Elevating Voices to Ensure a Just Transition

What is a Just Transition?

To address the climate crisis, we must reimagine the extractive systems that power our world and transition to cleaner technologies. But this shift has the potential to cause considerable harm to workers and communities. Although Colorado has made incredible strides, The Office of Just Transition only supports a portion of Colorado’s fossil fuel workforce. There remains no planned support to assist workers and communities tied to the oil and gas industry, even though they play an important role in Colorado’s economy. A thoughtful, managed transition is necessary to repair  harms and ensure that Colorado workers and communities are not left behind.

The Coalition’s Climate and Energy group and Just Transition Advisory Committee, led by Jane Allen, advocates for inclusive and just transition policy that supports workers and communities during the process of decarbonization.

Elevating Voices

Last winter, The Coalition partnered with Colorado State University’s Institute for the Built Environment to host the Just Transition Roundtable Series. This discussion series brought together representatives from labor, environmental justice and community groups to explore the needs of workers and communities that rely on the fossil fuel industry. In collaboration with these groups, The Coalition released the Just Transition Policy Recommendations. Four principles guided the recommendations:

  • Support for workers and their families. Participants of the Roundtable Series recognized that retraining alone is not enough to support workers in the transition away from fossil fuels. The recommendations include relocation support and pension portability. They also emphasize focusing on the unique needs of individual workers according to their age and skillset.
  • Justice and opportunities for impacted communities. Past harms caused by the fossil fuel industry must be repaired and injustices must not be repeated in the transition process. The recommendations emphasize the need to provide historically underserved communities with access to clean energy jobs and programs.
  • Development of sustainable economic solutions. To avoid reliance on oil and gas revenue, the policy recommendations offer suggestions for fostering diverse economies.
  • Responsibility to the environment. To combat the worst of the climate crisis, a just transition must align with Colorado’s climate goals. The recommendations emphasized the importance of clean air, water and soil and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Turning Ideas Into Policy

The Roundtable Series laid the groundwork for further action. During this spring’s legislative session, Coalition members partnered with state legislators to guide the development of HB 23-1074. This bill—which successfully passed!—requires the Office of Future of Work to conduct a comprehensive study on Colorado’s oil and gas workforce. The study will identify the transferable and non-transferable skills of workers and explore ways to support workers who cannot easily transition to new industries. It will identify the skill requirements of existing and emerging industries such as wind, solar, geothermal energy and well plugging and remediation. These industries have the potential to be important job creators. Additionally, the study will compare wages in different fields and analyze federal and local funding opportunities for communities and workers. It is an important first step at collecting the data needed to guide future policy transitions around the energy transition. 

Throughout the spring, Coalition members met with bill sponsors, collaborated on amendments and testified twice for the bill. The bill had support from both labor and environmental groups—a success in its own right! The passing of HB 23-1074 is an incredible example of The Coalition’s work: bringing together diverse audiences to imagine innovative solutions and move them into meaningful action. 

Continuing the Dialogue

The Roundtable Series and the passing of HB 23-1074 is a step in the right direction. But, of course, this is only the beginning of this important work. The Coalition, in collaboration with the Colorado Fiscal Institute, is now working on a research project to elevate the voices of workers in the oil and gas industry and community members of regions that are economically dependent on these sectors. This research will help inform transition plans currently being made at the state and industry levels. Given the recent passage the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, this research will also explore the accessibility of federal funds and whether communities are leveraging them to support their transition. 

By focusing on workers and communities, Colorado takes a significant step toward a just and economically viable post-carbon future. We are honored to be a driving force behind this work and excitedly invite you to join us! Learn more about The Coalition for a Regenerative Future and its Climate and Energy Group or join today to participate in Colorado’s clean energy journey.

This work was made possible by funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation and Premier Members Credit Union. Thank you for your commitment to community-centered climate solutions!