Global warming, job creation and the growing divide in incomes and wealth – three controversial, divisive issues that have come to take center stage in U.S politics and society since the dawn of the new millennium. Though his efforts have wholly pleased neither left nor right, Democrat or Republican, oil industry executive or environmentalist, President Obama and his administration have sought to address all three, and in an integrated manner, to a greater degree than any of his predecessors.
Heard, read about and seen in various guises – sustainable development, the green economy or low-carbon society – the President has been assembling the elements of a new self-organizing paradigm for the U.S. economy and society in the 21st century, one that recognizes that while economic development and growth are vital to the health and well-being of society, so is a fair, equitable and inclusive distribution of income and wealth, and so are clean air, clean waters, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.
Taking this green economy platform out to the public, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is one of a host of prominent Americans speaking today and tomorrow at the eighth Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington, D.C.
Environment, economy, ethics
In the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference’s first plenary session, a panel that included United Steelworkers International president Leo W. Gerard, BlueGreen Alliance Foundation President David Foster, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar discussed U.S. infrastructure needs.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was the featured speaker in an afternoon panel session that also included Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Ms. McCarthy opened with a strong statement of values and environmental ethics:
“Whether it’s the teachers union or the steelworkers, the moral of the story is the same, our work and our family values have little value without fair protections that keep us all safe and healthy. At the end of the day, what is economic productivity worth if our water is too dirty to drink and our air is too dirty to breathe?”
The terrible, and rising, costs of climate change inaction
Times they are a’changing, the EPA Administrator continued, highlighting the emergence of a new, clean energy economy and the growing costs and threats posed by climate change. “Climate impacts are not only hurting our people and our planet, they are a threat to our economy.”
By how much exactly? Emergency and disaster relief cost the U.S. government and taxpayer $110 billion in 2012, the second highest price tag in American history, “all off budget,” Ms. McCarthy highlighted.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka earlier this month talked about the already high and terrible costs of climate change inaction, Ms. McCarthy noted. Repeating Trumka for emphasis, “The nation that goes all in on innovation today will own the global energy [of] tomorrow,” she stated.
“That’s what this president, President Obama, said in his State of the Union. President Trumka, President Obama know what they’re talking about. They agree on these issues. That’s why we need to work together to explore creative approaches to meet our energy demands.
“That’s why President Obama reiterated his commitment to climate action in the State of the Union. And we need to take action without sacrificing the health protections, without sacrificing jobs in our communities, and without sacrificing a reliable, affordable energy system. And we need to do it with every sensitivity to the workers who have brought energy to American families for decades.
“It’s not just about jobs, it is about fairness, it is about communities, communities where those workers live, and we need to be sensitive to those issues as we struggle to find the right solutions moving forward.”
Strong words. Good words. Positive words, delivered with what sure looks like hones belief and genuine commitment. Tune in and listen to Ms. McCarthy’s entire speech…
*Image credit: Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference