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BCTD, AFT Go All-In on Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge

At a Chicago meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that a broad coalition of 14 partners including the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), will take President Obama up on his “better building challenge” with a $4 billion investment.

The Better Buildings Challenge is a joint project of the Obama Administration and the Clinton Global Initiative and was created to promote investment in building upgrades. The challenge has a goal of making America’s commercial buildings 20 percent more efficient over the next decade. According to the White House press release:

“Improving building energy efficiency on a large scale is a challenge we can’t afford not to take,” said Secretary Chu. “It will create jobs, reduce energy waste, save our businesses and institutions money, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

“The Better Buildings Challenge harnesses the creativity and ingenuity of leaders across the public and private sectors to ensure America leads the world in tapping the potential of saving energy to create jobs” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Upgrading the energy performance of the built environment will cut waste, lower pollution and spur market growth.”

“The Better Buildings Challenge will make American businesses more competitive in the global economy by saving them billions in energy costs – savings they can spend on growing, expanding and hiring new workers,” said Laura Tyson, member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and professor of Global Management at UC Berkeley. “It will help put construction workers and contractors back to work and it will increase the production of energy-efficient products at U.S. manufacturing facilities. The first round of partners committing to the Better Buildings Challenge today are taking an important step to support job creation across the country.”

The goals of the Better Buildings Challenge coincide with the promises of investment in green energy made by President Obama during his 2008 campaign. According to Crooks and Liars, the 14 partners include:

Abundant Power, Best Buy, Citi, the city of Atlanta, the city of Los Angeles, Green Campus Partners, the Green Sports Alliance, Lend Lease, Metrus Energy, Renewable Funding, the Seattle 2030 District, Transcend Equity, Transwestern and USAA Real Estate Company.

One of the main partners, the AFL-CIO, recently expressed their support in a press release of their own:

President Obama announced that nearly $4 billion of investments have been committed already, including $2 billion by workers’ pension funds, CEOs, mayors and university presidents for energy-saving upgrades. The labor movement committed to work to invest $150 million in energy-efficient retrofit projects in the coming months.

The goal of the initiative, which builds on work begun by the AFL-CIO earlier this year with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), is to spur job creation by harnessing private sector investment in energy upgrades in commercial and industrial buildings.

Working with the AFT, a broad coalition of public-sector unions, and the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), the AFL-CIO has been part of a CGI initiative for the retrofitting of union buildings, and has already exceeded its initial commitment of working with existing real estate-focused investment funds to invest between $10 million and $20 million of additional capital in energy-efficient retrofits of commercial, industrial, institutional and public buildings over the next six months.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has been pushing for infrastructure and green-jobs investment at all levels, said in a statement:
The Better Buildings initiative has all the right components to make a real difference—it will create profitable investment opportunities for worker pension funds, create badly needed good jobs, increase America’s competitiveness around energy savings, and address the dangers of climate change.

Today’s action builds on 14 private sector commitments announced at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in June, including the labor movement’s aim to invest $10 billion in pension fund assets in job-creating infrastructure projects over the next five years.

The AFT has been retrofitting its headquarters building in Washington, D.C., to become LEED Silver certified, and the AFL-CIO has committed to a Better Buildings Challenge retrofit of its headquarters, expected to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent. As Weingarten explains:

We not only are asking others to commit to energy-saving retrofits, but we’re also doing it ourselves.


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