We Can Build An Inclusive Green Economy

Our guest bloggers are Jason Walsh and Van Jones from Green for All.

Van JonesThis morning, Senate debate on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act came to an end. It was a missed opportunity to robustly debate a critical issue facing the country. The bill had the potential, particularly if strengthened during the amendment process, to affect profound and positive change for both the American people and the planet.

It is a shame that political gamesmanship paralyzed the Senate on such a crucial piece of legislation. Many of the arguments against the legislation were patently false. It was particularly ironic that some senators chose to argue against this bill on the basis that it does not protect those less fortunate; their voting records clearly indicate that the poor are not the constituents with whom they are most concerned.

Hypocrisy aside, the claim that the bill hurts the underserved ignored the assistance for low-income families and workers already in the legislation — which could and should have been strengthened by an amendment filed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) — and the critical investments that the bill makes in providing economic opportunities for low-income workers and building the wealth and health of low-income communities.

The fact of the matter is that this issue is far too important to employ scare tactics and play politics with. The effects of global warming, which hit low-income people first and worst, are real and they warrant a genuine discussion and substantive action.

We do, however, want to commend Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). She has proven herself to be the national leader and voice that we have been longing for in the Senate. She is a true heroine, and the nation will owe her an incalculable debt when we finally win sane climate policy in the United States.

We hope to continue the conversation, and insist that any federal climate legislation must:

Maximize the gain for low-income communities and communities of color. Global warming legislation should build an inclusive green economy that provides pathways out of poverty and expands opportunity for all American workers and communities, particularly those who have been shut out of the current pollution-based economy.

Minimize the pain for the most vulnerable. Because low and moderate-income households spend a larger share of their budgets on energy and other basic costs of living than better-off households, global warming legislation should ensure that any energy price increases are offset for these households and workers, with assistance delivered in ways that also enhance energy conservation goals.

Invest in green-collar jobs. Green-collar jobs are real and are already being created across America as communities recognize that these jobs can fight poverty, pollution, and global warming at the same time. Most of these jobs are existing occupations that are being up-skilled and repurposed toward the end of building a green economy.

Limit carbon emissions at a level that science, not big business, dictates. Hurricane Katrina was the wake-up call. Policies designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions and advance climate solutions must be aggressive enough to ensure that the worst environmental and economic consequences of global warming are averted.

Make polluters pay. Polluters should not be handed free permits and windfall profits. The largest possible share of money generated by placing a cost on carbon should be used for making the investments necessary for an inclusive and fair transition to a green economy, which advances the needs of workers, communities and high-road green businesses while also saving the planet.

Go to Green for All to learn more about our vision for climate policy.