From the TUC

Alliances for Clean energy jobs. Can the UK learn lessons from California?

31 Mar 2011, by Guest in Environment

This week I’ve been over in San Francisco taking part in the IPPR’s US learning exchange on green jobs.  There are 14 of us from a range of organisations, social enterprises, environmental and social justice organisations and trade unions finding out how forming alliances can lead to the creation of green jobs.  So what have we discovered?

On Monday we met with Cathy Calfo, Executive Director of the Apollo Alliance. Founded in 2003, the Alliance is a coalition of business, unions, environmental and community organisations driving the green jobs agenda over.  The aim is to literally put millions of Americans into high quality, green collar jobs.  Inspired by the Apollo space programme the power of the alliance is in drawing in investments in energy efficiency, clean power, mass transit, next generation vehicles and emerging technology as well as education.  The alliance convenes a national coalition, and also supports eighteen state and city-based “franchises” staffed and coordinated by a locally-based organization.

So what are the lessons for us here? Well firstly, we definitely have to work harder on the names we give our alliances and campaigns! Something inspiring that can capture the imagination of a nation seems to do the trick.

Each local alliance conducts an analysis of the opportunities in their area – where are the skills gaps and the emerging job markets? A powerful example from Cathy was taken from Pennsylvania where  a declining steel industry was turned into an opportunity by attracting the Mesa Steel company to use their old factories to produce wind turbines and employ local people.

Building alliances for a green recovery was the subject of the TUC’s conference back in October, and Cathy stresses that the key to keeping those alliances sustainable is in making compromises and being inclusive.  When considering a national transportation bill that is was about to come up for  review, to keep the unions on board it was essential that the alliance didn’t demand a decrease in funding for road-building, but demanded an  increase in spending overall for public transport.  Food for thought.

Business needs to be fully on board.  At every step of the process the alliance consults with all involved  but  what seems to be the key to success, and what is sadly lacking in the UK,  is the ability to tap into investment. Where the environmental  groups shied away from asking for too much, the Alliance looked at Obama’s stimulus bill as a “downpayment on Apollo”.  The amount of funding over here for green jobs simply dwarfs anything available to us in the UK.

What does excite me about the Apollo Alliance however  is its commitment to train the workforce to meet the demands of a low carbon world, to make sure that the transition to that low carbon world is just, creating pathways out of poverty and priotising good, family – supporting jobs.

The Alliance insists on a Made in America campaign. And America needs it .  Their  manufacturing industry has collapsed, (ring any bells?), and since 2008 they’ve lost 8 million jobs.  It’s about homegrown renewable industries – and the same goes for us.  We need to be investing in our own industries.

In Ohio, for instance, an Impact Bill has been pushed through which creates a loan fund for small to mid-size manufacturers incentivising clean tech development and energy efficiency.  We need this kind of strategy on a massive scale to protect our workforce in the energy intensive industries.

The alliance is also about to release a very exciting report, by Chris Bush, looking at the competitive advantages for inner cities in green job creation. I don’t want to steal their thunder but bookmark their website and keep an eye out for its publication.