Resisting Trump Administration’s Climate Change Denial Agenda, Promoting a Just Transition to Public Renewable Power

Resolution passed by Vermont State Labor Council's 2017 convention submitted to the October AFL-CIO convention:

WHEREAS, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the climate warming trend over the past century is due to human activities, primarily due to our reliance on carbon-based fuels and deforestation that have caused a dramatic increase in the global level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; and

WHEREAS, burning most of the known fossil fuel reserves will cause global warming to reach catastrophic proportions resulting in sea level rise that will inundate major coastal cities, more severe prolonged droughts, frequent intense wildfires, destructive hurricanes, tornadoes and other “super-storms”, frequent destructive floods, reduced agricultural productivity resulting in food shortages and famine, the spread of vector-born and other diseases, and ever greater numbers of climate migrants and refugees; and

WHEREAS, the Trump Administration has promoted climate change denial, and has stated that the U.S. will “tear up” the Paris Climate Agreement and not implement the Obama Administration’s National Commitment to reduce emissions submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), making it the only nation to withdraw among nearly two hundred that signed on; and

WHEREAS, the AFL-CIO opposes the Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, on grounds that, “Pulling out of the Paris climate agreement is a decision to abandon a cleaner future powered by good jobs,” and has affirmed that, “The U.S. labor movement will continue to urge the United States to stay in the agreement so we can achieve the best outcomes for America’s workers”; and

WHEREAS, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) was successful in ensuring that “just transition of the workforce” was addressed in the preface to the Paris Agreement, which recognizes that the burden of climate-protecting policies and the transition to a sustainable energy economy should not be borne by workers and communities; and

WHEREAS, moving rapidly toward a sustainable economy and society, can—with the right policies in place—also be the source of large numbers of new, well-paid union jobs that will also reinvigorate local economies; and

WHEREAS, the Trump Administration’s announced intention to pursue an “energy dominance” agenda for the U.S. will entail the construction of pipelines, export terminals and other fossil fuel energy infrastructure to export more U.S. coal, shale oil and shale gas, which is incompatible with achieving the Paris targets and which has triggered resistance from some of labor’s key social allies, including indigenous and other frontline communities; and

WHEREAS, proliferation of fracking and the transportation of shale oil and gas have inflicted serious harm on the health and quality of life of communities located close to blasting and drilling sites, “petcoke” piles and other toxic residues and pollutants, particularly First Nations whose sovereignty rights have been routinely violated, and other communities of color, low-income and other working class communities historically dependent on and exposed to the impacts of fossil fuel extraction; and

WHEREAS, we will solve the climate crisis and the inequality crisis only when we put unions and working people at the center of the movements for economic justice and climate justice; and

WHEREAS, the market will not produce the transformation to renewable energy in a short enough time period to prevent the catastrophic effects of global warming and climate change; and

WHEREAS, the chaotic state of liberalized for-profit energy markets has pitted utilities against renewable energy concerns, produced a situation that is unsustainable and untenable, and led to the loss of thousands of jobs in the power generation sector (particularly in coal) without provisions made to protect impacted workers and communities; and

WHEREAS, the scale of the energy transition that is needed requires an approach comparable to that pursued by the Rural Electrification Administration launched in1935 during the New Deal, where publicly-driven electrification generated jobs, public utilities, and distribution cooperatives on a mass scale; and

WHEREAS, public transit systems are under attack, public health services lack sufficient resources, and public infrastructure has been neglected and is in need of comprehensive upgrades,  repairs and replacement; and
 
WHEREAS, a variety of policy tools are available to move rapidly toward renewable energy while providing well-paid stable jobs, income protection, and retraining for workers and communities adversely affected; these policy tools include: (a) a progressive tax on carbon pollution with the revenue used to support the income, retraining, and provision of new jobs for workers and communities hurt by the transition and those that have historically borne the brunt of pollution from these facilities; (b) policies referenced in the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act, and the “100 By 50” Act which seeks to move towards 100% renewable energy by 2050 while providing for protection for workers and communities affected by the transition, and also providing for card check and first contract arbitration, lowering barriers that make it difficult to organize workers into unions; (c) expansion of public and social ownership of and control over power generation, transmission and distribution;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO reaffirms its support for the Paris Agreement as an important, though non-binding contribution to driving a rapid and managed just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that leaves most of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will continue to work with the ITUC and the international labor movement as a whole to raise the level of ambition of the National Contributions to the Paris Agreement, including the U.S. contribution, in order to be consistent with the temperature threshold target agreed in Paris of “well below 2 degrees Celsius”; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will develop an energy transition policy that recognizes the imperative of a massive scale up of renewable power, upgrading grid systems, promoting energy conservation and efficiency, in a manner that is also consistent with “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and which provides a just transition for affected workers and communities; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will publicly campaign to re-regulate and/or reclaim to the public the electricity sector in order both to facilitate the creation of good stable family wage jobs in the U.S., and to carry out the transition to renewable energy generation at the speed and scale required to at least achieve the Paris targets; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will campaign for domestic content requirements for all commitments of public funds to renewable power generation, electricity grid upgrades, efficiency retrofits, and other elements of a transition to renewable energy; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will support legislation that provides strong protection for workers and communities that are adversely affected by the transition away from fossil fuels, including such examples as the “Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act” and the “100 By 50 Act”; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO supports the demands of frontline communities for environmental justice, including access to newly created jobs in the renewable energy sector; and

FINALLY RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will work to inform and mobilize union members and their families with other social forces in support of legislation that furthers these goals, and will support candidates for office who are committed to them.

Submitted for consideration by the Green Mountain Labor Council, AFL-CIO  to the September convention of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and for referral to the AFL-CIO Convention