Support Alexander Dennis – Green Buses for Just Transition

Thanks to Friends of the Earth Scotland for sharing this information.  The skills of the workforce at Alexander Dennis and the production facilities are vital for the transition to a zero carbon economy.

Background 
Despite the Scottish Government’s fine rhetoric on climate action and just transition, hundreds of workers are currently at risk of redundancy at Alexander Dennis (ADL), the Falkirk-based manufacturer of high-performance hybrid buses. Unite the Union has found evidence that despite the claims of ADL, these job cuts were planned before the health crisis as part of a restructure strategy. Like the still under threat BiFab offshore platform fabrication yards in Fife, Alexander Dennis should be at the forefront of the just transition to a zero carbon economy, not struggling for survival. 

Why your help is needed
Environmentalists and climate change campaigners can stand in solidarity with workers fighting to save their jobs – jobs that are vital to the green economy and protecting livelihoods.  


Please support the @UniteScotland and @UniteADL campaign on social media, and call for MSPs to sign motion S5M-22467 in the Scottish Parliament. The text of the motion is below, along with links to suggested tweets to share and tweets to send directly to MSPs. 

A demonstration of solidarity like this from environmentalists and climate change campaigners with workers and trade unionists will help build stronger alliances and a broader movement for climate action. Please take action today! 

Scottish Parliament Motion

Motion S5M-22467: Richard Leonard, Central Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/08/2020 R

Importance of Engineering and Manufacturing to the Scottish Economy

That the Parliament recognises and affirms its support for the importance of engineering and manufacturing to the Scottish economy; considers that the sector will play a crucial role in a just transition to a cleaner and greener economy; expresses its concern at the announcement by Alexander Dennis Limited, a world leading bus manufacturer, that a significant number of jobs throughout its UK operations are at risk, including at sites in Falkirk and Larbert; recognises the serious impact that this would have on thousands of workers, and calls on the Scottish Government to offer every assistance to support the company and its skilled workforce and to work with it and the trade unions to ensure that it has an important future in supporting the development of a clean and green public transport infrastructure for communities across Scotland and further afield.

Tweets to retweet 
If you’re short on time, please retweet these focused at UK & Scot Govs

If @NicolaSturgeon wants a cleaner, greener future then jobs like @ADLbus will be crucial to making this a success. 

Time for @scotgov to support these key manufacturing jobs in Falkirk.
https://twitter.com/UniteADL/status/1303762702616190976 

We’re still waiting on action from @BorisJohnson and @GOVUK. 4,000 green buses were promised. Our members at @ADLbus are ready to build them.

Suggested text to tweet @ your MSPs

If you want to engage your MSP, share this tweet with them. Find out who is your MSP

We call on MSPs to support @ScotParl Motion https://bit.ly/2D5cVOH 

@ADLbus workers want to be part of a cleaner greener future. @UniteScotland @unitetheunion

If you want to ask your MSP to sign the motion

Hi

@XXXXXMSP

Bus manufacturing is essential to the green economy – Alexander Dennis should be thriving & at forefront of#JustTransition to zero carbon, not struggling for survival.

As my MSP, please support the motion bit.ly/2D5cVOH 

@UniteADL

@UniteScotland

If you want to thank your MSP for signing the motion (we should remember to praise MSPs when they do good stuff!)

Hi

@XXXXXMSP

Bus manufacturing is essential to the green economy – Alexander Dennis should be thriving & at forefront of#JustTransition to zero carbon, not struggling for survival. 

Alexander Dennis – time for action

Alexander Dennis, based in Falkirk, is internationally important as a manufacturer of double decker buses.  In the wake of Covid19 it faces a short-term decline in orders.  The response of its new owners, Canadian firm NFI, is to cut 650 jobs.

Clean, sustainable public transport is a critical part of the transition to a zero-carbon economy and Alexander Dennis is a world leader in building all-electric and hydrogen powered buses.  The skills of the workforce at Alexander Dennis will be essential in reshaping the way we use energy, the way we produce and the way we live in response to the climate crisis.  Sacking 650 workers will blight lives, wreck futures and set back the struggle for a just transition to a new sustainable economy.  

