement here.


Corporations Call for “Net Zero” Emissions: Do They Know How to Get There?

In the months leading to the December 2015 Paris Climate Conference, representatives of global institutional investors and multinational corporations made headlines after they demanded that world leaders adopt radical emissions reduction targets, among them “net zero” emissions by 2050. Examples include the Global Investor Statement on Climate Change, which was signed by 409 investors representing more than $24 trillion in assets, and the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group (which includes the likes of Shell Global and Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited). Following the Statement’s adoption in Paris, a cluster of corporate heads led by Virgin Group’s Richard Branson (calling itself the “B Team”) demanded that all governments turn the Paris net zero emissions target into national-level laws.

What are we to make of this? The practical implications of the net zero target adopted in Paris—if it is seriously pursued—are nothing short of revolutionary, opening up a “system crunch” scenario when the forces of growth, profit, and accumulation that presently propel capitalism collide with the political imperatives required to reach virtually total “decarbonization” in little more than a generation.

Paradoxically, the corporate push to adopt net zero by 2050—a target that is unprecedented in terms of its ambition—merely draws attention to the fact that the corporate elite has no clear or convincing idea about how it might be achieved. The capitalist spirit is progressively willing, but the flesh grows all the time steadily weaker.

Thus, the Paris Agreement can be a clarifying moment for labor, the climate movement, and the broader left in that, more than ever before, it exposes the gulf between what needs to be done from a scientific standpoint and what the global corporate and political elite are actually able to deliver.

Elite Consensus

Corporate statements on climate change invariably attract media attention, but it is worth remembering that major institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the International Energy Agency (IEA)—all of them unswervingly loyal to the corporate neoliberal agenda—have for some years been sounding the alarm about climate change and have urged, in fact demanded, bold action. As a result, the Paris Agreement included the goal of net zero emissions by 2060-2070. This is more or less consistent with what is required to control global warming. With still more emissions projected in the years ahead, it is virtually certain that the world will approach and perhaps exceed dangerous temperature thresholds. The adoption of net zero therefore reflects a consensus held by the majority of the world’s business and political elite that the situation is serious; the science needs to be acknowledged, and determined action at the global level is required.

The Paris Contradiction

The problem, however, is not a lack of consensus on the need to dramatically reduce emissions; it is, rather, the inability to actually act on the consensus that has already been achieved. To illustrate this, we need look no further than the Paris Agreement itself. It acknowledges the need for global warming to stay “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and states that efforts should be made to limit warming to 1.5°C. However, the “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) that lie at the heart of the agreement—even if they are fully achieved—will set the world on a pathway toward 2.7°C to 3.5°C of warming (and that assumes a comparable level of ambition after 2030). The 1.5°C threshold will therefore be breached long before the Agreement’s 2030 expiration date. Thus, the Agreement acknowledges the scientific reality and then institutionalizes “contributions” that are not even close to being consistent with that reality.

Instead of reducing emissions, the INDCs in the Paris Agreement will result in an increase in emissions—albeit at a slower rate than would be the case according to the “business-as-usual” scenario. The IEA notes, “There is no peak in sight for world energy-related CO2 emissions in the INDC Scenario: they are projected to be 8 percent higher than 2013 levels in 2030 while primary energy demand grows by around 20 percent.”1

The elite consensus around the net zero goal is solid enough, but when the discussion turns to considering how the target might be reached the consensus breaks down and differences emerge. Three perspectives can be distinguished. For convenience, these three can be labeled the “Gaia Capitalists,” the “Carbon Traders,” and the “Adaptationists.” Each of the three can tell us something different about the kind of responses that the system’s representatives are considering.

Go Gaia

The term Gaia Capitalism was apparently the creation of Richard Branson. Just prior to the Paris talks, the Branson-led B Team—adherents to “Plan B,” described as an ecologically focused alternative to “Plan A” profit-based ‘business as usual’—issued the call for net zero emissions by 2050. But the statements issued by the B Team and similar groups are largely devoid of details as to how this can be achieved. Branson’s group assures us that once governments turn the Paris commitment into national laws, it will, in Branson’s own words, “unleash new innovations, mobilize large-scale investment, and reshape consumer behavior, all of which will create new jobs and economic growth.”2

However, for the Gaia Capitalists, laws will not be enough. Reaching net zero will also require corporations to embrace a new ethic, one that combines ambition with altruism. The defining trait of the capitalist—making money—can be turned into a humanitarian act if CEOs can embrace a new set of values. The world needs a new form of capitalism—one that is not driven exclusively by concern for the bottom line.3 This new capitalism must recognize that the earth is one large living organism, and all life is connected. Before the Paris conference, the Plan B group issued an awkwardly phrased rallying cry to other corporate heads, one that urged them to embrace “people and planet . . . alongside profit.”

