Labor Representatives from the US and Canada Discuss Plans to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at the Western Climate Initiative Conference
Labor leaders available to comment on the concerns of working people in regards to climate change
Salt Lake City, UT – The Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a regional initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will hold a major stakeholder meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, May 21st. Representatives from the Oregon, California and British Columbia Labor Federations plan to attend the meeting to ensure that the concerns of working people are included in the design of the Western Climate Initiative’s greenhouse gas reduction plan. That plan will likely include a greenhouse gas cap and trade program.
Labor representatives who will attend the WCI meetings stress that labor is concerned about climate change and wants to be part of the solution. They also want to make sure that the transition to a clean energy economy is carried out in a way that is fair and equitable.
“Any cap and trade system must take into account workers in vulnerable industries that will inevitably be affected,” said Jim Sinclair, president of British Columbia Federation of Labour. “We need to protect our industries against foreign manufacturers who haven’t introduced a cap and trade system and who continue to pollute.”
Under cap and trade, the government places a “cap” or limit on carbon emissions. Companies that emit greenhouse gases beyond the allowances that they “own” must buy more allowances. Companies that emit less than their allowance can sell (and profit from) their allowances.
The Western Climate Initiative was formed in February 2007, and its members include the states and provinces of Arizona, British Columbia, California, Manitoba, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Quebec, Utah and Washington. The goal of the WCI is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the West to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The WCI is among many initiatives throughout the world that are aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to slow the harmful effects of global warming. The European Union has already instituted a cap and trade system in its efforts to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, and the European experience revealed a number of lesions that could benefit newly developing initiatives. Under the European system, allowances were given away for free, which resulted in windfall profits for some energy companies rather than monies generating a fund for the public good and supporting efforts such as workforce development and training.
“Reaching our goals will require a broad mindset, including an understanding of the labor market and job training needs. Such an understanding is only possible through partnering with trade unions who have on-the-ground experience,” said Tim Rainey, executive director of the California Labor Federation’s Workforce and Economic Development program. Earlier this year, the California Labor Federation endorsed principles related to government policy to reduce climate change.
Barbara Byrd, secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO, was part of the International Trade Union Confederation delegation to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali last December, and will be among the group of U.S. and Canadian labor leaders traveling to Salt Lake City to attend the WCI meeting. “Labor unions are learning from the experiences of our counterparts around the world. We know that efforts to deal with global warming present major opportunities to create good, family wage jobs – but only if labor is at the table to insist on wage and benefit standards,” said Byrd.
Unions from other Western states and provinces as well as the Canadian and U.S. national Labor Federations are watching the process and outcomes of the WCI, as well. “We are coming together in unprecedented ways to share information and make sure workers and jobs are part of the discussion,” Al Link, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council.
The labor representatives will be available to speak with reporters at the offices of the Utah AFL-CIO, 2261 S. Redwood Rd., Suite M, from 4-6 pm Tuesday, May 20. Attending the WCI meeting will be:
Jim Sinclair, British Columbia Labor Federation (604) 908-3044
Peter Cooper, California Labor Federation (916) 402-6241
Barbara Byrd, Oregon AFL-CIO (503) 585-6320