In an excellent article in today’s Source Direct Ben Wray notes that the company is asking the government to buy the buses that private operators are not buying at the moment.  We do need government action, but as we argued recently in ‘Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save the Planet’ such action needs to be planned and systemic.  It needs to tackle issues of safe public transport and it needs to look forward to the zero-carbon future.  The private sector is incapable of this kind of joined up thinking.  Saving jobs, skills and livelihoods at Alexander Dennis should be seen as part of the broader campaign of taking public transport into public control.

All the signs are, however, that any Scottish Government action is unlikely to measure up to either the immediate crisis in Falkirk or the longer-term crisis of climate.  There is a huge gap between the government’s rhetoric on just transition and just recovery and their actions.  So how do we turn this round?  I’d argue that to make progress we need to think in terms of a ‘worker led just transition’.  It’s hard, but collectively we need to take every opportunity to turn the slogan into real action.  At a time of public health and climate crisis, when the wealth of the super-rich is rocketing up, and the Westminster government is spending billions on contracts to their friends and bailouts to big business, redundancies in carbon-saving jobs are unacceptable.  One option would be for Alexander Dennis workers to refuse to accept redundancy and occupy the factory.  Combined with a public campaign for socially useful production as a part of a just transition this would have huge resonance in Scottish society and could provide common cause to the trade union and climate movements.  The 1971 occupation of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders is a model – but this could be so much bigger.

Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save the Planet

Support Alexander Dennis Workers

Take Public Transport and Public Transport vehicle production into public ownership

Pete Cannell

Dennis Enviro 400XLB by dmilburn007 CC BY SA 4.0

Decarbonising our heating systems

Leeds TUC’s Environmental sub-committee held a webinar recently on ‘Alternative ways to decarbonise our heating systems’ – the video includes a lot of useful information and some sharp critique of the idea that’ blue hydrogen’ could be a way forward.

Thanks to Les Levidov for the link

Act Now: save lives, save jobs, save the planet

Yesterday saw the publication of ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland’. The report was written by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with a remit to make recommendations to the Scottish Government. As Ben Wray notes in today’s edition of Source Direct the report is strong on buzzwords but devoid of real urgency and concrete proposals. The end of this week is also the deadline for submissions to the Just Transition Commission. As a contribution to this debate we publish the near final draft of Scot.E3’s submission, which makes the case for radical and immediate action on the climate crisis.

Climate Crisis

There has been a yawning gap between the Scottish Government’s rhetoric on the climate crisis and its actions. Vaunted cuts in domestic greenhouse gas emissions are almost entirely attributable to the greening of electricity production and the export of emissions as a result of deindustrialization.   To date the Scottish Government’s actions have failed to measure up to the urgency of the crisis.  

Covid19

However, the impact of Covid19 on society and the economy provides an opportunity to take decisive action.  Job losses in the North Sea oil and gas sector, as a result of the impact on oil and gas prices, are already significant and are increasing rapidly.  There have been layoffs before , however, this time round many analysts are predicting that the sector is unlikely to bounce back.  These redundancies will have a direct additional effect on employment in the supply chain and an indirect effect on local economies, particularly in North East Scotland.  The North Sea is only part of a much larger employment crisis in Scotland that includes tourism, some sectors of manufacturing, education and retail.  

The economic and social dislocation of Covid19 is having a massive impact on the lives and livelihoods of working people in Scotland and across the world.  Attempting to reset the economy to its pre-pandemic state at a time of climate crisis is madness.  Millions of working people will bear the brunt of hardship, unemployment, sickness, stress and anxiety, and precious time to act on a Just Transition to a new sustainable economy will be lost. 

The time to act is now

Many of those being made redundant in Scotland, oil and gas workers, engineers at Rolls Royce, have skills and experience that are needed to develop a new sustainable economy.  They represent a precious resource.  Yet if climate action is deferred, their knowledge and skills will be lost.  Meanwhile, those who have lost their jobs, together with their families, and communities will have repeated the experience of mining communities in the 1980s.   If these workers are not supported now it will be so much harder to win the case that Just Transition is possible.  

