Unlikely Allies Unite on Climate Change

Posted April 13, 2009 at 1:48pm

An unusual pairing of environmentalists and union members launched two multimillion-dollar ad campaigns this week aimed at tying climate legislation to economic recovery and building support for a carbon cap.The first campaign, a $3 million-plus effort funded by the Environmental Defense Action Fund, the United Steelworkers and the Blue Green Alliance, began running in eight states and the District of Columbia on Sunday, featuring unemployed steelworkers and the tagline: “I can sum up a carbon cap in one four-letter word: jobs.—The second campaign, by the Blue Green Alliance — a national partnership of six of the nation’s biggest and oldest unions and environmental organizations — is a smaller ad buy running in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio this week. The TV and online campaign features workers employed in green manufacturing industries explaining how climate change solutions will create even more of those jobs.It is the first national advertising campaign for climate change by the groups during this Congress. The campaigns come as both constituencies try to broaden their reach — in this case linking up with unconventional allies — to help Democrats secure the 60 Senate votes needed to pass climate legislation.“We are looking to walk hands-held-together in this process,— said Yvette Pena Lopes, director of legislation and intergovernmental affairs for the Blue Green Alliance. “Members of Congress appreciate having these key constituencies joined together with one voice on contentious issues such as climate change.—Lopes was brought on board just two weeks ago to increase the Washington presence of the alliance, the Minneapolis-based organization that was founded in 2006 by the Steelworkers and the Sierra Club. Since then, it has grown to include the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Communications Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union and the Laborers’ International Union of North America.The two campaigns do not endorse specific legislation or name specific lawmakers, but the ads are going up in states hit especially hard by the economic crisis, including Rust Belt and industrial states home to Members — particularly Democrats — whose support is crucial to passage of any climate legislation.“Considering lawmakers was definitely part of our thinking,— said Keith Gaby, communications director for the national climate campaign at the Environmental Defense Action Fund, the lobbying arm of the Environmental Defense Fund and the organization leading the larger campaign.That campaign, which features print, online and TV ads, will run over the next month in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, Missouri, New Hampshire, West Virginia and D.C. The campaign will also include a Web site and voter-contact efforts for the states and the District.Neither the Environmental Defense Action Fund nor the Blue Green Alliance has endorsed specific climate change legislation this year. But both issued statements of support for the “first steps— taken last month by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who are tasked with shepherding climate reform legislation through Congress.The American Clean Energy and Security Act, seen as the main vehicle in the House for climate legislation, would cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. But it does not address how cap-and-trade permits would be auctioned or given away, leaving those contentious details to be hashed out by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.The Blue Green Alliance last month issued a statement of principles for climate legislation that marked “the first time that a coalition of labor and environmental movements have endorsed a common legislative vision for the future,— according to the group. The alliance supports the same guidelines as Waxman and Markey for the reduction of greenhouse gases, but it goes further to state that climate change legislation must address issues such as job loss from international competition, reining in global polluters such as China and ensuring that green jobs are well-paid, quality jobs.