CA report details recommendations for equity in jobs affected by climate change

Photo of wind turbines
Tom Corser/Creative Commons
The report examines industries particularly impacted by climate change — transportation and energy, for example — and details their varying conditions and job quality. (Photo by Tom Corser under CC BY-SA 3.0.)

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A report released Thursday by the California Workforce Development Board details how every industry affected by the state’s climate policy can incorporate equity into jobs.

After passing a major climate bill in 2017, the state legislature directed the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, or LWDA, to produce a set of recommendations to support workers in the face of the climate crisis, according to Carol Zabin, director of the Green Economy Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center and the report’s lead author. Zabin added that LWDA then contracted UC Berkeley to produce the report.

Titled “Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs and Climate Action Plan for 2030,”  the report serves to highlight “a path forward for an economic recovery” while addressing economic equity, climate resilience and job quality, according to a press release.

The report puts forward a roadmap for jobs that are growing or changing in the face of the climate crisis. Two of its focuses involve ensuring that the state creates good jobs and that those jobs are accessible.

Zabin said the report examines industries particularly impacted by climate change — transportation and energy, for example — and details their varying conditions and job quality.

She provided the example of solar farms connected to grids, where workers are paid middle-class wages and are trained by a state-certified apprenticeship program, versus rooftop solar installation, which she called “a narrow job” in which workers receive limited training and benefits.

In particular, the report emphasizes pathways into good jobs for people from disadvantaged communities, Zabin said.

Finally, the report addresses possible job loss in industries tied to fossil fuels and explores how to aid both workers and employers as California transitions to a carbon-neutral economy, according to the press release.

“By showing that some climate policies have already led to increased access to good jobs – and by pointing the way towards improvements in other state climate efforts – the report puts to rest the false choice of ‘jobs v. environment’ and instead illustrates how we can have both,” the press release states.

Zabin said the report’s recommendations are important amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as the state is faced with a high recession and the challenge of how to rebuild.

According to Zabin, although there is no substitute for a big stimulus package for the economy, California can either proceed in a “clean, green” way that is more equitable or fall back on old patterns involving cutting corners on the environment and on workers.

“California has the most comprehensive portfolio of climate policies and programs, so it’s really important to add labor and equity elements to that, and this report shows the state how,” Zabin said.

Tarunika Kapoor is a business and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tkapoor_dc.