Around the world responses to Covid19 have demonstrated that rapid action and mobilisation of human and material resources by governments is possible at a time of crisis.  We suggest that the Commission recommends that the Scottish Government should learn from international responses to the pandemic and tackle the Climate Crisis and ‘recovery’ from the pandemic with the same urgency.

Public information on the nature of the crisis and the policies being adopted will be crucial in winning hearts and minds.  But Just Transition has to go beyond rhetoric – people will not be convinced unless there is clear evidence at every stage that Just Transition is underpinned by actions that have social justice at their heart.   But it should also be based on the premise that while the crisis is global, Scotland has a significant role to play.  We are a country rich in sustainable energy resources.  We have workers with exceptional skills and experience.  We have a historic obligation as part of a British state that contributed massively to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last two centuries.  

Establish a Scottish Climate Service

The JCT Interim report noted that climate action needs to be planned, systemic and coordinated across the whole of the country.  The private sector simply can’t do this, the public sector can.  However, planning requires appropriate infrastructure.  One component of this, the National Investment Bank, is in place – but its role needs to be much expanded.  The mooted State Energy Company, as another supplier in the energy marketplace is inadequate.  It should be replaced by a vertically integrated, publicly run organization that is involved in every aspect of energy; generation, distribution and supply.  The third necessary component is integrated research, education and training, planning, monitoring and evaluation.  Scotland has rich potential in this respect.  The knowledge and creativity from Universities and Colleges, think tanks like Common Weal, unions, workers, communities and climate activists can contribute to a democratic, open and coordinated planning process.  All three components might be seen as part of a Scottish Climate Service.It is perfectly possible to initiate effective action to reduce carbon emissions now.  We have the scientific knowledge and technical expertise.   A great deal of work has already been done on the steps that can be taken immediately.  Our Common Home – Common Weal’s costed blueprint for a Green New Deal for Scotland – is an example.  There will be need for debate and development of the details.   Critically investment should be into technology that exists and that provides solutions that are effective now.  New and unproven technologies like CCS should have a low priority (reversing what seems to be current practice).

Core principles that should underpin recommendations to the Scottish Government

  • End support for maximum economic extraction from the North Sea and begin a managed and rapid phase out of North Sea Oil and Gas through public control of oil and gas production and processing
  • Take INEOS’s Grangemouth facilities into public control
  • No subsidies or compensation for oil and gas companies – they have received super-subsidies for 50 years (see North Sea Taxation report by Juan Carlos Boué)
  • Support the workers who are losing their jobs in the North Sea with guaranteed income and fully funded support for retraining
  • Planning, action and investment for Just Transition should start now – establish a Scottish Climate Service
  • Ensure that social justice is at the heart of transition.  Social justice requires the protection of lives and livelihoods, working with BAME communities to end environmental racism, the creation of a gender equal economy and a focus on further improvement of air pollution in our cities
  • Democracy and accountability – involve energy sector workers, climate activists, workers and communities in the process of building the new sustainable Scottish economy
  • Creation of 100,000+ climate jobs – these are jobs that ensure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (energy, transport, housing, home insulation, a new smart grid …) and jobs that are neutral with respect to emissions but contribute to health and well-being (care, health, education, recreation, nature conservation, local food production)
  • Ensure the safety of workers in all industries – no one should be penalized for refusing to put themselves in an unsafe working environment
  • A massive expansion in opportunities for education and training in all of the disciplines and skills required for transition – keep full time education free and make part-time education opportunities free for all 
  • Public control over an expanded and integrated free public transport system

Comments on this submission are very welcome as are reactions to the Advisory Group report. Use the contact tab to get in touch.

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

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.

Climate Crisis and Pandemic – Building for a Different Future

The first of our series of online meetings on the politics of climate crisis at a time of pandemic took place on the evening of April 5th; climate jobs campaigner Jonathan Neale introduced the discussion.  You can watch Jonathan’s introduction on the YouTube video.  There were 25 people linked in to the Zoom meeting and Jonathan’s introduction led to a wide-ranging discussion that looked at the importance of social solidarity and collective action, immediate priorities in the midst of the pandemic, how we can understand the links between the current crisis and the simultaneous crisis of climate, democracy and state surveillance and the importance of developing politics, practice and networks of resistance in the here and now.  If you would like to share your response to Jonathan’s talk do get in touch by emailing triple.e.scot@gmail.com – we are very keen to encourage a debate on these issues on this website and elsewhere.

