Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative

Working with trade unions at a global level to support climate protection goals and a transition to decarbonized energy...


Labor at the People's Climate March
Labor at the People's Climate March

The Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative is a Leadership goal in the Cornell Climate Action Plan (CAP).

Develop and advance labor policies to support climate protection goals and a global transition to decarbonized energy through the Worker Institute's Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative.

Goal: Work with trade unions at a global level to develop and advance policies to support climate protection goals and a transition to decarbonized energy.

The Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative advances knowledge, policies, and practices to enhance the role of labor and working people in addressing the environmental and climate crises. The initiative's efforts focus on building a truly sustainable society and economy.

The initiative also helps workers’ rights advocates to better understand the employment and labor implications of environmental, climate and sustainability issues through a variety of activities:
  • Engages in research and produces scholarly articles and reports
  • Assists with leadership development and strategy design
  • Conducts training sessions and develops training materials
  • Offers technical assistance to unions, worker organizations and policy organizations
  • Offers undergraduate/graduate courses on the intersection of labor-environmental issues
The initiative helps unions, workers’ organizations and other advocates of workers’ rights respond to the following questions:
  • What does the transition to a truly sustainable, low-carbon society and economic model mean for unions, workers and their workplaces, communities and industries?
  • In a time of high unemployment, can environmental sustainability and climate protection policies drive job creation and promote greater equality?
  • What type and how many “green” or “climate” jobs are needed in the new Green Economy?
  • How can a “just transition” to new sources of stable employment be ensured for workers who today work in environmentally harmful industries?
  • What role do labor-environmental alliances have in building an equitable, low-carbon and sustainable society?
The Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative also provides trainings on the following topics:
  • Labor and Climate Change
  • U.S. Legislation on Climate Change
  • Labor, Energy Transition, and Democracy
  • International Climate Change Negotiations
  • Labor and Sustainable Transportation
  • Climate Jobs: Direct Hire Approaches to Climate Policy and Job Creation
  • Green Jobs in the U.S. Context
  • Green Jobs in a Low Carbon World
Current Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative projects include:
  • Job Creation, Climate Protection and Resilient Communities: Developing a Climate Jobs Program for New York State
    • Project Purpose: As many communities continue to rebuild and recover from Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and the impacts of climate change intensify, New York State has the opportunity to lead the nation in creating an ambitious and audacious “climate jobs” program that effectively links job creation and economic development to reducing greenhouse gas pollution. New York can set a precedent for other states, showing how the jobs crisis and the climate crisis can be addressed simultaneously.
    • Project Process and Outcomes: The Worker Institute at Cornell is undertaking a policy, research and education initiative for New York unions, workers’ organizations and their allies on labor-climate-employment issues, with a focus on how ambitious climate protection policy can drive job creation and economic development in New York State. The Institute will write a Climate Jobs Report for New York State that will outline a major infrastructure investment plan, including specific strategies for expanding job creation in building energy efficiency, public transit, renewable energy, and food, waste, and healthcare systems. These “climate jobs” policy options will drastically reduce energy consumption and pollution, strengthen communities, and create thousands of good jobs.

Next Steps
Achieve significant changes in Union Policy in core areas through the following initiatives:

  • In addition to releasing a Climate Jobs Report for New York State in summer 2015, the Worker Institute is conducting interviews and convening policy forums between Fall 2014 and September 2015 on specific New York State "climate jobs" policy options and program recommendations. These interviews and forums include the leaders of key New York State unions and workers' organizations, environmental organizations, and legislators and policymakers.
  • Labor Leaders Climate Forum to assist unions in developing and advancing policies that support ambitious, science-based and equitable climate protection goals, sustainable transport, and a transition to decarbonized energy.
  • Sustainable Transportation Policy Working Group to engage labor unions in the public policy discussion about developing sustainable transportation systems that provide equitable, accessible, low-carbon, and safe transportation options for U.S. residents and communities.

Resources

Project funding needs to be increased, and shifts in the public discourse around climate and energy policy need to occur. The initiatives’s climate change agenda has garnered support from liberal foundations and trade unions. Current funds for Calendar Year 2014 total approximately $221,000. However, the scope of the project is such that funding should grow considerably in order for GLI to exert a major impact on union policy.

For more information visit the Labor, Environment, and Sustainable Development Initiative website.