by Taylor Gendel
Frontline organizations have been working to advance a just transition, and local policy such as Illinois’s Clean Energy Jobs Act provide opportunities to push this work to the forefront.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) hopes to build on the success of 2016’s Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) by building on this unique moment to help Illinois create “long-term answers to the public health and economic challenges posed by the novel coronavirus”. The passing of CEJA would expand the clean energy economy. Some of the proposed methods for this transition include:
- Creating Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs, a network of frontline organizations that provide direct and sustained support for minority and disadvantaged communities, including job opportunities
- Prioritizing companies that implement equity actions to ensure equitable representation in Illinois’ clean energy workforce
- Creating a Contractor Incubator program that focuses on the development of underserved businesses in the clean energy sector
- Creating Clean Energy Empowerment Zones to support communities and workers who are economically impacted by the decline of fossil fuel generation
The expansion of the clean energy sector can also contribute to correcting the long-standing environmental damages in many of the communities that experience high unemployment; producing benefits for both individuals and communities. A recent study by the Voorhees Center finds there has been a higher growth rate of jobs in Clean Energy Production, Energy Efficiency, and Environmental Management in our region than the overall economy. Further, clean energy economy jobs pay an average of 9 percent more than other jobs, and have the potential to increase the inclusion of people of color and women in the workforce.
This potential for growth suggests that the transition to a clean energy economy could help address economic inclusion challenges on the local level, as the current roster of workers in related occupations is far from inclusive. The existence of distinct barriers to access require additional attention and action.
How can we begin to advocate for clean energy jobs here in Chicago? The proposed “We Will Chicago” initiative aims to focus on equity, diversity and resiliency. One primary focus will be on the environment, climate and energy. Planners and residents should have opportunities to engage in community conversations and push for ideas like clean energy jobs and a just transition – in hopes of a more sustainable and equitable future.