Mossmorran

Public Meeting

Friday 1st February, 7pm at Lochgelly Town Hall, Bank Street KY5 9

This is a really important meetingAccording to the Scottish Environmental ProtectionAgency (SEPA) the ExxonMobil plant at Mossmorran in Fife is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Scotland – only the INEOS complex at Grangemouth is a bigger polluter.  People living in the vicinity of the plant have suffered from excessive flaring and poor air quality for a long time.   The Mossmorran Action group has been campaigning for a resolution to these issues.  George Kerevan has recently written about the ways in which SEPA has failed to respond adequately to their concerns.

The plant is currently being returned to operation after a shut down in August 2019.  Flaring and pollution has been at a high level and yesterday around 170 workers walked off the site to highlight concerns over working conditions and safety.  There needs to urgent action to protect the health and safety of local residents and workers.  But in light of the climate crisis Mossmorran must also be part of a plan for a rapid phased run down of the Scottish petrochemical industry in which the workers are supported in a just transition to new sustainable jobs – part of the just transition that is so urgently needed.

Mossmorran

CC BY SA 3.0  Mossmoran petrochemical plant

The case against new developments in the North Sea

The North Sea hydrocarbon reserves are among the most expensive and most technically difficult in the world. They are also short-medium life reserves compared with larger landmass oilfields.

Anticipating these disincentives, the incoming Labour governments of 1964-69 and 1974-79 with the state-owned BNOC and British Gas companies decided to make them more attractive for licenced operators by zero valuing to hydrocarbon assets thus avoiding the usual auction bidding process that would entail up-front purchase and risk acceptance by prospective extraction companies.

Then taxation rates on oil/gas extracted were relaxed to a very minimum as an incentive subsidy on future exploration and extraction activities. These arrangements- along with wholesale privatisation in 1980- meant that high profits were assured at low taxation rates and with the burden of risk and asset write-off being shouldered entirely by the taxpayer.

Also, these arrangements allowed for profligate extraction with value worthless assets being frittered away when the operational conditions got too difficult.

Unlike Norway– and many other oil and gas nation-states, no sovereign wealth fund was created on the back of oil/gas profit taxes- which in the case of Norway, has resulted in the biggest such fund for social welfare and public infrastructure in the world. So with Scottish territorial waters accounting for over 70% of UK oil and gas fields, little in the way- other than employment- of benefit has resulted/been accrued for the Scottish people.

Now Climate Change imperatives are bearing-down on all countries signed up to the IPOCC targets on carbon emissions targets- but yet ALL reliable sources producing estimates on oil (in particular) output and demand/consumption set targets well above limits required to bring about anything like a global temperature slow-down.

Also, the estimates for Scottish offshore- and fracked gas onshore- extraction fly clearly in the face of the Scottish government targets for a green neutral to zero-economy by 2030.

And also, also, it is clear that despite over 40 years of offshore hydrocarbon extraction- the living standards of the Scottish population- already low in comparison with much of the EU as well as many regions of the UK as a whole- have continued to fall and have continued downwards while the offshore company profits have continued upwards.  Essentially we have had subsidies and tax breaks for the rich oil companies and merciless market rigour for the poorest consumers.

Global oil prices (to which gas is pegged) continue to be volatile- but with an OPEC cartel of some 20 countries which are hydrocarbon exporting economic mono-cultures- future price wars- like the one in 2014 which saw 75,000 job losses in the North Sea- make any future dependence on the industry both a climate change folly and an economically ruinous strategy.

Oil and gas over-production is already upon us and any future development- such as the West of Shetland fields- is both unsustainable AND a waste of opportunities to create a green and socially equitable political economy for Scotland.

Dr Brian Parkin, Senior research fellow (Energy Economics), Leeds University

February 2020.

