Since taking on the position of Executive Director of the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs a year ago, I have been learning and growing around the meaning of a “just transition,” for which there is no precise single definition. There are, however, avenues that lead all of us to a recognition of actions required to fix the climate crisis.
As an organization, we often use the phrase “labor leading on climate.” It is accurate that to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy, labor needs to be a leading partner. It’s incorrect to say that the workforce needs to be retrained. Many of the jobs in renewable energy are in many ways similar to the work done in carbon-based plants.
In 2021, the Roundtable, with our trade, environmental, religious and justice coalition passed An Act Concerning A Just Transition To Climate-Protective Energy Production And Community Investment (SB999/Public Act No. 21-43), setting precedent for leveling the playing field. It ensures that when developers are awarded contracts to build large renewable energy facilities, they hire with prevailing wage, enacting community benefit agreements and workforce development training programs, affording people apprenticeships and living wage opportunities.
While being hailed as historic, this bill is just the beginning. There is much more to do. The next steps are the Carbon-Free Schools campaign in Bridgeport, repairing leaking gas lines, and finding solutions to the transportation issues that hinder workers getting to job sites.
This past year has been exhilarating. I knew when I took this position that our broad coalition did not always agree on every issue. What I have learned is that we have more in common than what divides us. As an organizer, I know that coalition-building is literally done block-by-block. With our allies, we can change structural racism. We can build a pathway to alleviate the climate crisis.
I don’t want a “new normal.” Normal hasn’t worked. Let’s find a new paradigm that sets the bar for substantive change that addresses inequality. I look forward to the next year of this journey where together we can work for social and environmental justice.