RECAP: cornell ilr's 2024 Climate Jobs summit

On Wednesday, January 24, 2024, members of the Clean Energy Jobs Coalition participated in the “Climate Jobs Summit” hosted by the Cornell ILR’s Climate Jobs Institute (CJI) on Roosevelt Island, New York City.

According to its website, the CJI was established to guide the nation’s transition to a strong, equitable, and resilient clean energy economy by pursuing three aims: to tackle the climate crisis; to create high-quality jobs; and to build a diverse, inclusive workforce.

The 2024 Climate Summit gathered over 200 federal, state, and labor leaders from across nation along with officials as far away as the United Kingdom.

The objective was to advance a pro-worker, pro-climate – smooth transition agenda to create a zero-carbon economy. Action steps toward an equitable and worker-centered climate future were identified through a series of breakout sessions held over the day. 

Participants dove into specific topic areas ranging from “Overcoming Obstacles and Opposition to Site, Permit, and Build Clean Energy at Scale” to “After the Inflation Reduction Act: Maximizing the Climate, Equity, and Jobs Benefits of Federal Climate Policy.” The full conference agenda is available here.

The “Good Jobs & Clean Buildings” panel was livestreamed on X (formerly Twitter) where speakers explored the benefits of thermal energy networks. Panelists included:

Building Decarbonization Coalition Director Dix described how she worked with labor leaders from the Clean Energy Jobs Coalition to drive New York’s Utility Network & Jobs Act into fruition. 

Buro Happold’s Energy Planning Lead Masters outlined how thermal energy networks are providing reliable heating, cooling, and electricity to 52 communities across Europe, including some of the coldest of climates in Sweden. He laid out a path on how utilities can achieve decarbonization affordably for ratepayers in the United States.

UA Local 104 Superintendent Foreman Cupak provided insight onto how his team in Western Massachusetts has built and installed thermal energy network systems at Smith College, Ameherst College, and is preparing to construct one at Mt. Holyoke.

Once complete, Smith College’s thermal energy system will reduce its carbon emissions by 90%, cut water consumption by 10% and improve local air quality.

Cupak said, “At Smith College, we did 10,000 feet in three months!” He added that ,“the biggest issue we ran into was putting fusion machines under ducked-banks” and working hand-in-hand with engineers to ensure pump velocity flows were consistent across 25 square miles despite surprise structures hidden underground like abandoned bridges or tunnels. 

Recently, New York’s SUNY Purchase appeared in the New York Times for its completion of a “geo-exchange project,” where energy is stored underground that can be later used for heating, cooling, and electricity production. This is a precursor to its ongoing plans to install a thermal energy network, like the one at Smith College, that is anticipated to connect with neighboring international corporate headquarters for Pepsi and Mastercard, providing zero emission heating and cooling solutions along with access to renewable, ground-sourced electricity.

This is one of New York’s many examples of leading on climate change, especially since the Empire State announced the “Decarbonization Leadership Program” where all 64 SUNY campuses and hundreds of state facilities are evaluating how to install zero-emission thermal energy networks to become carbon neutral by 2050.

These decarbonization action plans offer significant promise and potential to create thousands of family sustaining jobs as part of a just transition to a clean energy future.

More details on the 2024 Climate Jobs Summit will be released by CJI in the near future.