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Carrie Clark and MaryBe McMillan: Jobs Plan will benefit workers and the planet
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Carrie Clark and MaryBe McMillan: Jobs Plan will benefit workers and the planet

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If you agree America needs an economic shot in the arm, this is our moment.

If you agree climate change requires major action, this is our moment.

If you agree justice — social, economic and environmental — should be at the top of our country’s agenda, this is our moment.

If you agree with the vision in the American Jobs Plan that President Biden laid out last week, this is our moment.

It has been generations since we truly invested in our own country, our own future.

As we recover from COVID-19, now is the time for millions of people to get back to work, with new jobs in a clean-energy economy. Clean-energy jobs are among the fastest-growing in America, particularly in North Carolina, and offer a huge opportunity for high-quality, union jobs that will help rebuild the middle class.

With the president’s plan, we finally have a chance to address the intersecting health, economic, social and climate crises we face, through bold investments that can truly Build Back Better with justice and equity.

Here are some of the ways we can do this:

Put the U.S. on the path to 100% clean energy powering our electric grid, the transportation sector and our homes, businesses and schools.

Prioritize the just, equitable solutions led by the low-income communities and communities of color that are harmed most by toxic pollution, and ensure these communities benefit from at least 40% of the plan’s investments.

Create high-quality, well-paying union jobs across the economy, such as builders, roofers, pipe fitters, engineers and electricians, and ensure a just transition to a clean-energy economy so those who work in the fossil fuel industry won’t be left behind.

In 2007, North Carolina became the first Southern state to establish a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, but it hasn’t been strengthened since. We need a national clean energy standard and the rules to ensure it’s implemented with equity and justice.

Gov. Roy Cooper is pushing policies that promote economic and environmental justice, including his Clean Energy Plan. But many in the state legislature are opposed to these changes. In this political landscape, action at the federal level would be a catalyst for seismic change here.

What could some of these changes look like?

Electric charging stations in our homes and along our highways, which would boost electric vehicle purchases and rural tourism.

Solar panels, with all parts made in America, dotting North Carolina rooftops and fields, and offering greater energy independence.

New energy efficiency and weatherization programs that will reduce power bills.

A surge in well-paying manufacturing, renovation and installation jobs built around a green, clean economy.

One major challenge: Just because it’s a green job doesn’t mean it’s a good job. Luckily, President Biden’s plan includes the federal Protecting the Right to Organize Act. The PRO Act would unleash the collective power of working people to protect their livelihoods, families and retirement security while protecting the planet.

The American people support this plan. Nearly 7 in 10 voters believe Congress should pass it, with two-thirds specifically urging federal climate action through clean-energy investments. In North Carolina, support is even stronger: Three-quarters of voters want to eliminate emissions from power plants, factories and transportation by 2050.

This is a fight that unites the environmental and labor communities. We don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

With the right investments in clean energy, energy efficiency and American manufacturing, we can put people to work and build the cleaner, healthier, more economically stable communities we all deserve.

Carrie Clark has been the executive director of the N.C. League of Conservation Voters since 1999 and serves on the national LCV board. MaryBe McMillan has been president of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO since 2017, and was secretary-treasurer for 12 years before that.

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