A new report on ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, written by vivideconomics and commissioned by WWF Scotland was published on January 23rd. ‘A Climate of Possibility: Harnessing Scotland’s natural resources to end our contribution to climate change’ argues that:
Scotland is a country laden with natural advantages for net zero. From our abundant renewable energy resource, to our large land area suitable for carbon sinks such as forests and restored peatlands, to our history of innovation and skilled workforce, this report shows we can hit net zero before other UK nations and be among the global leaders on this issue.
There’s much to be commended in the introduction to the report. The authors are absolutely right that we have multiple options. However, as the report develops, one option, Greenhouse Gas Reduction through Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), is given prominence. In my view this is unhelpful. CCS is an unproven technology that would be capital intensive (making the involvement of corporations inevitable) and take longer than we’ve got. A specialist paper on CCS notes that
Although technologies regarding the capture and storage of CO2 exist, the overall cost of using current CCS procedures is still high and must be substantially reduced before it can be widely deployed. There are multiple hurdles to CCS deployment that need to be addressed in the coming years, including the absence of a clear business case for investment in CCS, and the absence of robust economic incentives to support the additional high capital and operating costs associated with CCS.
The fundamental point is (see ScotE3 Briefing 3: Time for action ) that the world desperately needs sources of energy which are clean, secure and affordable, and which can be readily put under democratic control. Fossil fuels have none of those characteristics. To continue to extract, burn and rely on them, and depend on greenhouse gas removal to address climate change, would mean continuing with insecurity of supply, oil imperialism and wars (Venezuela and Iran examples currently in the news), and high energy prices in order to meet the profit margin requirements of the big corporations who control their extraction and distribution. A focus on CCS plays into the hands of the corporations.
NB We’d welcome further contributions on this topic.
image from commons.wikimedia.org
We met on 16th January in Glasgow and 17th January in Edinburgh. Here’s the composite notes of the discussion at the two meetings. If you’d like to get involved in any of the proposed activity do email on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Outputs from the Just Transitions Conference in Edinburgh on 17th November 2018:
- Videos of the plenary contributions – see scot.e3.wordpress.com
- A draft manifesto for a Just Transition in Scotland. A first version, a synthesis of the discussion on 17th November, has been circulated. It is intended as a basis for further development. All suggestions welcome.
- A pamphlet/online resource focused on climate jobs and just transition. This has yet to be started on, but we have much of the text already in the Briefings (there are now nine of these). It was agreed that a small team should be gathered for this task. PC agreed to lead on this ER and CM agreed to be critical readers and EC agreed to transcribe the text of Andrew Feinstein’s talk at the conference.
- We now have a simple constitution and a bank account (see details on website home page). For the latter we needed to submit a draft business plan. This was tabled and could be further developed. It was agreed that the plan should include explicit working aims, consistent with the implicit approach we’ve taken so far. These might look something like:
- Aims to contribute to a mass social movement that will make a transition towards a zero-carbon economy possible – in doing so it works with environmental, trade union and community groups
- Argues for transition policies that ensure social justice (Just Transition)
- Campaigns for 100,000 Climate Jobs in Scotland
- Focuses on education, agitation and organisation at a rank and file level to ensure that policy ideas are implemented with the urgency that is required
- Provides a platform for sharing information, ideas and discussion
- The Just Transitions Conference Accounts were tabled, showing a balance of £0.40
- Actions to be addressed now:
- Sharing the Draft Manifesto widely, identifying organisations to send it to, and encouraging them to discuss, debate, modify the draft and make it their own. A working group needs to be established for this. We already have three invitations to speak – from the Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh, the Fife Trades Council Women’s Conference in March, and Bella Caledonia
- Set up a small team to write the pamphlet/online resource (see item 1 above)
- Gather fund-raising ideas
- Organise to attend the STUC conference in Dundee in April
- Gather ideas for new briefings and other kinds of resources; the Economics of Just Transition was suggested as a subject of a briefing
- Raise funds to upgrade the website so that it can support debate and discussion
- Agreed to prioritise contributing to the debate and discussion around the Fuel Poverty bill that will be going through the Scottish Parliament – argue that it should include more urgent deadlines and should be integral to a developing strategy for Just Transition
- Agreed to write a response to the criticism of just transition by GMB Scotland and to ask Common Space if they would publish it
- Begin to think about another conference in 2019 – there was a suggestion that the theme might be alternative economic plans to support transition
- Dates of next meetings: Wednesday 20th February at 7.00pm in Glasgow, at Scottish CND office and Thursday 21st February at 7.00pm in Edinburgh, at the Peace and Justice Centre
The latest Scot.E3 briefing looks at what we mean by Just Transition and how a focus on climate jobs, workers rights and social justice can be core the the transition to a zero carbon economy. Please download, use in your workplace and community group. These briefings are produced under an open license so do feel free to adapt – although we’d appreciate if you include attribution to the existing material and if you can send a copy for further sharing/development.
In June 2018 we published a briefing on the perilous state of the nuclear reactors at Hunterston and Torness. The reactors at Hunterston have been offline since then while inspection of the graphite cylinders in the reactor core takes place. With around 28% of the core inspected the Ferret has now revealed that 370 major cracks have been found in the graphite core of reactor three and 200 cracks in the core of reactor four. To put this in context there are 3000 graphite blocks in each reactor.
EDF Energy who run the reactors intend to apply for permission to reopen production in March or April this year. In the view of environmental radiologist Ian Fairlie, who spoke at the Scottish Parliament and at meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow this week such a move is fraught with risk. The level of damage to the reactor cores is such that they should be permanently shut down.
At the Edinburgh talk Ian noted that Hunterston is now probably the oldest operating nuclear reactor in the world. It first generated electricity in 1976 and was designed to run for 30 years. Currently it’s scheduled for closure in 2023. EDF have previously applied for five-year extensions and there is every likelihood they plan to do so again.
The cylindrical graphite blocks are critical to the stability and safety of the reactors. The cracks form in pairs, running the full length of the cylinders and splitting them apart. Under normal conditions the others around them hold the cracked blocks in place. However, a sudden outage, steam surge or earth tremor could result in a serious accident and a large release of radioactive gas. If other safety systems were to fail – and they are untested – there is a possibility of a catastrophic accident on the scale of Chernobyl. The direction of the prevailing wind would take the radioactive plume across Glasgow, Edinburgh and most of the central belt.
EDF are under political and economic pressure to keep the reactors operating. The political pressure comes from Westminster and a strong emphasis on nuclear. The economic pressure is arguably more acute. EDF are in a financial crisis, €37 billion in debt and needing more than €200 billion to bankroll commitments in construction, refurbishment and decommissioning. Hunterston and Torness, when operational, are a significant source of income to the firm.
The continued operation of these aging power stations is a real threat to the lives and well being of the Scottish population. Permanent closure and a focus on renewables is the safe and sustainable alternative.