Leaders of the Blue Green Alliance – a unique partnership of U.S. unions and environmental groups – spoke to media Wednesday in Copenhagen, site of the UN conference. Officials from around the world, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are gathering in Copenhagen to promote efforts to limit carbon emissions and slow global warming.
“I think the consensus among 100 heads of state showing up in Copenhagen over the next 60 hours speaks volumes to the necessity of reaching some kind of deal that moves momentum forward,” Blue Green Alliance Executive Director David Foster said. “I don’t think anyone expects us to have a final deal in Copenhagen, but we do expect to take steps forward.”
Foster was joined by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, Utility Workers Union of America President Mike Langford, Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke, American Federation of Teachers Vice President Richard Iannuzzi and Amalgamated Transit Union Executive Vice President Ron Heintzman.
Members of the alliance said they will focus on pressuring Congress to pass climate change legislation. A measure to limit carbon emissions through a market-based “cap-and-trade” system has passed the U.S. House, but faces opposition in the Senate.
“If anything, I think our experience in Copenhagen over the last week or so underscores the importance of passing climate legislation in the United States as the fundamental building block for constructing a long-term, viable, effective international treaty,” Foster said.
Environmental advocates Pope and Beinecke said the United States needs to get on board the “green jobs” train.
“We are at moment in the history of the United States where a new world economy is being born,” Pope said. “We will either lead it, lag it or be left out altogether.”
Beinecke said as many as 2 million jobs could be created quickly through the climate legislation. Alliance members will “transmit a message that if we move on climate legislation in the United States and soon, we can create abundant clean energy jobs across America.”
Foster said that while in Copenhagen, members of the Alliance have been meeting with other delegations and with members of the Obama administration. The Alliance is unique because “there is no similar partnership of labor and environmental organizations lobbying around climate change solutions anywhere else in the world,” he said.
AFT Vice President Richard Iannuzzi said his union believes it has a role to play in Copenhagen because climate change is “an important issue to our members, it’s an important issue for the future. As someone who taught 10 year olds for 30 years, I want to see there is a place for those 10-year-olds to be.”
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