Climate jobs and green new deal movements are springing up around the world. This is a call for papers for an international conference on the technical aspects of the jobs that will be necessary, in 10th, 11th and 12th March 2022.
The conference will be on zoom, over three days, and contributors will be able to participate from all continents. We want papers from engineers, scientists, system modellers, designers, architects, planners, educators and trainers, foresters, soil scientists, trade union researchers, NGO researchers and other specialists.
The Climate Jobs Approach
We want contributors to think about the technical and technological implications of a “climate jobs” approach. This approach involves several features:
Massive government spending on public sector, direct employment to make possible reductions of 95% in CO2 emissions, and deep reductions in other emissions, within 20 years. In South Africa or Britain, this would be something like one million jobs a year, or in the United States 8 million jobs.
People who lose their jobs in old, high carbon industries would be guaranteed training and well paid, permanent work in climate jobs.
The work would begin from year one, starting with training a new workforce and shovel ready projects. Over twenty years many new technologies would become possible.
Public sector bodies would share intellectual property across borders.
Profits would be less important. Technologies that are necessary but currently “unrealistic”, could be developed rapidly at scale even if the cost was very high for many years. For example, alternative methods of making steel, substitutes for cement, or expensive forms of renewable energy like marine power and concentrated solar could enter mass production.
We could also move beyond the market, with regulations of many sorts. So we could think about the sort of rail, bus and electric system needed if all flights of 5,000 kilometres or less were banned. Or what could be done if we banned the manufacture of concrete, or F-gases?
Or contributors to think about the details, and the implications, of a building code that required new buildings to have greatly reduced energy use, and to burn no fossil fuels for heating or cooking. In this, we would like not only papers that argue this would be a good idea but think about how that code would be worded in different places, and what technologies and materials would be required, and what research would be required.
For more information about the conference, possible topics, how to participate and the deadline for submitting abstracts please download the full call for papers.
An opinion piece by Mike Downham that looks at the twin challenges of Covid and Climate and the role of the big corporations. A version of this article is also published in the the Scottish Socialist Voice newspaper.
It’s been said before but let me say it again: COVID IS NOT OVER!
This bears repeating because we’ve fallen into a deep pit of thinking that there’s no viable alternative – that our daily lives have to be like this – and taking at face value what those in power tell us. We keep falling back on trying to persuade and negotiate with them. This is a trap deliberately set for us by those who have the power at this point in history – the big corporations, served by their political lackeys in governments across the world, particularly in the Global North.
The corporations are a consequence and integral part of the capitalist economy, which is, as encapsulated by Asbjorn Wahl:
A system which is geared towards making profits rather than producing use value; dependent on economic growth; a system exploiting workers and over-exploiting natural resources – one that is also about to destroy planet earth as a place to live for future generations.
This week’s IPCC report says that the impacts of this destruction – floods, fires, droughts, heat which humans can’t survive – are now being experienced in every region of the world. Glasgow experienced unprecedented flooding on the same day the report was published.
The report concludes that we are set to overshoot the critical 1.5 degree rise around 2030 – a decade earlier than their previous prediction. Only a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years can save us.
In relation to the pandemic, the pharmaceutical companies want us to rely solely on their vaccines to stop the pandemic. No pandemic in human history has been stopped by vaccines alone – simple public health measures to cut down the spread of infection have always been necessary. But social distancing isn’t a source of profit, and ventilating buildings doesn’t need new technology.
In relation to global warming, which is now set to kill 100s of millions of us (the global death count for the virus is ‘only’ 4+ million so far), the Oil and Gas companies want us to go on burning fossil fuels down to the last drop, while they prepare to replace or compensate for these fuels with energy sources and technologies which will be equally profitable and every bit as exploitative
Trapped as we’ve been, we keep trying to negotiate with these companies and with the governments who serve them. Given the huge current imbalance of power between them and us, this amounts to inaudible whispering down the barrel of a gun.
