OP-ED | Report on ‘Clean Energy Future’ Brings Good News for Connecticut Workers
According to a new report, The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs, and Saving Money, the United States can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 percent by 2050 — while adding half-a-million jobs and saving Americans billions of dollars on their electrical, heating, and transportation costs. A follow-on study later this year will spell out what this means for Connecticut, but the national report makes clear that our state can meet its climate protection goals while actually increasing jobs and saving money.
The Clean Energy Future report refutes the claim that meeting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) targets for reducing GHG emissions will cause economic devastation. Indeed, not only can these targets be met, but meeting them will create jobs and save money. This report, prepared by the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) and 350.org, with research led by the respected economist Frank Ackerman of Synapse Energy Economics, lays out an aggressive national strategy for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will:
• Transform the electric system by cutting coal-fired power in half by 2030 and eliminating it by 2050; building no new nuclear plants; and reducing the use of natural gas far below business-as-usual levels.
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 86 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 in the sectors analyzed — electricity generation, cars and light trucks, space heating and
water heating, fossil fuel supply, and waste management — which together account for three-quarters of GHG emissions in the US.
• Save money — the cost of electricity, heating, and transportation under this plan is $78 billion less than current projections from now through 2050.
• Create new jobs — more than 500,000 per year over business-as-usual projections through 2050.
Connecticut should start moving now to gain its share of the benefits of the Clean Energy Future. That means prioritizing investments in efficiency and in-state solar, wind and fuel cell energy ahead of major investments in regional natural gas infrastructure. It means expanding public transit and electric vehicle use instead of spending billions widening highways. It means encouraging the manufacture of fuel cells, electric transportation equipment, and other products needed for the clean energy future.
Connecticut’s new Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) is hard at work developing a new climate change action plan for the state. The Clean Energy Future report should encourage the GC3 to move forward boldly with an aggressive plan.
That plan should not only realize the state’s official climate protection goal of reducing GHGs 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050, but it should also prioritize creating good, stable jobs in a growing climate protection sector in Connecticut: manufacturing jobs, jobs for those who have been marginalized in the current labor market, and jobs for skilled union workers in the construction trades. In this way, we can provide a just transition for those displaced from fossil fuel jobs, protecting the livelihoods and union rights of all workers.
Americans have often been told that saving the climate will reduce employment and cost a fortune — and we’ve heard the same arguments from the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and opponents of climate protection right here in Connecticut. Now we know that the opposite is true—that climate protection will create jobs and reduce our electricity and transportation costs. We eagerly await the forthcoming report on how to realize these benefits in Connecticut.
Jeremy Brecher is a co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability and on the steering committee of the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs. Todd Vachon is the first president of UAW Local 6950 which represents 2,100 Graduate Teaching and Research Assistants at the University of Connecticut.
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