StatfjordA(Jarvin1982)Image CC0 StatfjordA (Jarvin1982).jpg

 

Glasgow XR meeting on North Sea Oil and Gas

Following actions in Dundee (see video) and at First Ministers Questions Glasgow XR held a well attended meeting on the 25th January.   The meeting began with contributions from XR activists, Friends of the Earth Scotland and ScotE3, before breaking into discussion groups.  The remainder of the post reproduces the text of the ScotE3  contribution in which we shared some thoughts on strategies for achieving a just transition to a zero carbon economy.

ScotE3 campaigns for the importance of climate jobs.  Jobs that are critical to the economic transformation that is needed to prevent a climate catastrophe.   In Scotland  100,000 of these jobs are needed .  However, to date we are not doing well.  According to the Office of National Statistics the UK’s green economy has shrunk since 2014.  The number of people employed has declined as has the number of green businesses.  This is true UK wide and in Scotland.  It’s no wonder that some representatives of unions that organise workers in the hydrocarbon sector pour scorn on talk of a just transition.

The Sea Change report makes it clear that unless we phase out North Sea Oil and Gas the UK will produce far more green house gas emissions than is compatible with restricting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.  But we have a huge challenge; the big energy companies are still committed to maximising extraction of oil and gas and so are the Holyrood and Westminster governments.  Just a year ago when the discovery of new oil and gas reserves east of Aberdeen was announced energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse highlighted,

 the significant potential for oil and gas which still exists beneath Scotland’s waters.

He added:

Scotland’s offshore oil and gas industry has an important role to play with up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent remaining under the North Sea and in the wider basin and discoveries such as this help to support security of supply as we make the transition to a low carbon energy system.

 Just this week the Africa summit in London ended with the Westminster Government pledging £2 billion to projects concerned with fossil fuel extraction.

From the outset North Sea has been a bonanza for the oil companies.  Nigel Lawson, now a prominent climate change denier, was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1986 and said then

the whole outstanding success of the North Sea is based on the fact that it is the freest petroleum province in the world

He meant of course almost complete freedom for the oil companies – few if any benefits accrued to society as a whole and even centres of the industry like Aberdeen were then, and remain, centres of acute inequality.

So we need a rapid phasing out of North sea Oil and Gas.   How can we overcome the powerful vested interests that oppose this and at the same time protect the lives and livelihoods of the workers in the industry.  Theer is no evidence that the private sector can lead such a transition.  The public sector has to take the initiative – and in Scotland that means a much more ambitious role for a state energy company and the new national investment bank.  However, for this to happen we need a powerful movement of movements that has deep roots throughout Scotland.

To grow the movement and force the pace of change clarity of ideas is essential.   We don’t have all the answers but the core issues around climate jobs and just transition are clear.  So we need to patiently and persistently explain why hydrocarbons need to stay in the ground, why we need zero carbon, why the counter proposals from the industry are a dangerous diversion and how a just transition would have a positive impact on working people.

Reaching the audience we need goes hand in hand with maximising pressure on the energy corporations and local and national government.  Much of this will be through all kinds of direct action.  There have been some brilliant examples already but we need much more.

Direct action is necessary but not enough.  The power to force a transition can only come from a mass movement and to build the movement we need to win hearts and minds.  This means reaching out into unions, communities and community organisations with a vision of just transition that goes beyond simply defending existing jobs and embraces practical steps that have direct and understandable benefits for working class people across Scotland and beyond.   We need win people to a positive vision of transition, but more than that we need to win them to be active agents in the transition: part of a movement of rebels, not just on the streets, but in workplaces and communities.  So as we plan actions we always need to think about how to reach new audiences – through stalls, street leafleting, public and workplace meetings and patient door to door leafleting debate and discussion.  It may be that some of those who work in the industry will be the last to be convinced (although that’s not inevitable – our opponents are the same corporations that drive down their wages and conditions and play fast and loose with health and safety).  But if they are unconvinced we need to aim for a situation where climate justice is common sense to millions and where the people that oil workers meet in the pub, out shopping, their kids and relatives, are all won to the need for transition.

With the COP being held in Glasgow this year we have a huge opportunity to build outwards and take a massive step forward in creating a campaign for transition that is unstoppable.

North_Sea_Oil_Rig_(7573694644)

North Sea Oil Rig by Gary Bembridge, CC BY SA 2.0