Do-It-Yourself GND Q&A

Trying to reach people with information about the Green New Deal that fits their interests and concerns? The materials below are designed to help you produce your own Q&A about the Green New Deal. Feel free to copy and paste any of the questions and answers to make a post or flyer that will work for the people you are trying to reach. And feel free to copy and paste new questions and new answers at the end of this file for other people to use.

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Q&As from LNS flyer “Q&A: Some Tough Questions about the Green New Deal

Few ideas have provoked more discussion than the GREEN NEW DEAL (GND). Basically, the GND states that (1) we need to take urgent action on climate now in order to jump start the transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and completely de-carbonize by 2050; and (2) we need intentionally to use the transition to address economic justice (create high quality union jobs/redress income inequality) and social justice. The GND is not a policy proposal; it is a set of principles that will guide the drafting of policies. Labor needs to be actively engaged and at the table for the drafting of the actual proposals. Trade unionists have been asking some TOUGH questions about the GND. Here are some examples — and a few quick responses that don’t aim to provide complete answers, but to highlight the top lines of more detailed answers that need to be developed.

Q. 100% renewable energy in 10 years is unrealistic – and whatever the timeline, how are you going to fuel airplanes? The trucking industry?

A.Climate science and the Paris agreement say 100% renewable energy is necessary by 2050 — but we’ve got to jump-start the process now. The Green New Deal proposes a ten-year emergency program to begin that process, not to finish it completely. Creating the technology to electrify airplanes and trucking is part of that jump-start. The reality is that planes are often grounded and transportation disrupted currently by extreme weather events caused by climate change, so we need to address the root cause of the problem. And the GND recognizes that while reductions in some areas may not currently be technically feasible, every effort needs to be made to find solutions. Our country has made huge technological advances in the past, from putting a man on the moon to creating jet planes and computers – led by government investment. The GND builds on that experience; it will jump-start necessary technological advances in electrification from renewables; upgrading and modernizing the grid; accelerating electrification of cars, buses, trucks, and even planes; in regenerative agriculture; and in many other fields.

Q. Why should anyone believe that this plan would provide protection to workers in the energy industry?  There is plenty of evidence that workers whose jobs are “transitioned” out of existence in manufacturing industries due to trade, technology, etc. are basically disposed of with little more than unemployment benefits and “job training” for low paying jobs or no jobs at all. Why should anyone believe this will be any different?

A.Past proposals for a transition for clean energy have all too often ignored their impact on working people. Workers and their unions need to be at the table to insist that future changes not be at the expense of workers and communities. The Labor Network for Sustainability and many of its partner unions and allies are fighting to ensure that workers are protected in the GND. The architects of the GND are actively seeking input from unions and working people on how to ensure that the transition of our economy provides shared prosperity and expands labor rights and protections for the new jobs that are created. If labor does not does not come to the table to fight for the needs and concerns of workers, others will make the decisions without us. The GND will create millions of new jobs building the climate-safe economy and most of them will be in the high-wage manufacturing and construction sectors. Fossil fuel- dependent jobs are being eliminated right now not by climate policy but because renewable energy is becoming cheaper than gas, oil, and coal. The GND provides an alternative to throwing them on the scrap heap — protecting workers and communities whose jobs are affected and providing jobs building the new economy. And it includes labor rights and standards to make them living wage union jobs. The GND is sometimes criticized for being “too radical” — but that is just what will make it different from the phony “transitioning” of so many past programs.

Q. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink into this GND pie-in-the-sky plan will prevent anything from getting done – especially the infrastructure improvements we need.  Why are you messing everything up with what some refer to as a “socialist government takeover” plan?

A. The GND proposes a giant infrastructure plan to rebuild our whole national infrastructure on a climate-safe basis.  Polls show that it has massive public support. Notwithstanding President Trump’s tweets, he, the Republican Senate, and the Republican right are blocking any program whose purpose is to fix our infrastructure rather than just give it away to wealthy investors. By combining the support for infrastructure with the support for climate protection, the GND can produce the political support needed to rebuild our infrastructure. Far from being a “socialist government takeover,” it is rescuing our democracy from the rightwing stranglehold that is keeping the government from doing what the people want.

Q&As from Roberta Wood, IBEW Local 9

Q: What does the Green New Deal law actually call for?

A: It’s not really a law. It is a re-orientation and prioritization of the economy based on today’s reality – the need to take urgent action on climate change, the need to take urgent action on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, the need to take urgent action on social and economic justice. GND is not a policy proposal. Rather, it is a set of principles which will guide the drafting of policies and legislation.

