Everybody Does Better When Everybody Does Better

It's a bit cool here for a California boy:  16 degrees and the wind is blowing.  Fortunately, there is an Irish bar near the hotel.

Wednesday afternoon I attended two workshops:  building a sustainable supply chain, and state and regional climate policy.  The former featured two speakers with whom the NRDC Southern California Air Team works with on a daily basis:  Candice Kim of the Coalition for Clean Air, and Patricia Castellanos of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.  They talked to a standing room only crowd about the health issues created by diesel-powered goods movement (Candice) and the labor/enviro/community coalition that pressured the City of Los Angeles to enact the most progressive port trucking cleanup plan in the country (Paty).  Bama Athreya from the International Labor Rights Forum gave a moving talk about the labor and social justice issues involved in supplying goods to consumers in the U.S., including a chilling story of young women in Chinese compact fluorescent light factories in China being exposed to barrels of mercury. 

Speaking of the L.A. port plan, oral argument in the Ninth Circuit in the American Trucking Association case against the L.A. and Long Beach ports has been set for March 4, 2009 in Pasadena.

The speakers at the climate policy workshop talked to another SRO crowd about the policies and status of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, and the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).  California is a member of the latter.  Two speakers from the AFL-CIO talked about the labor perspective on the WCI.  They said that labor was not invited to the table, despite the effect that implementation of the WCI will have on working people.  They criticized the WCI for not considering capital flight and de-industrialization, and for being wimpy and ineffective because it allows too many offsets and does not require 100% auction of allowances; many in the enviro community feel the same way.  They recognized U.S. industry's claims of competitive disadvantage if it is subject to carbon caps but international competitors are not, and proposed a simple solution:  a carbon tariff on imported energy or goods to level the economic playing field. 

One of the AFL-CIO speakers reminded the audience of a remark we heard during one of the plenary sessions:  "everybody does better when everybody does better."  The central idea of this conference is that labor and the environmental movement are linked in trying to do better.