US unions, green groups unleash climate change campaign


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 19, 2009 at 3:31 PM EDT

A coalition of US environmental groups and major labor unions on Wednesday unveiled a national campaign to refute charges that legislation to battle climate change would cost US jobs in a recession.

"The fact of the matter is, you're either going to have both, or you'll have neither," Leo Gerard, the head of the United Steelworkers union, told reporters on a conference call to announce the 50-stop, 22-state push.

"This is about creating good family-supporting jobs as we do the right thing for the planet," said Gerard, who predicted that legislation to fight global warming would create hundreds of thousands of jobs "if we do it right."

The "Made In America" Jobs Tour will open Thursday in Ohio -- a critical political battleground in US presidential elections and stretch into September, when lawmakers return from their month-long August break.

The US Senate is poised to consider climate change legislation when it returns in early September, three months before December global climate change talks in Denmark's capital Copenhagen.

"There is no time to wait, we need the jobs now and we must address global warming pollution that is already changing our climate," said Frances Beinecke, the head of the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group.

The US House of Representatives passed legislation in June that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050, create "green" jobs and wean the US economy from oil imports.

Those levels would be reached through a "cap-and-trade" system that caps pollution levels for large industrial sources but allocates them pollution permits that can be traded.

The House measure faces fierce opposition from Republicans and some business groups who charge it will cost jobs at a time when the battered US economy is mired in recession.

US President Barack Obama's Democratic allies in the Congress mostly support the legislation, which they say will help avert environmental calamity while fostering the growth of well-paid "green" jobs.

"Our country and the rest of the world is really living through what's going to be recognized a the third economic revolution," said Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

"And where the agricultural revolution took 3,000 years, and the Industrial Revolution took 300 years, this revolution as we change from a national to an international economy ... this revolution is only going to take 30 years."

Gerard said the United States must fight to keep alive its ability to design and build high-technology "green" technologies, like solar power cells and wind turbines in the face of what he described as unfair competition from China.

"And if you make real things that will reduce our carbon footprint, and create good family-supporting jobs in America, that ought to be the direction this country is going in. I've have enough of Wall Street throwing up on my shoes because they pigged out at the candy store," he said.

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