Courtesy Roxanne Brown

Roxanne Brown is the international vice president at large for the United Steelworkers, the U.S.’s largest industrial workers union. She was instrumental in bringing the concerns of skilled labor into the process of crafting and passing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022, and centering unionized workers in the clean-energy transition.

What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?

With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the IRA, and the Chips and Science Act, the U.S.—for the first time ever—has a suite of industrial policies to help American industries and workers meet this moment and address climate change in a way that will ensure both environmental and economic sustainability. This is the Industrial Revolution of our time. The single most important thing the U.S. government can do right now is “lean in” to the process of implementing these laws to accelerate massive investments in the American clean energy supply chain.

What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?

We cannot achieve our sustainability or climate goals without a strong, skilled, and stable workforce. For years, workers were given vague promises about the clean energy economy. But now workers across the U.S. have real, tangible opportunities. There’s a whole ecosystem of people required to build out the technologies, infrastructure, materials, and components we will need. The IRA alone is anticipated to create more than 1.3 million new jobs by 2030. My hope is that people will embrace the opportunity before us, including the massive effort to train, recruit, and develop workers in the manufacturing, service, energy, and construction sectors.

What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?

There is so much good work that has happened over the past few years on the climate policy front. Three years ago, I would have said our most pressing needs were a well-funded infrastructure bill to help improve climate resiliency and a bill to spur development and deployment of carbon dioxide removal technologies and other clean technology. We’ve accomplished both of those things and so much more. Now, as we need to turn to implementation of these policies, our future needs will become clearer—including additional opportunities to ensure workers and their communities are the primary beneficiaries of these historic investments.

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