Q: Shouldn’t we wait for the laws to be drafted to weigh in on them?

A: Labor needs to be actively engaged and at the table for the drafting of the actual proposals. Workers – especially in energy industries – have special concerns that cannot be dealt with as an afterthought.

Q: Isn’t a 10-year goal for 100% renewable energy unrealistic?

A. The GND proposed a 10-year emergency program to jump start the process, not to finish it completely.

Q: Does the technology even exist to do all this?

A: Our country’s greatest achievements in technology have occurred when the government partners with the private sector (getting to the moon; computers; aviation; satellites; medical research). The GND will jumpstart technological advances from electrification from renewables to regenerative agriculture.

Q: What do you mean by a “just transition”?

A: The principle of a “just transition” is that no worker and no community should suffer because of a change to a green economy. Besides the overall creation of new jobs, there must be specific protection for individual workers, including guarantee of earned pensions and health care, early retirement options and income maintenance. In addition, communities dependent on those industries which will lose their tax base must be supported. This is one of the principles that workers and unions must play a role in elaborating. For one hundred years, fossil fuel industries have amassed trillions in profit. Energy workers have a special call on those profits. But in any case, protecting their well-being is a core principle of the GND. The GND does not call for any worker or community to “sacrifice” for the good of the planet.

Q: Are energy workers being asked to sacrifice their jobs for the good of the planet and future generations?

A: With or without the GND, fossil fuel jobs are being phased out as green technology becomes more and more affordable. Nevertheless, ensuring a just transition is a core principle of the GND. No worker or community should sacrifice their well-being.

Q: Don’t green jobs pay a lot less with less benefits than the traditional fossil fuel jobs?

A: This is true. The GND must facilitate the building of worker power in these new industries. That’s another reason why worker and union input from the start is important. [Alternative answer: This is partly true. Construction jobs pay the same whether they are building fossil fuel power plants or offshore wind farms. Other green jobs such as rooftop solar installers earn considerably less than fossil fuel power plant operators. Part of the GND has to facilitate the building of worker power in these new industries. That’s another reason why worker and union input from the start is important.]

Q: why is it called a “New Deal?”

A: The New Deal was a sweeping re-orientation of the U.S. economy invoked in response to the crises of unemployment, starvation and homelessness of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Swiftly enacted over a 3-year period, it put millions of the unemployed to work, making enormous contributions to the nation’s infrastructure. The New Deal included sweeping legislation that transformed the security and well-being of America’s working class such as Social Security and unemployment insurance. Another integral part of the New Deal was the Wagner Act, legislation that made it legal for workers in the mass production industries of auto, steel, manufacturing to organize unions and win decent wages, benefits and working conditions. The Green New Deal addresses today’s crises in the same way by taking urgent and comprehensive action on climate change.

Q: What were some of the accomplishments of the first New Deal?

A: The first New Deal employed and trained millions of young adults in jobs relating to conservation through the Civilian Conservation Corps. Other jobs were created through large scale public works projects such as the Tennessee Valley authority and other flood control measures, post offices, community cultural projects, federally financed housing construction, sidewalks etc.

Q: What are some of today’s urgent infrastructure needs?

A.Electrical grid; mass transit; youth workers; teachers, healthcare workers; IRS agents to audit corporate tax evaders; environmental clean-up; bridges; universal internet access; school digitization; veteran care.

Q&As from Nicole Cantello, AFGE Local 704

Q: What is the Green New Deal?

A. The Green New Deal is a massive program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, meant to transform not just the energy sector, but the entire economy. It calls on the federal government to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create high-paying jobs, ensure that clean air, clean water and healthy food are basic human rights. The resolution is only a starting point. It calls for a 10-year national mobilization to slash emissions to net-zero.

Q: 100% renewable energy in 10 years is unrealistic, and whatever the timeline, how are you going to fuel airplanes? The trucking industry?

A. First, let’s understand that net-zero does not mean 100% renewable sources in 10 years. Second, the focus of the Plan is not only to reduce sources of pollutants but to offset emissions with measures that remove emissions from the equation. A net-zero plan is more possible than a 100% renewable energy plan. Lastly, creating the technology to electrify airplanes and trucks is part of the “jumpstart” we need to address climate change. Right now, planes are often grounded, and transportation disrupted by weather events caused by climate change.

Q: How does the GND address economic justice? Why should anyone believe that this plan would provide protection to workers in the energy industry?

