Feb. 10 — Labor leaders are among those urging significant federal investments in water, energy and waste infrastructure as a way to promote job creation and protect from the impacts of climate change.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, told the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference Feb. 10 that the environmental and labor movements need to unite behind a new model for action that would promote action on climate change while ensuring strong protections for American workers.
“Together, the labor and environmental movements must demand a new trade model, a trade model that fights climate change,” he said. “Instead of the false promise that we can outsource our carbon emissions, we need a comprehensive approach to stopping climate change across our economy and across the world economy, an approach that puts us on the right path on climate, jobs and energy.”
Trumka highlighted an initiative from the environmental and labor communities to repair leaks of methane in natural gas pipelines. Methane is an especially potent greenhouse gas with climate change impacts estimated at over 20 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.
“We have the technology to reduce building emissions by up to half, and to put millions of people to work in the process,” Trumka said.
Participants in a separate conference panel, which included Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke, stressed there would be no silver bullet for repairing problems with wastewater, drinking water and electrical infrastructure.
Members of that panel, however, said the U.S. had done well at building new infrastructure but had struggled to maintain existing systems and had failed to adequately prepare its infrastructure for the impacts of climate change.
Trumka said the U.S. had the technological and scientific expertise to address climate change and improve its infrastructure but that it still lacked the political will to act.
“We can overcome these political obstacles,” Trumka said. “Government can make private actors internalize externalities by putting a price on carbon. And government can prime the technology pump by investing in innovation. I am here on behalf of the American labor movement to tell you we remain committed to the task of stopping runaway climate change.”
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