Quantcast

And the Unjust Transition Award Goes to ...

Climate

This year, I was fortunate to attend the United Nations Conference of Parties in Paris or COP21. COP is an opportunity for nations to come together and create a plan of action to address and solve climate disruption. At the core of the fight against the climate crisis is a concern for protecting communities and working families. If we accelerate toward clean energy without ensuring the people who power this inevitable transition are protected and work in good paying jobs, we’ll just be creating more problems and building more inequality.

Because of this, my conversations at COP mirrored those of many other working class advocates around the world, calling for a fair and just transition to a clean energy economy—a restructuring of the energy economy that includes the voices of working families who live and work with the effects of climate disruption and dangerous pollution.

A 100 percent clean energy world is one where clean energy develops alongside increased equity, where workers rights advance alongside the state of our environment. That’s why at this year’s COP, a coalition of prominent international climate action voices—including the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth International and Dr. Robert Bullard (the “Father of Environmental Justice”)—launched the “Unjust Transition Award,” an annual corporate “greenwashing” award given to honor the type of corporate initiatives that fail to connect the dots between climate justice and a clean energy economy.

We awarded the inaugural Unjust Transition Award to Renault-Nissan, a company of which the French government owns a substantial portion and which is also a corporate sponsor of COP. Though Nissan is a key supporter of the UN climate change summit and has provided their Nissan Leaf electric vehicles for use at the COP, they have not shown that they respect workers’ rights and the need for a just transition.

Nissan has taken major positive steps on green transportation that deserve applause. Their investments in electric vehicles have helped open up the sector and driven innovation, but this is not an excuse for leaving workers behind.

This award comes on the heels of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board’s issuance of a formal complaint against Renault-Nissan for labor violations against workers seeking representation by the United Auto Workers (UAW) at their Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, where workers manufacture batteries for the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. Renault-Nissan is resisting demands for union representation by workers at several plants in Mississippi and Tennessee, including the plant in Canton. Renault-Nissan also previously rejected an offer of mediation by the U.S. State Department.

Renault-Nissan’s actions are reprehensible. Since the Canton plant opened, the company has pursued an aggressive campaign to block their employees’ right to unionize. Nissan’s anti-union campaign has included mandatory anti-union meetings, anti-union orientation sessions for new hires, retaliation against union leaders and repeated threats implying that the plant may close if the workers vote for the for representation by UAW.

To make matters worse, the workers of the Canton plant are primarily African American. Renault-Nissan is taking advantage of the long history of corporate and political repression based on race and class in Mississippi, Tennessee and the larger southern U.S.

Renault-Nissan’s position as the fourth largest car company in the world serves as an opportunity to become a corporate leader in the just transition away from outdated fossil fuels and toward clean technology. Sadly, the company is miring itself in the past with their labor practices.

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was invited to attend the ceremony and receive the award, but he declined to show. Instead, the award will travel to Mississippi with UAW representatives.

The historic, universal agreement on climate adopted in Paris by 195 nations includes an acknowledgement of the "imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs" as we move from dirty fuels to clean energy. Clean energy technology that is free of climate pollution is not possible without workers, which is why a clean, renewable energy economy must be a boon for all working families. Without building that political power, we will limit the potential of clean energy and with this award, we hope Renault-Nissan and the world will take notice.

Watch the award ceremony here. Check out our labor and electric vehicle websites for more information on our vision for a just transition to clean energy.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

World Leaders Agree to Historic Global Climate Agreement

VW: ‘We’re Sorry We Got Caught’

Volvo Leaves Mining Association Over Its Lobbying Against Climate Change Policies

10,000+ Took to the Streets in Paris Pledging Escalated Actions in the Fight for Climate Justice

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Elva Etienne / Moment / Getty Images

By Ketura Persellin

Gift-giving is filled with minefields, but the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) got your back, so you don't need to worry about inadvertently giving family members presents laden with toxic chemicals. With that in mind, here are our suggestions for gifts to give your family this season.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Cheri Bantilan MS, RD, CD

Garlic is an ingredient that provides great flavor to dishes and can be found in most kitchens across the globe.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Claire O'Connor

Agriculture is on the front lines of climate change. Whether it's the a seven-year drought drying up fields in California, the devastating Midwest flooding in 2019, or hurricane after hurricane hitting the Eastern Shore, agriculture and rural communities are already feeling the effects of a changing climate. Scientists expect climate change to make these extreme weather events both more frequent and more intense in coming years.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Echinacea is a group of flowering plants that belong to the daisy family, along with plants like sunflowers, chicory, chamomile, and chrysanthemums.

Read More Show Less
One of the 25 new Long Beach Transit hybrid gasoline-electric buses on April 23, 2009. Jeff Gritchen / Digital First Media / Orange County Register / Getty Images

In Long Beach, California, some electric buses can charge along their route without cords or wires.

When a bus reaches the Pine Avenue station, it parks over a special charging pad. While passengers get on and off, the charger transfers energy to a receiver on the bottom of the bus.

Read More Show Less