State’s Global Warming Solutions Should Produce Good Jobs
San Francisco Chronicle
Today is the final day for public comments on the draft plan for implementing AB32, California’s global warming solutions plan, and one area that has still received far less attention than it should is the key role California’s workers must play in restructuring our economy to reduce our carbon footprint. Here are some ideas we should incorporate into the plan:
— Invest in the California workforce. We need to make sure there is an adequate supply of workers trained in the new technologies of a greener economy. While some green jobs will be in new businesses and new occupations, most green economy jobs are actually variations of traditional occupations in the construction trades, utilities, manufacturing and transportation. Workers in those fields will require new training as employers adopt cleaner processes. Community colleges, union apprenticeship programs and other training programs will need expanding. It is also essential that we reinvigorate career technical education in California public schools for the next generation of workers who will build our green future.
— Favor policies that are proven to create good, middle-class jobs. We applaud the strong emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the AB32 draft implementation plan. Both of these areas have been shown to create large numbers of jobs. However, there must be measures to ensure that these are high-quality jobs with family-supporting wages, benefits and career pathways.
— Prevent jobs from leaving the state. If businesses leave California for other states or other countries with less stringent greenhouse-gas emissions restrictions – and then ship the products that are made elsewhere back to California – this will hurt California workers and undermine the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The California Air Resources Board can prevent this by implementing policies to ensure that out-of-state producers compete on the same playing field as in-state producers.
— Help workers transition to a greener California economy. AB32 is likely to result in some job losses in specific heavy polluting industries, although overall employment is projected to grow. To support and provide retraining for displaced workers, the state should create a climate adjustment assistance program, modeled on the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Program.
— Invest in infrastructure and innovation. Whatever system is crafted to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, that system and revenues generated from it should be closely managed by the public for the public good. Revenues will be needed to help finance innovation and adoption of new technologies that can lead to permanent emissions reductions in California. This includes retooling industry, research and development of new technology, rebuilding California’s manufacturing base, and upgrading our infrastructure. This would include investments in public transit, denser urban development and building retrofits. Additionally, because rising energy prices will hit low-income consumers the hardest, the state will need to fund programs to help them make them transition to more energy-efficient housing and transportation. AB32 can be a win for the environment and a win for working people. But the win-win is not going to be created by wishful thinking; it’s going to be created by intentional policies like those above. The Air Resources Board has the opportunity to help shape this major restructuring of our economy in a way that promotes California businesses, creates good jobs for a skilled and stable workforce, and reduces our carbon footprint. Our planet and its people depend on it.