No new subsidies for big biomass plants

Scot.E3 has joined with many other campaigns and individuals in calling on the Westminster Government not to use renewable subsidies to support wood burning power stations. We reprint the Biofuel Watch Press Statement here. The Biofuel Watch website includes links to further reading and sources.

Hundreds of environmental campaigners are calling on the UK Government to take urgent climate action by ensuring that future renewable subsidies are not used to fund burning trees in UK power stations. Over 800 individuals as well as 20 environmental campaign organisations have submitted critical comments to the consultation, which sets out proposals on how to award future renewable electricity subsidies, called Contracts for Difference (CfDs). 

Image by Chris Allen CC BY SA 2.0.   

The NGOs and individual respondents to the consultation have called on the Government to ensure that safeguards vital for meeting climate commitments are reaffirmed, ones which would prevent new subsidies for large biomass plants reliant on imported wood from trees. They have urged the Government to protect forest ecosystems and the climate by ensuring that all future renewable power subsidies go to the cleanest forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, rather than to more wood-burning power stations.

In 2018, the government announced new greenhouse gas and efficiency standards for CfD awards, which resulted in virtually all renewable power subsidies awarded since then going to lower carbon offshore wind and not to polluting biomass plants that emit at least as much CO2 as coal plants per unit of energy. They stated that failure to apply those changes “would lead to greenhouse gas emissions significantly above the projected UK grid average for most of the lifetime of [biomass] CfD projects”. The government’s proposal for future CfD awards, which they have just consulted on, makes no mention of extending those safeguards. The safeguards will automatically lapse unless they are explicitly extended.

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch said: “The UK already pays some £1.3 billion in subsidies for burning more wood in power plants than any other country in the world. At least, in 2018, the government’s new standards stopped the expansion of inefficient, high-carbon wood burning for electricity and thereby mobilised more money for non-emissive wind power. The government must not let those safeguards lapse now, after parliament acknowledged the climate emergency. It must not allow any more renewables subsidies to be misspent on a high-carbon source of energy which also harms wildlife and communities.”

Rita Frost from Dogwood Alliance added: “Following last Friday’s International Day for Biodiversity, I want to highlight the devastation that the biomass industry causes in the natural world. Living in the Southeastern forests of the North American Coastal Plain, I’ve been in awe of the remarkable biological diversity that’s all around me, and saddened by the devastating destruction of forest ecosystems by the biomass industry. Every day, this world-class biological hotspot of diversity, that includes species found nowhere else on the planet, is destroyed to make wood pellets for utilities like Drax [the world’s largest biomass power station, in Yorkshire]. The government has committed to planting 30,000 hectares of trees a year across the UK by 2025. Yet, just in the Southern U.S. in 2018 alone, over 43,000 hectares of forests were destroyed to feed Drax’s demand. No further biomass projects should receive government support.”  

David Carr from the Southern Environmental Law Center stated: “It is very worrying that we didn’t see any confirmation in the consultation document that the Government will apply the same emissions and efficiency standards to new biomass plants in future as it did in 2018 and ‘19. Those standards were hard-won by environmental campaigners as well as scientists showing the true climate impacts of cutting down trees for burning. We urge BEIS not to backtrack on its own commitments at this crucial juncture for the climate and biodiversity.”

Survey

Platform and Friends of the Earth Scotland are carrying out a survey to gather information on the effect of the oil crisis and COVID-19 on job security and work conditions and to understand how the campaign for a ‘Just Transition’ is perceived by oil and gas workers and what kinds of demands workers would like to see addressed by a transition to net-zero. 

The survey is directed at people employed in

  • The oil and gas industry
  • The supply chain (such as aviation, transport, car manufacturing and service industries)
  • Public bodies, unions or community organisations who regularly interact with the oil and gas industry and supply chain

If you fall in to one of these categories do take the time to complete the survey.

