Developing more sustainable transportation options and transitioning away from fossil fuel-based energy are two of the prominent suggestions made by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey in the release of an outline defining their Green New Deal on Thursday.
Lara Skinner, executive director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University, is a member of New York State’s Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group as well the state’s Offshore Wind Ports Workforce Development Committee. She is an expert on labor and employment issues related to sustainability, climate protection and climate protection policy.
"The transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy presents both challenges and opportunities for U.S. labor unions. Responding to the climate crisis will require major investment and a lot of work rebuilding our energy, transport and building infrastructure for the 21st century. This is a huge opportunity that many unions are excited to seize, as we see in places like New York state.
“At the same time, this transition will also majorly disrupt the U.S. economy, especially the energy sector and its workforce. We need to do what’s required to lower greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and carefully consider how workers and communities will be impacted as we transition to renewables, which is necessary and ideal in the long-run to secure ecologically sustainable, high-quality and affordable power.
“Major economic transitions have not worked well for workers in the past. This means workers and their unions are understandably concerned about whether there will be sufficient planning, financial support and inclusion of impacted workers’ voices in the process of designing and planning the transition and Green New Deal."