Quan Nguyen was the Scottish Coordinator of the COP26 Coalition. His recent article reflecting on how the climate movement has developed since COP26 is well worth reading.
Here we publish a personal response to Quan’s article from retired oil worker Neil Rothnie. This is an important discussion, and we’d love to publish more views. If you’d like to write something, or perhaps be interviewed, please use the Contact tab to get in touch.
I think we can share the confidence of Quan’s final thought that;
“ . . . . we are still standing and can rise again to challenge the heart of Europe’s fossil fuel capitalism on its own soil.”
And this from the man who has more reason than most to be “tired and exhausted”. Because on top of his big job as Scottish Coordinator of the COP26 Coalition, he also led the hugely successful and well organised weeklong Climate Camps. This year the 2022 camp challenged the UK climate movement’s London-centricity, and confronted the international oil and gas industry in its European capital by occupying the Torry dock of Aberdeen harbour and laying down a marker for the whole movement. Sooner rather than later the job of shutting down the North Sea will have to be carried out by a movement that has the active support of the masses. Who thinks the industry/government conspiracy will do it themselves in a planned way that avoids climate chaos and gives us renewable energy? Looks like Quan thinks that that scenario is a fantasy.
This of course begs the question of what part in this transition – the “real” transition not the greenwashing shite that Quan warns about – will be played by the oil workers, their families and friends and neighbours in communities throughout the country. An issue we in ScotE3 have been grappling with at some length. And more thought needs to be given.
When Quan deals with the lessons of COP26, his call is for a rethink of what he sees as a form of“protest” that no longer works. His analysis is a hard read but his conclusion that:
“We need to recognise that the climate crisis will worsen and there is no blueprint for the climate movement to follow towards climate justice”.
surely opens up a space for a detailed examination of his thoughts on the lessons. Perhaps others reading this post might want to look at the problems he perceives in more detail.
I’d never heard of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who both Quan and Naomi Klein champion. But we could do a lot worse than give serious attention to his 4 themes. Quan pulls the 3rd and 4th together as,
“We need to defend the complexity and diversity of our own movement, and create our own spaces, not consume ready-made action plans that lead to nowhere.”
At one level, this is exactly what Climate Camp Scotland was doing in partnership with local oppositionists to Shell’s Ethylene plant at Mossmorran last year, and the Friends of St Fittick’s in Torry in Aberdeen this year.
Action at the 2021 Climate Camp at Mossmorran
Certainly the “complexity and the diversity” was there for all to see in those who turned out and made the camps a huge success. But I’m guessing that there is another level at which this theme is even more relevant. “Our own spaces” must surely be understood not only as our camps, and the spaces we control when we take our actions onto the streets, but also (even more so?) as our communities – the geographical areas in which we share our everyday lives and where we can begin to take some real control. “The diversity and complexity” is surely our neighbours in all their uniqueness and individuality. “The ready made plans that lead to nowhere” surely the poverty and cold mapped out for us by government in lock step with oil industry profiteering and investor dividends, all predicated on the weaponisation of North Sea gas,
“The ready-made action plans” are also the endlessly failing blah blah blah of successive COPs that lead not to “nowhere” but to global climate disaster already breaking out now in the Pakistan floods, now in the Sudanese drought and famine, and Net Zero obfuscation everywhere.
And where can we “fix our own democracy” if not in our own communities? It’s here that the lessons we are learning in the climate justice movement about inclusivity can be fought for amongst the widest layers of society in the coming actual everyday struggles to access warmth and food and companionship in the face of the cold, hunger and debt that the billionaires both in and outside government and in the markets and in the oil and gas industry have planned for many of us this winter. There’s no way that what Quan calls “Fossil Capitalism” can be ended without the active participation of the widest layers of society. We need to go where the people are. They’re in their communities getting ready to face cold and hunger. The climate justice movement needs to begin to think about being there with them, engaging in conversations and organising in solidarity. We have a common enemy – North Sea gas.
When Quan says that;
“We need to recognise that the climate crisis will worsen and there is no blueprint for the climate movement to follow towards climate justice.”
He’s surely saying that there’s going to be no rational transition to renewables – no peaceful road to climate justice. What chance that the RMT union, let alone other oil and gas investors, can break their addiction to Shell and BP dividends, or that the banks and the markets are prepared to voluntarily slaughter the golden goose? All indications are that the exact opposite is the plan that they just cannot deviate from. They’ll transition only when the last dollar has been made from the last profitable barrel of oil and gas from the North Sea. It’s called “maximising economic recovery” and it’s the UK government plan handed to them by Sir Ian Wood. And if this is the industry plan in the UK, you can bet that it’s the industry plan everywhere. And we all know that by that time it’ll be too late. As Quan says,“Time is running out”
One way or another we are facing, I think, a huge discontinuity. Piper Alpha, Deepwater Horizon, the trashing of the Niger Delta, in fact the trashing of almost everywhere the industry sets foot in, is how the global oil industry organises. Dictatorial regimes around the world are the industry’s preferred stomping grounds. The myth of an organised and orderly North Sea Transition as espoused by Deirdre Michie of Oil & Gas UK, and other industry leaders, politicians and union apologists couldn’t be further from the traditional methods of, and outcomes of, the industry. There’s no peaceful road to oil and gas, no peaceful transition, to sustainability. Unaffordable North Sea gas and the unaffordable electricity it underpins have been weaponized, and are guided missiles launched straight into our homes to destroy our personal economies, and if unchallenged, our lives.