Labor Unions, Environmental Organizations Urge Passage of Climate Change Legislation in 2009

Blue Green Alliance Releases Principles for Cap-and-Trade Legislation Necessary to Put Americans Back to Work

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2009) --Four labor unions and two environmental organizations today announced their support for comprehensive cap-and-trade climate change legislation in 2009. The Blue Green Alliance, which includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, said this legislation is an effective way to rapidly put millions of Americans back to work building a clean energy economy and to reduce global warming emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

You can read the policy statement online at

“This agreement is one more sign of the growing consensus around the urgency of action on climate change,” said Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Environmentalists and labor groups are working together, standing side-by-side, and presenting a path forward for strong action on global warming that will repower our economy and protect our planet’s future.”

The Blue Green Alliance supports a reduction of U.S. emissions by at least 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, and supports a renewed U.S. effort to forge a global treaty to reduce worldwide emissions by 50 percent by that same date. To meet these goals, domestic climate change legislation should reduce U.S. emissions significantly below 2005 levels by 2020, with individual partners advocating targets ranging from 14 to 25 percent.  

“We believe that climate change legislation is a critical step to jumpstarting the U.S. economy,” said Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers. “And we agree that the U.S. must significantly reduce our emissions, something we can accomplish by retaining and creating millions of family-sustaining green jobs in the clean energy economy.”

The labor-environmental partnership also said climate change legislation must address several critical issues. Job loss from international competition can be avoided with allowance allocations to energy-intensive industries and border-adjustment mechanisms. Rising energy costs to low- and moderate-income Americans and adversely-impacted regions can be offset with rebates or tax credits. The Alliance also supports complementary regulation, including standards for renewable energy, energy efficiency resources and fuel and appliance efficiency.

In addition, climate change legislation should include investments in a wide range of technologies — including carbon, capture and sequestration technology — and federal financing for the transition to a clean energy economy.

“Meeting the challenge to tackle climate change will allow us to build a clean energy economy right here in the United States — making the parts for wind and solar power and fuel efficient vehicles are just some examples,” said Jim Clark, President of IUE-CWA, the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America. “The economic and climate crises afford us an opportunity to create good, middle-class green jobs.”

“We can choose a new direction for our country — making a clean energy economy the foundation for putting people back to work building America,” said Terence M. O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). “We have the workers and the skills, and now we need action to build on the green programs of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

The consensus reached by the Blue Green Alliance partners also said that allowances should be auctioned or used for public purposes and that the legislation should link its solutions to a broad agenda for economic opportunities that engages high-unemployment communities first and funds training and transition needs.

“We have a unique opportunity to be part of the solution and to improve the lives of working people and their families for generations to come,” said Gerry Hudson, International Executive Vice President of SEIU. “It is our duty to ensure that legislation develops a cap-and-trade system that connects environmental justice to economic justice in a way that supports communities across America and creates good, green jobs.”

Finally, BGA partners said that climate change legislation should help to fund a clean energy economic development model for developing and emerging economies and fund adaptation measures that provide solutions to those immediately impacted by global warming both domestically and internationally.

“We share the common goal that climate change legislation is necessary to confront our greatest economic and environmental challenges,” said Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “Standing together to advocate legislation that aggressively reduces U.S. emissions while creating good jobs is essential to building a broad consensus in this country around a clean energy economy.”

“The significance of this statement cannot be overstated,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the Blue Green Alliance. “For the first time, a substantial number of unions representing workers across a broad section of the American economy have endorsed the principle that the way out of our current economic turmoil is through major investments in solving global warming.  The labor and environmental movements have truly embraced a common vision for the future.”