Corporate management and labor unions generally have opposing interests, but both sides seem to agree on the urgency of climate change.
In a joint statement called “United for Paris Agreement,” dozens of CEOs and the head of the biggest trade union federation in the United States fully endorsed the Paris climate agreement, saying that they would work together to build a sustainable future. The CEOs of massive multinational companies signed the letter, including Global Citizen partners Unilever, Citigroup, HP, and Verizon.
Stuart Appelbaum, executive council and chair of international committee of the AFL-CIO, spoke on behalf of 12.5 million workers in the following sectors: energy, transport, communications, retail, construction, manufacturing, education, health, services, and government employees.
The letter coincides with COP25, the United Nations annual climate conference that began this week in Madrid. World leaders are expected to clarify the commitments they made under the Paris climate agreement during the multi-week event.
The letter describes a number of policy objectives that the signatories support, but falls short of explicitly endorsing the Paris climate agreement’s goal of keeping temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a target that experts say is increasingly out of reach barring transformative economic adjustments. If global temperatures rise beyond this limit, catastrophic disruptions are likely to occur.
The signatories frame their support in economic terms, a position that runs counter to the common narrative pitting climate action against economic growth. Here, the CEOs and Appelbaum say that fighting climate is essential to maintaining a robust economy. Earlier this year, multinational businesses detailed a multi-trillion dollar opportunity for companies that mitigate and adapt to climate change.
“Participation in the Paris agreement enables us to plan for a just transition and create new decent, family-supporting jobs and economic opportunity,” the letter says.
“Staying in the Paris agreement will strengthen our competitiveness in global markets, positioning the United States to lead the deployment of new technologies that support the transition, provide for our workers and communities, and create jobs and companies built to last,” it continues. “It also supports investment by setting clear goals which enable long-term planning. It encourages innovation to achieve emissions reductions at low cost.”
This latest gesture of solidarity is especially meaningul following the formal withdrawal of the US from the global pact in November. Even if the federal government leaves, the letter suggests, companies, unions, and local governments will continue to step up.