WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 5, 2014) – The BlueGreen Alliance today said that some of North America’s largest environmental and labor organizations are calling for United Nations (UN) negotiators at this week’s 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru to push for a smart, world-wide transition to clean and renewable energy at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“We must act now to address global climate change and promote the creation and maintenance of good jobs in the clean energy economy,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard, who co-chairs the BlueGreen Alliance. “The economic and ecological welfare of the planet cannot wait.”
“From the landmark deal between the U.S. and China to slash emissions to the sizable contributions committed to the Green Climate fund, momentum toward significant international action to tackle the climate crisis is quickly growing. The negotiations in Lima give us the chance to build on those successes by setting the table for progress in Paris that will expand the clean energy economy at home while protecting our communities from the worst consequences of climate disruption,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director and co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance.
In a letter sent today, the groups asked for President Obama to continue his leadership on addressing climate change and to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us in moving to a cleaner economy. Specifically, they urged national and global collaboration to develop and share best practices for a just transition for all workers. This includes financial support, social and worker protection policies and job impact data, all of which must be part of a comprehensive program for building opportunities and equity around the world.
“Climate change is an issue that affects working families no matter where they live. We hope the agreements to come out of Lima result in real, enforceable action,” said Communications Workers of America president Larry Cohen.
“Strong commitments to curtail carbon pollution are a necessary, critical step forward in the fight against climate change. We are hopeful leaders can collectively agree on ambitious measures,” said Frances Beinecke, president of NRDC.
The COP 20 in Lima, Peru is expected to set the framework of a larger climate agreement prior to the Paris climate negotiations next year.
“Thousands of working people who joined the largest climate change protest in history set the stage for world leaders to seize momentum toward making progress in Lima. The landmark agreement between the US and China also paved the way for leaders in Lima to embark toward climate action that we can all get behind,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
“Regardless of national boundaries, we all have a stake in protecting the environment and investing in our own economic competitiveness. We look forward to finding new ways for working families to reap the benefits of these investments,” said William P. Hite, general president of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA).
“As millions of people around the world experience the realities of climate change firsthand-on the safety, health, and livelihoods of their families and communities- their call for climate action will only continue to grow. We’re hopeful the result of the COP 20 will be that countries, which to this point have stood on the sidelines, will step up, engage in a productive dialogue about the future we’re facing, and pave the way for meaningful commitments to reduce emissions,” said Dr. Kathleen Rest, executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“We hope future generations can benefit from a more level playing field, a more sustainable environment and stronger economy. The decisions we make today can set an example of what we’re capable of when we work together,” said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten.
“There’s always more that needs to be done to invest in a strong, clean energy economy and to protect good, middle class jobs, and we hope to see strong commitments to meet these needs and priorities of workers,” said D. Michael Langford, national president of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA).
In June, BlueGreen Alliance members showed their support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed action to regulate carbon pollution. They also urged the administration to consider how working families have already been affected by America’s energy transition, and how they will be impacted in the future as this rule is finalized and implemented.
“It’s vital that the U.S. engage other nations and lead the way to reducing the carbon pollution driving climate change. We’re excited for the opportunities the COP 20 provides to move us toward an international agreement that will create resilient and sustainable solutions to the problems facing our environment and wildlife,” said Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
In a recent letter to President Obama, the leaders emphasized the importance of moving forward now with smart initiatives that facilitate the transition to cleaner fuel, more resilient infrastructure and a robust workforce that is supported by good economic and social policies.
“Our members’ work reduces the carbon pollution that’s driving this change every day because riding public transit is one of the best ways to combat climate change, but we need global action in addition to local action,” said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). “Today we’re looking to those who have a seat at the table to find common sense solutions that will strengthen economies, build resilient communities, expand public transit systems and create family-sustaining jobs.”
“President Obama’s leadership has set the bar high on climate change. We’re hopeful that this year’s COP can advance policies that protect jobs and move us forward in our efforts to fight climate change,” said James Boland, president of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC).
“Reducing the carbon pollution and greenhouse gases driving climate change is vital to protecting our environment and our communities. Along with the initiatives launched at the Leaders Summit in September and the historic US-China announcement earlier this month, the work in Lima can help set the groundwork for success for strong international action now,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president of EDF Action, the political action partner of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
“The United States is leading by example; now is the time for others to step up. The decisions made over the next few weeks must work to lay a foundation for further international action to significantly reduce carbon emissions and to help keep America’s manufacturing sector on a level playing field,” said Kim Glas, BlueGreen Alliance executive director.
Photo: Hundreds attend a Nov. 20 candlelight vigil, a day before the inauguration of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. AP