A. At the centerpiece of the Green New Deal’s is its emphasis on jobs. Think of it as a massive national reconstruction. The Green New Deal proposes a focus on shovel-ready jobs and infrastructure building, with the objective of creating a more equitable economy, providing guaranteed jobs for those who once worked in industries now changing dramatically during a clean-energy transition. To address social justice, the resolution says it is the duty of the government to provide job training and new economic development, particularly to communities that currently rely on jobs in fossil fuel industries. Labor must have a seat at the table to protect those rights and guarantees.

Q: How can we afford the Green New Deal? Isn’t this a socialist takeover plan?

A. Not acting with be more expensive than implementing the GND. As published in Nature Climate Change in January of 2019, a high-end warming scenario would cause $26 billion in annual losses due to worsened air quality by 2090; $140 billion due to temperature-related deaths; $160 billion in lost labor; and $120 billion in yearly damage to coastal property. Those are the losses in only 4 of 22 sectors—and the losses total almost $450 billion in damages every year. But there’s more: Increases in electricity demand and supply would cost $9.2 billion per year. Damage to rail systems would cost $5.5 billion, plus $21 billion more for roads/bridges. Increased rainfall totals will stress urban drainage systems, costing $5.6 billion per year. The mosquito-borne West Nile virus will expand dramatically, costing $3.3 billion. Flooding to more and more inland areas will cost $8 billion, along with $4.6 billion because water quality will degrade, and $2 billion will be lost in winter recreation revenue. Damage to various ecosystems will carry extreme costs, from $3.1 billion in damage to freshwater fish stocks to $4.1 billion in losses on coral reefs. All told, All told, unchecked warming costs $520 billion dollars every year by 2090. If we manage to stave off the worst and instead settle on a more middle-of-the-road amount of warming, we would save $225 billion of that total every year. And produce about the same amount in profit for our economy.

Q&As from Todd Vachon

Q: Is there the political might to do this?

A: When working people come together across race, gender, and religious lines; across geographic divisions; across sectors of employment, there is no force greater beneath the sun. But, like all other significant progressive gains, it will require organizing, organizing, organizing.

Q: Does the GND throw coal and energy workers on the scrap heap?

A: The GND resolution calls for a just transition for the fossil fuel workers that have laid the building blocks of our economy for generations, including education, healthcare, job placement, and wage parity. This again is why it is crucial for labor to answer the call to participate in shaping the GND legislation to make sure that workers are getting the best deal.

Q: Is it still possible to control climate change or do we need to start building a bubble?

A: Climate change is already impacting our lives. Is it too late to prevent it altogether? Probably. Is it too late to prevent it from becoming catastrophically worse? Absolutely, but we must begin to take bold action now.

Q: Is this part of a world-wide effort?

A: Governments, unions, and activists around the world are working on different plans at the international, national, municipal and community level. The GND itself is an effort within just the U.S.

Q: Don’t workers always get screwed when there’s a transition? A: Workers have often been the victim of economic transitions. However, some transitions, like the one away from fossil fuels, are inevitable. It is the duty and responsibility of unions as representatives of workers to help shape those transitions to best protect the interests of workers. Only by being proactive and taking a seat at the table, can we expect the transition to be just.

Q: Where can we get more info as the GND legislation develops? How can we stay involved?

A: The Labor Network for Sustainability Website and monthly newsletter.

Q: How can the GND protect workers and their communities who are losing good paying jobs?

A: The resolution calls for several legislative measures, including pay parity for transitioning workers, prevailing wages for construction projects, Medicare-for-all healthcare, job training and education, and a jobs guarantee (a “public option”) for workers unable to find decent-paying employment in the private sector.

Q: Does the GND throw coal and energy workers on the scrap heap?

A: The GND resolution calls for a just transition for the fossil fuel workers that have laid the building blocks of our economy for generations, including education, healthcare, job placement, and wage parity. This again is why it is crucial for labor to answer the call to participate in shaping the GND legislation to make sure that workers are getting the best deal.

Q: Hasn’t the AFL-CIO already come out in opposition to the Green New Deal?

A: The AFL-CIO has not taken an official opinion on the Green New Deal. However, the Energy Committee, which is comprised of leaders from very influential unions in the energy sector have issued a letter………….

Q: I heard the GND is a “socialist wish list.” If the goal is to address climate change, why does it also call for free college, healthcare, and a jobs guarantee?

