Speaking at the 2012 United Nations Investor Summit on Climate Risk & Energy Solutions, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka blasted climate deniers in Congress for threatening the free enterprise system and the future of civilization. Trumka began his speech laying out the stark challenge of global warming: a “stable climate is the foundation of our global civilization,” and thus “the prerequisite for a profitable investment environment”:
Today, as we meet together, scientists tell us we are headed ever more swiftly toward irreversible climate change—with catastrophic consequences for human civilization. We must have a stable climate to feed the planet, to ensure there is drinking water for our cities but not floodwaters at our doors. A stable climate is the foundation of our global civilization, of our global economy—the prerequisite for a profitable investment environment.
Because “Congress is effectively controlled by climate change deniers,” crucial national policy to fight greenhouse pollution has been killed, but we “must take action ourselves,” Trumka said. The AFL-CIO has worked with other unions to build a green jobs infrastructure:
But it is clear that as long as Congress is effectively controlled by climate change deniers, all of us—investors, companies, workers and the broader public, must take action ourselves. So a year ago, as the climate bill failed in Congress, as the jobs crisis deepened, and as workers’ pension funds continued to suffer from microscopic fixed income yields, the American labor movement decided we couldn’t wait—we had to act to help advance profitable, risk weighted investments that would create jobs and address climate change.
Trumka also recognized that the crippled economy and our strong ties to fossil fuels make the necessary change difficult, especially for workers in coal and oil regions. In that context, he talked about the Keystone XL pipeline, which some of AFL-CIO’s unions support and some oppose.
“The AFL-CIO has not taken a position on the Keystone pipeline,” he said, “unions don’t agree among ourselves. But we cannot have a trust building conversation about it unless opponents of the pipeline recognize that construction jobs are real jobs, good jobs, and supporters of the pipeline recognize that tar sands oil raises real issues in terms of climate change.”
Trumka’s speech acts as a strong rebuke to the polluted vision of the global economy presented this morning by US Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue.
Read the transcript of Trumka’s speech: Read more