Scotland, Norway, Climate Jobs and Covid 19

The economies of Norway and Scotland have both been shaped by 50 years of exploitation of North Sea oil and gas. Both countries have governments that talk about tackling the climate crisis while remaining wedded to the further extraction of oil and gas from the North Sea basin.  There is however, a sharp divide between the two countries.  After 50 years Norway has the biggest Sovereign wealth fund in the world.  Scotland in contrast has no such fund and UK governments since the 70’s have pursued taxation policies that have resulted in massive net subsidies to the oil industry.  Right now job losses are taking place in the Scottish sector as companies respond to the overproduction of oil and the drop in price – in the worst-case scenario this could mean (including the multiplier effect) up to a quarter of a million jobs lost in Scotland out of a total workforce of 2.6m.

On the 24th May we were fortunate to hear from Andreas Ytterstad who is part of the Norwegian Climate Jobs Campaign – Bridge to the Future.  You can watch a video of Andreas’ introduction below.  This was followed by a very lively discussion in the course of which participants shared questions, ideas and links to resources.  It’s hard to do justice to such a rich discussion but in the rest of this post we have sketched a summary of the issues raised and included links to further reading and useful resources. 

Summary of the discussion

Andreas and others argued that state intervention and public control is essential for just transition. The door we’ve been pushing against is now slightly open – for example the growing scepticism in the Finance Department of even the right-wing Norwegian Government about further investment in oil extraction. All governments are now under huge financial pressure from increased expenditure and reduced receipts in the Covid-19 pandemic. This is an entirely new situation – we can push for things we couldn’t realistically push for before. Oil companies have no interest in funding transition, especially as they are led by men coming to the end of their working lives, not up for taking risks.

There was a lot of discussion about Climate Jobs, what they are and their relative importance in the overall economy.  Speakers noted the importance of studies by the Million Climate Jobs Campaign and the Green European Foundation in establishing a rigorous case for climate jobs.  Andreas noted that even if the current target number is too small it could act as the battering ram to break through to State acceptance of Climate Jobs and Just Transition.  He argued the need to win acceptance of the idea but that by itself it was insufficient.  The campaign also requires the agency of workers as active participants to ensure that ideas become implemented. Offshore workers’ skills will be important in new housing, energy efficiency retrofit of buildings and public transport. We are going to need huge numbers of Climate Jobs across all sectors, not just the energy sector. An aerospace worker added that there is also huge need for Climate Jobs arising from redundancies in the Aerospace industry.

Andreas noted that regional variation is important in planning and achieving Just transition. It will be most difficult in communities, which have grown and are now entirely dependent on oil.  Aberdeen is similar to Norwegian examples, but less remote and therefore more easily incorporated into a national plan. In the meantime we should support even defensive actions by these communities. One speaker noted that in England, Sheffield and County Durham for example, are both developing their own Climate Jobs / Just Transition plans. In both Norway and Scotland (and England) there’s potential for local and regional state authorities to join the Climate Jobs movement.  There were questions and contributions on the role of local authorities from contributors in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Other questions raised in discussion included:

How to fund the transition? Without a national investment bank how can manufacturing of renewables and other socially useful products for climate jobs be financed?

What are these green jobs?

Who will create them?

Who will fund these new jobs/businesses?

What is the response from Norwegian oil workers to transition jobs?

Will the jobs be from the private sector, or subsidised by national/regional governments, or state/regional publicly owned and financed?  Responses to this included ‘That’s fundamental  – I think the devil is not just in the detail of when or how much but also who will own it!  In Aberdeen the oil and local political establishment have ignored and then when they had to, slowly started to talk about transition but mainly to manage it and make sure they were still in control of transition!  What about pushing for transition without them in control?  Where all could the money be taken from.’

What does anyone think of case of Uruguay?  

More links and further reading

Andreas Ytterstad writing on climate jobs for the Open Democracy website

Scottish Government Energy Strategy

Aberdeen City Council consultation and net zero vision

Sea Change Report – the case for transition from North Sea Oil and Gas

In Scotland the Common Weal “Our Common Home Plan” outlines a way in which a six of passive measures to REDUCE energy requirements in buildings AND improve well-being. 

