AFL-CIO Reiterates its Opposition to Kyoto Global Warming Accord

Published June 1, 1999

Warning that the Kyoto Protocol on global warming represents a threat to the U.S. economy, the AFL-CIO has reaffirmed its opposition to the one-sided treaty. The union’s executive council called upon President Clinton “to lead a serious conversation with the American people in which he presents the legislative and regulatory plans, expected economic effects, and projected environmental outcomes that his administration anticipates as a result of implementing their current strategy.”

If ratified in its present form, the council noted, the treaty would give companies more incentives to move their businesses to offshore locations where they would find, in addition to cheap labor and lower production costs, few restrictions on carbon emissions. Studies of the Kyoto accord’s projected economic impact have concluded that between 900,000 and 1.5 million American jobs are at risk.

Negotiated in December 1997, the Kyoto Protocol requires the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels. Developing countries are not required to reduce emission levels. The AFL-CIO has asked Clinton not to implement the agreement until it is amended so that all nations share the burden of reducing carbon emissions.

The union also wants those federal agencies directly involved with the Kyoto process to provide union members with existing studies of the treaty’s projected economic impact, as well as any subsequent economic models that are developed.

In a related statement on U.S. energy policy issued on February 17, the union’s executive council noted in particular its concerns about how the Kyoto agreement would affect the electric utility industry.

“Government policies are emerging that threaten to destabilize the electric utility industry, raise energy prices, and cause unemployment among our members,” the council said. “Carbon taxes, or equivalent carbon emission trading programs, will raise significantly electricity and other energy prices to consumers. These taxes will be most harmful to citizens who live on fixed incomes or work at poverty-level wages.”