The Zero Covid Scotland campaign has drawn a line under its attempts to negotiate with the Scottish Government. Just as the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change is to slash emissions, the only way to prevent more deaths and more suffering from Covid is to eliminate the virus. Slashing emissions and eliminating the virus are both entirely possible.
Jonathan Neale (his book Fight the Fire published in February can be downloaded free from TheEcologist website) said at an event in Scotland last week that when you are faced with catastrophe the only way out is to build a mass movement of those most threatened by that catastrophe – a movement which starts by focussing on keeping each other alive.
The Zero Covid Scotland Campaign is planning to contribute in a small way to a movement to keep each other alive from Covid infection by inviting a range of people who have been most impacted by Covid to give evidence at a Public Hearing on Saturday 4th September, staring at 11.00am. You can register in advance for this event here.
After registering, you’ll receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
In the same way that eliminating the virus is the way of keeping each other alive from Covid, the way of keeping each other alive from global warming is climate jobs. This isn’t a new idea – thanks mainly to Jonathan Neale through the Campaign Against Climate Change it’s been around for more than ten years. But it’s been considerably developed through research in terms of how it would work, what kinds of jobs we are talking about (above all good, secure jobs), how many jobs (latest calculations for Scotland come to more than 100,000), and what training would be necessary. Climate jobs are the solution because they are the only way we can simultaneously and quickly slash emissions and keep our economy going so that we don’t have to drop our standard of living.
There’s a third specific catastrophe facing many people in Scotland – the loss of huge numbers of jobs in the North Sea Oil and Gas industry. There’s a sort of “offshore-so-not-affecting-most-of-us’ blind eye being turned on this by people in Scotland, led astray by our governments. But it’s already a reality for around 30,000 redundant workers, their families, and their communities. Unless something is done quickly it will affect at least 100,000. If you add this number of redundant workers to a society the size of Scotland’s which already features inadequate services, inadequate housing, and inadequate income support, in the middle of a lethal pandemic, to speak of keeping each other alive isn’t an exaggeration. Moreover, at the end of September, on the verge of winter and with the Covid epidemic still raging, the UK Government is set to terminate furlough, reduce Universal Credit back to its insulting pre-pandemic level and increase the cap on energy prices to an unprecedented figure. This amounts to a perfect storm for less well-off people.
The solution to the catastrophe facing offshore workers also lies again in climate jobs, specifically in the sectors of renewable energy, public transport, and heating efficiency, where a majority of offshore workers already have the right skills and experience. We can’t achieve energy transition in the short time we have available without the skills and experience of offshore workers.
Unfortunately, there’s an elephant in the room in relation to climate jobs and a transition to them. Just as we need to go on (to every one we meet regardless of their politics) about Covid and elimination and about climate change and climate jobs, we also need to speak of this elephant, which is the trade unions.
As Wahl points out it’s entirely understandable how the trade unions have got into the fix that they now find themselves in. 70 or so years ago they had a place at the bargaining table with employers and governments because they had shown how they could disrupt the capitalist economy by withdrawing their labour. But the balance of power today is such that they don’t have a place at the table any longer. To win it back they need to demonstrate again that they are prepared to stop the train in its tracks. Unless the unions shift their perspective, the workers will leave them and set up their own collective arrangements
We mustn’t be fooled. The corporations which hold the power have no motivation to make concessions at this critical point in history. They are prepared to accept whatever number of deaths and however much suffering it takes to remain profitable. They are fatally hooked on the system they’ve created.
Speaking on behalf of the UK Government last week Alok Sharma said that the world is “dangerously close” to running out of time to stop a climate catastrophe. Sharma would have already seen the now published IPCC report which makes it abundantly clear that this is the case. Politicians use ‘we’ and ‘the world’ as if lack of action is a responsibility that we all share equally. He went on to state that “We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years – this is the moment …” But in March 2021 the UK government signed up to a North Sea Transition Deal, designed by the oil and gas sector that essentially puts off the action we need for another three decades. Opening a new oilfield is part of the plan and despite his rhetoric Sharma is right behind it. This is why the campaign to stop the Cambo field is so important. Pete Cannell explores the political importance of the campaign in this post. A version of the post was published previously on the rs21 website.
