Press Release: Easing the Burden: Two New Reports Identify Steps for Reducing the Economic Impacts of Climate Action

For Immediate Release:  
December 5, 2001

Contact: Katie Mandes
703-516-4146

Easing the Burden: Two New Reports Identify Steps for Reducing the Economic Impacts of Climate Action on Affected Communities and Workers

Washington, DC - Policymakers can do a great deal to ease the economic burden of addressing climate change by taking specific steps to assist affected workers and communities. This according to two new reports released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

"Responding to climate change means reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that means making a shift from the current carbon-intensive economy to an economy that relies less on fossil fuels," said Pew Center President Eileen Claussen. "This shift is in everybody's interest, but it will not affect everybody equally. As a result, we need to be thinking now about how to assist those workers and communities that will be affected by the policy choices we make. Rather than leave them behind in our quest for a new economy, we must give them the tools and the resources they need to play their rightful role in our future success."

Focusing on the workers and communities that are likely to be most affected by efforts to address climate change, the Pew Center reports recommend worker retraining programs, economic adjustment initiatives for affected communities, and other steps. According to Claussen, the cost of these and other initiatives would amount to a small fraction of the overall bill for dealing with climate change. She added that permit fees and other revenues related to the implementation of new climate policies could provide an important source of funding for the transition efforts.

Worker Transition & Global Climate Change

Any major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States will almost certainly cause a decline in demand for fossil fuels. The result could be employment losses in the coal, petroleum, and electricity industries, and possibly in other sectors as well.

Worker Transition & Global Climate Change is a Pew Center report written by Jim Barrett of the Economic Policy Institute. The report draws lessons from the government's experience assisting workers who were adversely affected by policy choices and market forces in the past. The author also outlines the building blocks of a worker transition program that could assist workers adversely affected by government efforts to address climate change.

This report recommends that a worker transition program include:

  • Substantial retraining and/or education for laid-off workers, as well as income support for program participants;
  • A bridge to retirement for workers nearing retirement age that maintains their standards of living and retirement benefit levels;
  • Maintenance of laid-off workers' health and pension benefits until they find suitable employment; and
  • Advance notice of layoffs whenever possible.

Community Adjustment to Climate Change Policy

Efforts to avert global climate change are also likely to place certain communities at risk of economic dislocation. Affected communities could include those with large numbers of jobs in energy production, such as coal mining communities in Wyoming or oil producing areas of Louisiana. Also affected could be communities with energy-intensive industries-for example, parts of Pennsylvania with steel manufacturing operations.

Community Adjustment to Climate Change Policy was authored by Judith M. Greenwald of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Brandon Roberts of Brandon Roberts & Associates, and Andrew D. Reamer of Andrew Reamer & Associates. Based on a survey of how policymakers in the United States and elsewhere have responded to similar challenges in the past, the report suggests that appropriately designed programs can lessen the pain of economic adjustment considerably.

The report recommends a new federal adjustment program for communities as part of global climate change policy, and calls on U.S. policymakers to take the following steps:

  • Designate and fund the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce to design and implement an economic adjustment program for communities;
  • Identify and assist communities that are particularly dependent on energy-producing and energy-intensive sectors before dislocations occur;
  • Leverage and integrate additional resources by involving multiple federal agencies and state and local governments through regional task forces; and
  • Support the development and implementation of locally determined, comprehensive adjustment strategies.

A future Pew Center report will address the issue of competitiveness for those industries affected by climate change policy.

The full text of both reports is accessible on the Internet:

Community Adjustment to Climate Change Policy  Report.

Worker Transition & Global Climate Change Report.

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The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is conducting studies, launching public education efforts and working with businesses to develop market-oriented solutions to reduce greenhouse gases. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. The Pew Center includes the Business Environmental Leadership Council, which is composed of 36 major, largely Fortune 500 corporations all working with the Pew Center to address issues related to climate change. The companies do not contribute financially to the Pew Center - it is solely supported by contributions from charitable foundations.