The voices calling for action on climate change in Minnesota and around the world come from all walks of life. Faith leaders — from local clergy to the pope — business, community, environmental, economic justice and labor leaders like me are all weighing in to say we need to act on climate change now.
On Oct. 14, I took part in a national day of action organized by the People’s Climate Movement. A diverse group of people banded together to talk about how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan can help Minnesota. The Clean Power Plan is an opportunity to become more energy independent, reduce the pollution driving climate change and impacting all of us — especially communities of color and low-income communities — and drive the growth of quality jobs in our state.
A multifaceted problem — and a moral issue
The discussion brought together many viewpoints and illustrated that climate change is a multifaceted problem. Members of the union I am elected to lead, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, spoke out about their firsthand experience seeing how pollution and climate change impact the health of our communities. Members of the clergy spoke about the need for us to protect the environment and how addressing climate change is a moral issue, not a political one. And economic and environmental justice advocates spoke of the opportunity that addressing climate change has for making our economy fairer and improving the lives of working people.
One resounding takeaway was that we need a strong blueprint to meet the Clean Power Plan that also recognizes that the transition to cleaner energy must be a just one for workers. The Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Our state is required to submit a blueprint — called a State Implementation Plan — on how we can meet the reductions. If we do this right, we will grow good jobs here in Minnesota while reducing carbon and other pollution in our air, water and soil.
Already, the move to cleaner energy is paying off in our state. In 2014, our clean economy supported over 15,000 jobs that pay 42 percent more on average than other jobs in our state. But as our energy sector has shifted, it has also impacted workers in traditional energy generation. We cannot leave behind workers and communities who are feeling these impacts. Our state blueprint must make sure that there is direct support for workers and communities. Any implementation plan should recognize adverse job and community impacts where they may occur, and create an integrated program to specifically and directly address them.
We can ensure a net benefit to Minnesota
A proper plan means strong support for workers in Minnesota by providing wages, benefits, training and education. It also means providing communities with resources to redevelop their economy and create high-paying jobs that can match or exceed those that may have been lost. With the right policies in place, we can make sure this energy transition is a net benefit to our state — providing quality jobs while ensuring cleaner air.
Climate change is a real problem. I urge Gov. Mark Dayton to put forward a strong State Implementation Plan that will reduce the amount of pollution in our air, create quality, family-sustaining jobs, protect workers and communities impacted by our energy transition, and leave future generations a bright economic and environmental future.
Jamie Gulley is the president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and the SEIU Minnesota State Council. SEIU represents more than 60,000 workers who provide care and support for Minnesota families in public schools, hospitals, higher education, nursing homes, schools, in their homes and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings.
Want to add your voice?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at email@example.com.)