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The Climate Justice Mayor: How De Blasio Can Reduce Emissions and Create Good Jobs


climate march

The People's Climate March (photo: @NYCEJAlliance)


After last year's historic People's Climate March, many people have asked: what comes next? Environmental justice advocates, labor unions, working people, and community leaders are answering with a major new campaign called Climate Works for All.

The core platform is simple and already has broad support: let's ensure that efforts to address climate change create good jobs in communities most vulnerable to harm and disaster. Indeed, if Mayor de Blasio goes bigger and bolder on addressing climate change, he can create nearly 40,000 good jobs a year, and transform the future of New York City for the better.

That is the major finding of an eye-opening new report, Climate Works for All: A Platform for Reducing Emissions, Protecting Our Communities, and Creating Good Jobs for New Yorkers released by ALIGN and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, along with the National AFL-CIO, the New York City Central Labor Council, and the BlueGreen Alliance.

Mayor de Blasio has set a bold goal of reducing New York City's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. The Climate Works for All agenda is a concrete and specific roadmap for reaching the 80x50 goal while creating a more equitable economy and a massive number of new employment opportunities for struggling families, especially in low-income communities and communities of color where income inequality and climate change are most deeply felt.

The de Blasio administration should pursue policies that will have the biggest impact on making vulnerable communities more resilient—both environmentally and economically. One key proposal that should move forward quickly is mandating energy efficiency retrofits on New York City's largest buildings, which are responsible for the majority of the city's greenhouse gas emissions. These retrofits alone would create many thousands of jobs a year; and labor unions, community groups and businesses are ready to help ensure that the jobs have strong safety protections, good wages and benefits, and provide career opportunities to unemployed and underemployed local residents.

Building owners and real estate developers can't be expected to do these retrofits voluntarily. The only way to meet the climate crisis head on—and our 80x50 goal—is to enact a smart city-wide policy that includes mandates.

Other key proposals include installing solar energy on the rooftops of NYC's 100 largest schools, and increasing recycling rates and efficiency in commercial waste hauling.

By enacting these proposals, Mayor de Blasio can create clean air and new careers for New Yorkers who are facing the greatest hazards of climate change and economic unfairness. New York City can elevate the voices of residents and communities on the frontlines of a growing movement for climate justice, and in the process, become the national leader on climate jobs and resiliency.

We have an unprecedented chance to strengthen workers and communities most exposed to the harmful effects of climate change by building better and more sustainable infrastructure. It is crucial that climate protection and good, union jobs are brought together within the same overall planning process and policy framework for a more livable and inclusive New York City.

The expiration of Bloomberg's PlaNYC is in April. In the months ahead, de Blasio should show that he will make climate justice a top priority and legacy-defining focus of his administration. He should use his power to help create a climate that truly works for all of us.

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Matt Ryan is Executive Director of ALIGN & Eddie Bautista is Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

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