Call to Action

Read the call to action on global climate jobs

A Planet to Win

On Friday evening (15th May) three of the authors of ‘A Planet to Win – why we need a green new deal’ joined us from the United States to talk about the issues that are raised in their book.  The video of their introduction to the meeting is included in this post.  

While the book focuses on the US and draws inspiration from the original New Deal its themes resonated with the participants in the event – mostly from Scotland but also from England and the Republic of Ireland.  In an overview of the book Thea Riofrancos asks ‘what kind of labour movement do we need to win a green new deal and argues for the importance of broadening the idea of Just Transition and Climate Jobs to include care and social reproduction; a position that we have adopted in Scot.E3.

It’s impossible to do full justice to the range of issues raised in the discussion.  Participants raised the issue of housing and home insulation. In Scotland, well over 90% of the homes expected to be in use in 2050 have already been built – so dealing with the current buildings and current layout of cities is key to reducing emissions from the built environment.   Several people picked up on the issue of care and noted that the pandemic has underscored the fact that while care jobs should be central to a green new deal they have to be valued equally and paid equally to other jobs.

A Planet To Win lays the blame for the climate crisis on the fossil fuel companies – one participant suggested that staging a mock trial of CEO’s (and politicians?) for crimes against humanity might help take this view into the mainstream.   There’s a useful link to who the leading ‘criminals’ are on the Why Green Economy site

We didn’t have time to properly explore another question that was raised about how capitalist growth drives the continuing degradation of the climate.  There is a useful article on Degrowth in a recent issue of the Ecologist.  

There were also contribution on food and land use, taxation, the value of discussions that bring people together across national boundaries, the need to find new ways of using and conserving natural resources and the impact of  extractivism on the global south.  The final question before the speakers rounded up raised issues of the role of the state and the challenge of avoiding cooption by organisations whose purpose in proposing change is in fact to maintain the status quo.

If you were at the meeting or have watched the video we’d welcome contributions to this site on any of the issues raised.  

You can buy the book from Lighthouse Books who cohosted the event.

Covid19 and Oil Extractivism

In recent weeks we’ve published a number of articles on the impact of the drop in global oil prices on employment in North Sea oil and gas and on the urgent need to protect workers in the midst of the pandemic and seize the opportunity to organise for a rapid and just transition to renewables. Simon Pirani, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies spoke at our 10th May public meeting.

You can watch the video of Simon’s talk here:

As background to the talk and for more information on the North Sea Oil and Gas industry you might also like to read the report on taxation and subsidies to the oil companies operating on the North Sea that we published in February.

If you’d like to look at Simon’s slides without watching the full video you can see them here:

We have a small number of Simon’s book available at the reduced price of £11 (postage extra). Email triple.e.scot@gmail.com if you’d like a copy.

CLIMATE JOBS ARE AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME

This call to action is supported by:

Scot E3 (Scotland), Campaign against Climate Change (UK), Climaximo (Portugal), Bridge to the Future (Norway) and One Million Climate Jobs (South Africa)

We are asking organisations and individuals to add their names and to share with friends and networks. If you are happy to add your name to the statement please email contact@globalclimatejobs.org and copy to triple.e.scot@gmail.com. Please make it clear whether you are supporting as an individual or on behalf of an organisation. We will forward your details to the coalition of Climate Jobs campaigns who have produced the statement.

The covid pandemic has also shown what happens when governments ignore scientific warnings. Terrible as that has been, the effects of climate change will be far worse. We need to act now.

Humanity faces an environmental crisis and an economic crisis. Unemployment is rising at dizzying speed. We will need Green New Deals to put very large numbers of people back to work, fix our health and care systems, and meet human needs. Climate jobs must be a central part of this. 

On the one hand, we need to do a thousand things to halt climate change. But by far the most important is to stop burning coal, oil and gas. These fossil fuels are now used for electricity, transport, heating and industry. We can, and must, cut those emissions by at least 95%. 

However, humans will still need heat, energy, shelter, transport and material goods. So as we close down the old, we must build new alternatives. That’s where climate jobs come in. 

