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TRADE UNION COMMISSION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

 A commission for four British trades unions argues the case for the immediate creation of a million new jobs all of which reduce green house gases – and urge the British government to create a national climate service:

http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/resources/green_workplaces/green_campaigns/one-million-climate-jobs-now.cfm

Introduction

Several trade unions and many climate activists in Britain have decided to fight to make the government create one million green climate jobs immediately. This short report from the Campaign against Climate Change explains how we can do that and why we must.

At some point gradual climate change is going to turn into runaway catastrophe. We may well hit that point in the next twenty years. To avoid doing so, we need drastic cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases we put into the air.

This will mean government regulation and international agreements. It will also take a lot of work – jobs. We have to produce wind, wave, tide and solar power. We have to renovate and insulate our homes and buildings. And we have to provide a network of cheap buses and trains.

There are two and a half million unemployed people in Britain. By next year there are likely to be three million or more. It is possible that the economy will have started to ‘recover’ by 2010. But recovery only means that profits and sales begin to rise. Unemployment will grow for a time after ‘recovery’ begins, and may stay high for a very long time.

We have people who need jobs and work that must be done. A million climate jobs in the UK will not solve all the economy’s problems. But it will take a million human beings off the dole and put them to work saving the future.

We cannot halt climate change by action only in the UK. But if we act, people all over the world will know, and take hope and courage to act themselves.

Who are we?

In the spring of 2009 the trade union group of the Campaign against Climate Change organised a conference of 200 union activists. That conference decided to start a serious fight for green climate jobs. We set up a working commission to draw up detailed plans. That commission has people from the campaign, from several UK unions, from non-governmental organisations and many academic experts. It is preparing a longer report with more detailed calculations of how many jobs will be needed in each sector and how much they will cut emissions.

But we are bringing out this booklet now, because we want unions to start fighting for a million jobs right away.

The main kinds of new jobs we need:

* Producing alternative energy,

* Insulating and renovating buildings and making better appliances

* Public transport on trains and buses

* Manufacturing

* Educating and training the new workers. 

Section 1 – What are climate jobs?
Climate jobs are jobs that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the air. Greenhouse gases cause global warming. This preliminary report will concentrate on the most important gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). We are emitting CO2 into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas – these are called CO2 ’emissions’. We need to cut CO2 emissions as fast and as deeply as possible, especially in developed countries like the UK. Here we should be looking at cuts of around 75% to 80%. That means burning only 20% of the coal, oil and gas we do now. (For the reasons why, see section 3).

We can do that. But it will take a lot of work. If we can cut our energy use in half and supply half of that from alternative energy, we can cut CO2 emissions by 75%. We will need at least a million new climate jobs to do that. When we say a million climate jobs, we mean something rather different from what the politicians mean when they talk about ‘green jobs’.

We mean climate jobs, not ‘green jobs’. Climate jobs are jobs that cut down the amount of greenhouse gases we put in the air and thus slow down climate change. ‘Green jobs’ can mean anything – jobs in the water industry, national parks, landscaping, bird sanctuaries, pollution control, flood control and many more things. All these jobs are necessary. But they do not affect global warming.

We want a million new jobs, not ones people are already doing. We don’t want to add up existing and new jobs and say that we now have a million climate jobs. We don’t mean jobs with a climate connection, or a climate aspect. We don’t want old jobs with new names, or ones with ‘sustainable’ in the job title. And we don’t mean ‘carbon finance’ jobs.

We want the government to employ a million workers. That means we want the government to start employing 83,300 workers a month and to have employed one million within twelve months. This is a new idea. Up to now, government policy has been to use subsidies and tax breaks to encourage private industry to invest in renewable energy. They also plan to give people grants or loans for part of the cost of renovating their homes. Their idea is to encourage the market.

We want something more like the way the government used to run the National Health Service. In effect, the government sets up a National Climate Service and the new NCS employs staff to do the work that needs to be done. That way we can be sure it is done. Given what the scientists are telling us, we need to be sure.

Most of us in the trade union group would like to see almost all of these workers employed by central or local government. We are aware this may not be politically possible, and part of the work will probably be done by contractors. But we want the government to control the project – so that we all know they are making sure it happens – and not simply rely on the market. And we want jobs with proper wages, pensions and trade union rights. A million new climate jobs will also create hundreds of thousands of other new jobs. This always happens with new investment. New jobs are created with suppliers. For example, the new National Climate Service may run the wind turbine factory. But that factory will buy steel, wood, aluminium, electricity, brooms and tea, and the people who make and transport those things will also have jobs.

New jobs are also created because a million new workers with wages spend more money than they did on the dole. Somebody has to make the goods and services they buy. Those people have new jobs too. And so do the people who make the things they buy, and the new materials their companies buy. But some people will lose their jobs. If there is a massive expansion in renewable energy, some of the jobs in the old energy economy will go. By no means all and it won’t happen quickly, but it will happen.

In the same way, a massive shift to public transport would create jobs driving buses, making buses, and making electric cars. But there would be fewer jobs making petrol and diesel cars. Many more jobs will be created than lost. It takes many more workers to run buses and trains than it does to build cars for the same number of passengers. For a given amount of energy, it takes more workers to build and operate alternative energy than it does to build and operate gas or coal fired power stations. And jobs renovating homes and buildings do not put anyone out of work.

We will have to protect people who lose their jobs because of the new climate economy. This is easy if the government employs the new climate workers. The government simply guarantees new jobs to these workers and provides training if needed.

Communities dependent on fossil fuel industries must also be supported economically and financially to help transform the local economy and improve community well-being. Moreover, enough of the new jobs in the climate economy must go to the communities most affected. This is not only a matter of social justice. If we don’t guarantee jobs in this way, different groups of workers will be in conflict. There are powerful forces in society, like the oil companies, who do not want a new climate economy. They will use those divisions between workers to make sure nothing is done. So the new Climate Service will employ a million direct workers, but create about one and a half million jobs in all. This is a rough estimate. The government will be employing 1,000,000 workers directly. Examples from other industries suggest that these million workers will create approximately another 850,000 jobs in related industries and increased spending in local economies. On the other hand, some jobs will also be lost. We cannot yet be precise about these numbers, but something like 350,000 is probably not that far out. This gives us a net gain of 1,500,000 workers.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

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