News Column

Effect of Climate Change on Jobs Discussed

July 8, 2013

Gavan Gideon

Two weeks after President Barack Obama unveiled a series of initiatives intended to combat climate change, labor leaders and local officials will discuss how to help promote a clean-energy economy.

BlueGreen Alliance, a partnership of unions and environmental organizations, and the United Steelworkers will hold a roundtable meeting on climate change and job creation at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the United Steelworkers headquarters. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard and BlueGreen Alliance executive director David Foster, among others, will attend.

Khari Mosley, Pennsylvania regional programs manager for the BlueGreen Alliance, said the purpose of the meeting is to support the Obama administration's efforts through a discussion of how to create "the jobs of tomorrow" in the region.

Tackling climate change will lead to the creation of good jobs, he said, whether through growing the renewable energy sector, investing in a sustainable infrastructure able to withstand extreme weather, or developing more efficient utility systems.

One of the most important aspects of the conversation on climate change is ensuring that those impacted by the evolving economy are provided support through job training and worker transition programs, he said.

"We have a great opportunity to create jobs to tackle these challenges that we're facing and do so in a way that's sustainable," Mr. Mosley said.

While not involved in the roundtable meeting, John Hanger, who was secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection under then-Gov. Ed Rendell and is a candidate for governor, said hundreds of thousands of jobs already exist in clean energy, such as those of workers who are building wind turbines in the state and are represented by the United Steelworkers.

Mr. Hanger said it is in the best interest of companies and labor organizations to be a part of efforts to address climate change, noting in particular the huge opportunity to create jobs and cut carbon in the natural gas industry.

"A good business and a good union understand where the world's economy is going," he said.

"You can cling to old industries that are struggling to maintain market share or you can move aggressively into new industries that are growing," he added.

But critics of Mr. Obama's plan to address climate change, which calls for a reduction in carbon pollution from power plants, contend that it will result in lost jobs, particularly in the coal industry.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said after the June 25 announcement that Mr. Obama's remarks "were a rehash of the same old bad ideas we have heard for 41/2 years."

"From making coal-fired electricity prohibitively expensive, to forcing taxpayers to subsidize inefficient energy, to burning more corn in gas tanks, the president continues to advocate policies that raise prices for consumers and destroy jobs throughout the economy," Mr. Toomey said.

United Steelworkers is one of 14 member organizations of the BlueGreen Alliance.

Gavan Gideon: ggideon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4910.

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