On the other hand, the world is entering into recession and financial crisis at a dizzying pace. It is clear that governments in many countries will now offer hundreds of billions, and probably trillions of dollars, to rescue troubled banks, oil companies, aviation companies, and other corporations. The workers in those industries will be laid off. We need to spend that money on climate jobs for workers – a stimulus that can help human beings who need jobs, instead of bankers and share prices.       

When we say “climate jobs”, we don’t just mean any worthwhile green job. We mean jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. The main jobs in most countries will be in renewable energy, building smart grids, public transport, new housing, converting old buildings, conversion of industry, forestry, helping farmers, and waste.

There is no reason for delay. We already have all the technology we need. Promises today of action in ten or thirty years are either pious hopes or lies. We need deep cuts in emissions next year, and every year after. That means massive numbers of climate jobs next year too.

Corporations and the market have had decades to solve the problem. They have not done so. We could argue about whether they can eventually do it. But it is clear that they will not act in time. Only governments can raise the amounts of money needed for climate jobs to replace almost all the fossil fuels we burn now. And only governments will do the many essential things which make no profit. So most of the jobs will have to be in the public sector.

Climate jobs, and wider Green New Deals, are a necessity. They are also a strategy for mobilising a mass climate movement. For too long the enemies of climate action have said we have to choose between jobs and the environment. Climate jobs projects cut through all that – we will have more jobs and save the climate.

Public sector climate jobs will also mean we can promise retraining and new jobs to miners, oil workers and other carbon workers. That is morally right. It is also politically important. 

Humanity will never halt climate change without the organised and enthusiastic support of small farmers and workers in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The majority of people killed and ruined by climate change will also come from those continents. Most of them will be poor. But they will not fight to stay poor. Climate jobs means they can fight for a low carbon world with an alternative path to development. Climate jobs, and wider Green New Deals, can make poverty history. 

The idea of climate jobs first came naturally from trade unionists. But we need a far wider and stronger movement than that. That means climate strikers, climate activists, trade unionists, scientists, engineers, voters and Earthlings campaigning together, in many different ways. Each country is different, and there is much to debate everywhere about how climate jobs projects could work. But we need a global campaign, in every country, growing until we reach a tipping point where humanity can rescue the future of life on Earth.  

Download the statement here.

COP 26 Coalition Statement

COVID-19 Statement: Multiple Crises, Common Injustices

Scot.E3 has signed up to the coalition statement

From soaring death-tolls to the threat of global famine, COVID-19, designated by the World Health Organisation as a pandemic only a month ago, has brought about the rapid disruption of our world economy like no other event in human history.


This is a public health crisis, but it’s also an unprecedented crisis of inequality, as lockdown guidelines, implemented around the world, are followed by the collapse of entire industries, unprecedented spikes in unemployment, a growing scarcity of essential commodities as a consequence of the ongoing disruption to global supply chains, and huge social dislocation arising from these.


A worldwide crisis is being exposed, of lack of access to even basic infrastructure – housing, clean water, energy and food – that would make a lockdown viable for many millions of people around the world. As the negative impacts of disruption set in, it’s the people most deprived of this basic infrastructure that feel the hardest impacts.


Inequalities of race, gender, age and ability are being exacerbated. Those with the means and security to self-isolate and access medical support are able to do so, while those without are left to suffer the consequences.


There are currently more than 70 million people around the world that have been forcibly displaced from their homes. 3 billion people have no access to hand-washing facilities.


This devastating level of deprivation undermines our collective power to contain and suppress the ongoing spread of new disease. We’ve seen no clearer illustration of the way that global inequality threatens the collective security of all of us.


The COVID-19 crisis and the inequalities it exposes are set against the backdrop of our greater ecological crisis. As the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has warned us, this crisis sees humanity on course for a century of “climate apartheid” as the impacts of rising temperatures fall with violent disproportionality between the wealthy and the poor.


As the repercussions of this pandemic plunge the world into deeper economic turmoil, we know that it’s those living already on the frontlines of climate crisis – indigenous communities, subsistence farmers, coastal communities and the urban poor, particularly in the global south – whose lives and livelihoods will again be most at risk.