It is hard not to see this group as heirs to the paternalistic anti-union “welfare capitalists” of the early period of the twentieth century, among them John D. Rockefeller, George Pullman, and J. P. Morgan. As Naomi Klein reminds us, a decade ago Branson said he would commit $3 billion to green investments, of which less than 10 percent materialized (mostly in biofuels) and then dried up altogether.4 During the same period, Branson opened new airline companies and the aviation business is presently booming as a result of cheap oil.

Branson’s group attracts a level of media attention but, one or two exceptions aside, the companies identifying with this approach are not major players in the global economy. And in common with “green growthers” everywhere, the problem of decoupling economic growth from emissions is simply brushed aside.

Trader Woes

The most important camp of climate-concerned capitalists is the “Carbon Traders.” Carbon pricing lies at the heart of neoliberal climate policy—the “primary mitigation mechanism” according to the IMF and the World Bank, and think tanks like the Stern Commission.5

Carbon Traders (the Traders) represent a hard-nosed subset of investors and corporate CEOs, most of whom probably look at the narcissistic hubris of Branson’s “B team” with disdain and perhaps some embarrassment. For them, net zero is needed to preserve their assets and investments, but reaching the target will require governments to introduce a global price on carbon to drive and incentivize the low-carbon economy. Governments need to “take carbon out of competition.”

The Traders understand that capitalists primarily respond to the laws of capitalist competition. Singing from the Milton Friedman songbook, they take seriously the idea that the fiduciary responsibility of a corporation or bank is to provide a return on investment regardless of the social and ecological implications. As the Prince of Wales group candidly admitted, “The private sector invests trillions of dollars . . . but in most cases the goal of reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions does not guide such spending.”6 Therefore, “a clear, transparent, and unambiguous price on carbon emissions” is needed.7 Similarly, in February 2015, British Petroleum’s chief economist Spencer Dale described how, over the next twenty years, the use of oil and gas would grow 25 percent and, therefore, climate goals could not be reached. “Policy makers may wish to impose additional policies,” principal among them being a “meaningful global price for carbon.”8

The problem for the Traders—a problem they have thus far refused to acknowledge—is that carbon pricing has failed to have an impact on emissions and is going nowhere. The World Bank’s detailed assessment of carbon markets reported that, in 2015, only 12 percent of global GHGs were covered by a price. “A global average carbon price,” the Bank reminds us, “of between US$80 and US$120—per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)— . . . would be consistent with the goal of limiting the global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.”9 The average carbon price is today around $10 per ton. So more than twenty years after the Kyoto Agreement established pricing carbon as the principal policy instrument for reducing emissions, still 88 percent of global GHGs are not covered by a price, and the price on the emissions that are covered is so low as to be completely useless. The World Bank cannot point to a single instance where carbon trading has had more than a barely measurable impact on emissions levels.

The prospects for carbon markets are poor. Corporations do not want to pay for their pollution because it cuts into the bottom line. Any anxieties with regard to the long-term viability of the system are almost invariably trumped by short-term competitiveness concerns of an individual company. Meanwhile, unloading the net zero responsibility on to governments allows corporations to continue more or less on a “business-as-usual” course. If the Traders were to face up the failure of carbon pricing, they would need to offer something different—the most obvious solution being decisive government interventions, ranging from heavy and restrictive regulations to all out social ownership of key economic sectors. But this would require an ideological shift away from neoliberal groupthink—and there are few signs that this is going to happen absent sustained pressure from social movements.

Adapting to the Future Normal

The “Adaptationists” resemble something of a secret society. And while few corporate heads will openly admit it, there is a growing belief that the net zero target will not be reached by 2060-2070. The INDCs submitted in Paris already reflect the distance between the scientific consensus and the declared intentions of governments, many of whom are mere mouthpieces for business interests. Net zero will require full decarbonization of the global economy in just four or five decades. At that point, any GHGs released—to generate electricity; make products; power cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes; heat and cool buildings; raise and slaughter billions of animals, and so forth— must somehow be offset or “neutralized.” In the case of CO2 , this can be done by enhancing photosynthesis through reforestation and expanding the amount of vegetation on the surface of the planet. However, at present, some forty-six to fifty-eight thousand square miles of forest are lost each year—equivalent to fortyeight football fields every minute.10 Currently, the global economy emits roughly fifty-seven billion tons of CO2 per year; almost twice the annual emissions levels of the mid-1990s.11 Emissions from fossil fuel use have risen a staggering 61 percent since 1990 and will continue to rise, albeit more slowly.12 Furthermore, the global economy is expected to be three times larger in 2050 than it is today.13

Aware of these realities, the Adaptationists have concluded that the chances of reaching net zero amounts to, well, practically zero. And rather than adopt a politically dangerous or untenable target that could become a lightening rod for discontented radicals, they are trying to shift the policy focus toward dealing with the effects of warming, and the need for building resiliency. This perspective is presently expressing itself via important pro-corporate think tanks—perhaps a clear sign that CEOs are also thinking in similar terms. According to the World Economic Forum,

