The impending end of the coal age is both a victory and a necessity for humanity. As we stare down the barrel of a drastically altered climate and potentially catastrophic impacts, it is the end of an era not a moment too soon. But as the sun-sets on coal we must acknowledge the enormous human cost to the workers who have spent generations in this industry, and support them to find new opportunities to thrive. Leaving people behind is not an option.
In this blog post for the National Geographic's Years of Living Dangerously series B Team Leader David Crane shares his experiences working closely with coal workers while CEO of NRG Energy. These were the people who powered American prosperity through the 20th century and into the 21st, he writes, and who should be listened to, respected and supported as we look to the next era of clean energy.
With clean energy jobs growing significantly in the U.S the last 12 months, against dirty energy's contracting labour market, the opportunities are there, but there need to be clear plans and pathways for the workers—like the ones Crane speaks of—to realize them. If we succeed in doing this we will be on our way to ensuring a transition to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy which leaves no one behind.