Roxanne Brown, USW Assistant Legislative Director
|Roxanne D. Brown, assistant legislative director of the United Steelworkers (USW), is among union delegates taking part in the 12-day United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) in Poznan, Poland. The meeting is building upon the framework negotiated last year in Bali, Indonesia. Of the nearly 100 union delegates, Brown is among the more than 20 from North America and sends us this report.|
What Comes First?
That’s the question everyone is asking in Poznan, Poland. Does the United States take actions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by passing legislation in 2009, or do we wait for a new international agreement on climate change to be finalized in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the end of 2009? It’s the classic chicken and egg question. Which should precede the other? Which is most necessary to occur first? Like the chicken and egg question, no one has an answer (or at least a real good one), but one thing is clear: All eyes are on the United States.
I attended a briefing last night held by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) that centered on “U.S. action in Copenhagen and beyond,” at which staff from various congressional offices (Sens. John Kerry [D-Mass.], Richard Lugar [R-Ind.)] and Olympia Snowe [R-Maine], and Rep. John Dingell, (D-Mich.) tried to paint a picture of what may be coming down the road on climate policy in the Democrat-led 111th Congress in 2009. Unfortunately, there were no guarantees of what is to come, especially on the issue of U.S. action vs. international action.
What congressional staffers are certain about is that global climate change is a real issue that needs to be addressed, but needs to be done in an manner that carefully and thoughtfully takes into account all of the concerns and issues that have surrounded climate policy: Carbon leakage and the effect that will have on the competitiveness of U.S. businesses and workers, mitigation, technology transfer and financial flows. All of which are issues that are critical to U.S. labor and the U.S. labor delegation in Poznan, which includes the USW, Communication Workers of America (CWA), Boilermakers (IBB), Mine Workers (UMWA), Utility Workers (UTU), Transport Workers (TWU), AFSCME, Electrical Workers (IBEW) and SEIU. We’re here to make sure our views on these issues are heard and discussed, as the negotiators begin shaping the next international climate agreement, which will replace the expiring Kyoto agreement in 2012.
The extremely high attendance at the EDF/IETA event (read: room bursting at the seams) by participants from all over the world, including the nations of Denmark, Japan and China, certainly highlighted not only the interest from the rest of the world on U.S. action on this issue, but also the importance of our nation in the climate change negotiations and on the issue of global climate change as a whole.
While there are many uncertainties about what action is to come on climate change either in the United States or at the international level, a significant shift in both our presidential and congressional leadership has occurred, and with that comes the renewed possibility of action on climate change of some kind in 2009. President-elect Obama has signaled “a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change” and has stressed his commitment to developing policies to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the importance of tying these policies to economic investment that will create 5 million new green jobs.
It is not clear what form this action will take. It could come in the form of a comprehensive cap-and-trade bill. It could be energy efficiency policies and tax incentives for renewable energy production that would aid in the reduction of greenhouse gases, help revitalize U.S. manufacturing (which has seen a loss of 60,000 jobs per month since May of this year) and create new jobs in the emerging “green” economy by driving investment in clean energy technologies. And ultimately, it could come in the form of the United States agreeing to sign-on to a new climate agreement as President-elect Obama has said the United States “will once again engage toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.” Whether the United States takes one or all of these vigorously in the negotiations once Obama takes office, we can all be sure that it will affect how nations around the world develop their own climate policies.