Advocating for greater attention to be paid to adaptation is controversial in some quarters as it is interpreted as a tacit admission that mitigation efforts are no longer worth pursuing. However, the less effective mitigation efforts are, the more pronounced adaptation challenges will become.14

Using stronger language, in a 2013 report titled Too Late for Two Degrees? the pro-corporate PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) noted, “This year (2013) we estimated that the required improvement in global carbon intensity to meet a 2 degrees warming target has risen to 5.1 percent a year, (every year) from now to 2050.” Governments’ ambitions to limit warming to 2°C, it noted, therefore “appear highly unrealistic.” The PwC report concluded, “businesses, governments and communities across the world need to plan for a warming world—not just 2°C, but 4°C, or even 6°C.”15 Such levels of warming are, in the words of one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Kevin Anderson, “incompatible with an organized global community.”16

How we can actually plan for global chaos remains something of a mystery—but the key message of the Adaptationists is valid. PwC’s report makes this point: “The only way to avoid the pessimistic scenarios will be radical transformations in the ways the global economy currently functions.”17 Such radical transformations would threaten the system itself—which is a political “no-no.” Therefore, we need to suck it up and hope for the best.

Capital’s Conundrum and Climate Justice

These differences of approach among the global corporate elite are unlikely to lead to open conflict, at least not yet. But it is already clear that none of these perspectives warrant the support of labor and other social movements. The Paris Agreement expresses the distance between what the science says is needed and the “best we can do” reality offered by those who work within the ideological and systemic confines of competition and accumulation.

To get even close to net zero in the time agreed will require dramatic changes in the global political economy. The capitalist paradigm of extraction, accumulation, and consumption, wrapped up in the ideology of growth, is incompatible with true ecological sustainability or a stable climate.

For labor, climate justice, and other social movements, capital’s climate conundrum is an opportunity. We need to continue to develop our own proposals to pursue radical emissions reductions by way of deep restructuring of the global political economy; to reassert the need for extending democratic control, advancing “public goods” approaches to essential needs and services; and to implement a just transition based on mass popular participation in key economic decisions.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.



  1. International Energy Agency (IEA), “World Energy Outlook 2015 Special Report on Energy and Climate Change” (Paris: International Energy Agency, 2015), available at http:// www.worldenergyoutlook.org. The IEA also reported that the Paris Agreement would see electricity generation from coal grow by 24 percent by 2040, available at http://www. worldcoal.org/signing-ceremony-paris-agreement-what%E2%80%99s-next.
  2. https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/ climate-opportunity-paris.
  3. People and planet alongside profit available at http://bteam.org/the-b-team/watch-the-b-teamdeclaration/Branson in Guardian, http://www .theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/06/ paris-climate-change-summit-richard-branson? CMP=twt_a-environment_b-gdneco.
  4. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ 2014/ sep/13/greenwashing-sticky-business-naomiklein.
  5. For example, see May 29, 2015, letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat and the COP21 Presidency, available at http://s08 .static-shell.com/content/dam/shell-new/local/ corporate/corporate/downloads/pdf/media/ speeches/2015/letter-to-unfccc.pdf.
  6. Carbon Price Communiqué (first issued 2012). Statement available at http://www.climatecommuniques.com/Carbon-Price.aspx.
  7. Ibid.
  8. 2015 BP Energy Outlook 2035 (published February 26, 2015). Presentation by BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale energy trends, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy PBww4o_Do.
  9. World Bank, State and Trends, page 23. How much more the price would need to be to limit warming to “well below 2°C” or even 1.5°C per the Paris Agreement has still to be calculated, but perhaps $150 per ton seems a fair estimate.
  10. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/ deforestation.
  11. http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/15/files/GCP_budget_2015_v1.02.pdf.
  12. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report,” available at https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full .pdf.
  13. http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/the-economy/assets/world-in-2050-february-2015.pdf.
  14. http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2013/ risk-case-1/testing-economic-and-environmental -resilience/#view/fn-10.
  15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature =player_embedded&v=ct6cJc G5o1M.
  16. http://www.slideshare.net/DFID/professorkevin-anderson-climate-change-going-beyonddangerous.
  17. http://www.slideshare.net/DFID/professorkevin-anderson-climate-change-going-beyonddangerous.
White and African American males hold signs that read: "The Dress Shipping Clerks' Won't Cross the Picket Line. We Stand United with the Dressmakers Union!" 1958.

Green Capitalism Won’t Work

For the last 20 years, unions in the U.S. and internationally have generally accepted the dominant discourse on climate policy, one that is grounded in assumptions that private markets will lead the “green transition,” reduce emissions, and stabilize the climate over the longer term. Indeed, unions began attending the climate negotiations convened by the UN in the early 1990s, a time when the “triumph of the market” went unchallenged and the climate debate was awash with neoliberal ideas. Unions therefore focused on articulating the need for "Just Transition" policies.

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