Even before this pandemic, COP26 was billed as a crucial staging post in the challenge of bringing the world’s political leaders and civil society organisations together to achieve consensus on a pathway to rapidly reducing carbon emissions while building global resilience in the face of climate breakdown.


Necessarily postponed until 2021, COP26 will now be the first meeting of the world’s climate leaders in the wake of COVID-19. We will have survived one of the world’s worst public health crises in a century and we will be seeking a pathway to recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.


COP26 will now be a vital arena in which to demand that this recovery, as yet to be imagined, be both a green recovery, and crucially a just recovery, that tackles the scourge of global inequality at the root, while reducing carbon emissions.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the deep inequalities in our structures, and highlighted the vulnerabilities of ecological, social and economic systems. But it has also shown how we can and must respond to crises. Our response must put the most vulnerable and marginalised first. It must be urgent and ambitious. It must be democratic, and we must resist authoritarian attempts to use crisis responses to increase their power and control. It must be based on transformative, people-centered solutions rather than political and economic business as usual, and it must be informed by whole systems thinking to ensure a truly just transition.


As we’re now discovering so vividly, our futures are deeply interconnected; whether we acknowledge that or not, there is no path to ecological balance that doesn’t start by putting the goals of social and economic justice front and centre.


Now is not the time to stop talking about climate change. Now is the time to raise our voices even louder, to call out the profiteers, to resist exploitation, to build power and stand in global solidarity as we prepare to tackle multiple crises and fight common injustices.
If you wish to add your group/organisation to the list of signatories, please do so by filling this form.

‘The Plan’

At last night’s meeting held jointly with Edinburgh CND we showed the 30 minute version of Steve Sprung’s film about the Lucas Plan. We strongly recommend watching the full version and you can find out more about the film at the dedicated website. You can also follow up on current developments via the new Lucas Plan website. If you weren’t able to make the meeting you can watch the 30 minute version here https://vimeo.com/305253552

A transition to renewables is coming but will it be a just transition

James Masson is a university student who is also involved with environmental activism. Coming from the North East of Scotland Just Transition is of particular interest to him.  We are really pleased that he’s given us permission to republish this article on Just Transition, which was written as a journalism project.

In recent years, climate change has become a key issue and we are only starting to realise the full impact that it could have on our lives. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth report stated in 2013 that they are 95% confident that climate change is being caused by humans burning greenhouse gases. More recently the UN Chief called climate change an existential threat to humanity. In light of the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is bad for the planet and therefore all life on Earth it seems obvious to suggest we stop burning fossil fuels, and of course we should. However, we cannot forget about all the jobs and money tied up in the fossil fuel industry. 

The North East of Scotland is a region that depends upon the oil and gas sector for much of its wealth. Scottish government stats show that in 2019 the oil and gas sector accounts for £16.2 billion or 9% or Scotland’s economy. The high concentration of fossil fuel jobs within the North East has meant that the employment rate in Aberdeenshire, in 2018, was 82.3% compared to the UK average of 74.8%.

 The North East relies heavily on the existence of the oil and gas sector for its prosperity and therefore we must replace the oil and gas industry with an equally strong industry that will mean the local area isn’t hurt economically. This is a concept that is referred to as a just transition. The aim of a just transition is to ensure that communities reliant on fossil fuel industries are not economically disadvantaged when moving away from fossil fuels and are provided with opportunities to grow economically in other sectors, namely the renewable industry. 

If we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change a just transition needs to happen very soon. Scotland just like the rest of the world is warming at an alarming rate.

Read the rest of James’ article here.

Report from Edinburgh May Day

The annual Edinburgh May Day rally moved online this year. Scot.E3 had a contingent on the 2019 march and we were pleased to support and publicise this year’s rally. All the speeches (and excellent music) are online at the Edinburgh and Lothians May Day website. Well worth listening to if you weren’t able to make the event and sharing with friends and workmates. We heard from Asad Rehman (Director of War on Want), Mary Senior (UCU and STUC), Kate Rutter (actor and socialist) and Quan Nguyen (Climate Camp. To wet your appetite here’s most of Asad’s contribution.