A: All previous efforts to address climate change have focused exclusively on the climate issue and as a result generated organized opposition from various stakeholder groups which would suffer disproportionately from the transition. Education, healthcare, and employment are all part of a just transition. To win any serious climate legislation will require a broad base of support, including workers, frontline communities, and environmental activists.

QUESTIONS FROM CONSTRUCTION AND FOSSIL FUEL UNION LEADERS

Q: WE WANT TO SOLVE THE CLIMATE CRISIS, BUT ISN’T IT A GLOBAL PROBLEM?

A: The United States has been by far the highest emitter of greenhouse gases for more than a century. For the vast majority of that time no other country came close. China only surpassed the US a couple years ago. And, China is now leading the world in renewable energy and modern transportation systems. Yes, China and India have to act as well, but we have a special burden to do more than anyone else to solve this problem. Waiting for other countries to act is not a strategy for rolling back global warming.

Q: WE WANT TO SOLVE THE CLIMATE CRISIS, BUT ISN’T THE INCREMENTAL APPROACH IS THE WAY TO GO?

A: Scientists, oil companies, and political leaders have known for half-a-century about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate. If we had committed to incremental changes back then we might have stemmed the tide of the climate crisis. We had that chance, in 1988. And in 1997. But no more. We are way past the point of “bridge fuels” and slow incremental change. The most recent studies show that to avoid catastrophic climate impacts we have to act immediately with a massive national investment of resources. We have to act now, and complete this transition in 10 years.

Q: ISN’T POWERING OUR ECONOMY ON RENEWABLE ENERGY AN UNREALISTIC FANTASY?

A: Unrealistic? Consider our history of achievements as a nation. Nothing is unrealistic. We can accomplish whatever we want and we’ve proven that repeatedly through our history. Ten years ago people said you could never power a factory on renewable energy. Today we have factories powered by renewables. What was the last time you saw a city lighted by whale oil?

Q: WON’T TAKING ACTION ON CLIMATE FRACTURE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND DRIVE OUR MEMBERS INTO THE ARMS OF TRUMP?

A: Notwithstanding the rhetoric of Fox News and the Republican Right, the Green New Deal is a program designed to meet the needs of working people and organized labor. The original New Deal created millions of jobs, tightened labor markets, strengthened unions and grew the labor movement. The Green New Deal has the potential to do the same while protecting our climate.

Q: AREN’T CCS AND NUCLEAR ARE THE WAY TO GO?

A: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is unproven at scale, and wildly expensive. CCS is promoted by those who want to continue burning fossil fuels, which are filthy and deadly at all five basic steps: extraction, processing, transportation, burning, and waste storage. The same is true for nuclear, and why would we go from burning one of the most harmful substances (fossil fuels) to burning THE most harmful substances known to humankind, nuclear materials like uranium and plutonium.

Q: SHOULD’T WE REJECT THE GND BECAUSE LABOR WASN’T CONSULTED AND WASN’T AT THE TABLE WHEN IT WAS WRITTEN?

A: Crying about not being at the table and constantly blaming others (climate and environmental activists) is a sign of weakness. Get to the damn table. We’re the American labor movement; we know how to get to tables. This is simply a diversion, and saying we must be at the table is like saying Christmas must be celebrated again this year – it will happen. Labor has an army of what, 50-100 lobbyists? Labor will be at the table when GND legislation is written. And why would we expect to be consulted when we’ve made ourselves irrelevant on the climate issue, and fading into irrelevance overall? The people moving the GND are in their 20’s, and they built a movement to support GND — we should embrace it and congratulate them.

Q: WON’T THE GND WILL COST MILLIONS OF JOBS BY FORCING COMPANIES TO MOVE OFFSHORE?

A: Really? Millions of jobs have fled this country thanks to corporate and Wall Street greed without a Green New Deal. This is a scare tactic. GND will create millions of jobs doing work that cannot be offshored. We have a chance to roll back global warming, stop climate chaos in its tracks, and create millions of good jobs restoring our planet to one that supports human life and full spectrum biodiversity. We should embrace this opportunity.

SOME ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS – SUGGESTED ANSWERS INVITED!

Q: How much will the GND cost? Will it be an unsustainable burden on our nation’s  finances?

Q: How can the GND protect workers and their communities who are losing good paying jobs?

Q: How can we overcome tensions between some in the labor community and some in the environmental community?

Q: How can local unions be part of the effort?

Q: If the GND is our best chance to solve the climate crisis, why aren’t more Democrats supporting it?  

 

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