On Monday 19th July twelve climate activists blocked the entrance to the UK Government hub in Edinburgh, demanding that plans to give the green light for a new oilfield west of Shetland be scrapped. Later in the day they were joined by another 200 ‘Stop Cambo’ protestors.
Shell and Siccar Point Energy are asking the UK Government for permission to develop the Cambo oil field. Production is scheduled to start in 2025 and in phase 1 the two companies expect to extract 150 million barrels of oil – the emissions equivalent of 16 coal-fired power plants running for a year. In total the new field contains the equivalent 800 million barrels of oil.
With the United Nations Climate talks, COP 26, due to start in just over 3 months’ time the Stop Cambo campaign is shining a harsh light on what passes for UK climate policy. Throughout the year Westminster has been ramping up announcements on ‘Net Zero’ climate initiatives. We’ll see many more in the run up to the COP. You might think that developing a new, deep water, oil field would fit uncomfortably with all of this. And indeed, some critics are calling out Boris Johnson for hypocrisy. But the truth is that giving the green light for a new oil field is no aberration or hypocritical deviation from otherwise well-intentioned policies. On the contrary it’s a core part of UK and Scottish government policy that aims at maximum economic extraction of hydrocarbons from the North Sea. And as such it provides a critical lens through which all this year’s announcements should be viewed.
The blueprint behind Tory plans is not hard to find. It was released earlier this year without a fanfare. On the 21st of March, Oil and Gas UK published the North Sea Transition Deal, a plan for continuing exploitation of North Sea Oil and Gas to 2050 and beyond. The deal is a tripartite arrangement between the big oil and gas companies and the UK and Scottish governments. It maps out a plan to continue extracting oil and gas from the North Sea. The idea is that at some point in the future carbon capture and carbon offsetting will allow the government to claim that they have achieved Net Zero. In this world Net Zero doesn’t mean the end of oil and gas production. The theory is that the carbon contained in the oil and gas extracted from the North Sea is either trapped in underground storage or compensated for by carbon retention measures elsewhere.
The whole concept of Net Zero as developed in the Transition Deal is deeply flawed. For a start, UK and Scottish emissions reduction targets don’t include the carbon extracted from the North Sea. These greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to users of the products that derive from the oil and gas. So, Oil and Gas UK can talk blithely about a zero carbon North Sea oil sector because it takes no responsibility for end use. But even if you accept the bizarre logic of extracting hydrocarbons while taking no responsibility for a large part of the emissions you produce, the core technology that underpins carbon capture is speculative and untested. Currently, there is nowhere in the world where carbon capture and storage operate at large scale. And even if it can be made to work at large scale there will be many more years of greenhouse gas emissions before it has a serious impact.
Alongside continuing use of fossil fuels and carbon capture the North Sea Transition Deal also reserves a key role for hydrogen in transport and in domestic heating. Some of the hydrogen will be ‘blue’ produced from hydrocarbons, some ‘green’ the result of electrolysis of water. Without carbon capture ‘blue’ hydrogen is a major source of carbon emissions. ‘Green’ hydrogen, produced using electricity generated from renewables, is carbon free but immensely inefficient, requiring a huge ramping up of electricity production from wind, tidal and solar power. There’s certainly a place for green hydrogen in a renewable energy mix but only where direct use of electricity is impractical. From any other perspective except that of an oil and gas company direct use of renewably generated electricity makes obvious sense.
The Sea Change report, published in May 2019, shows how continuing production of North Sea oil and gas is incompatible with meeting the UK’s climate targets, let alone meeting the UK’s historical responsibility to the global south as one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases over the last two centuries. The report also shows how a planned, and rapid, shut down of North Sea operations could maximise employment opportunities in renewable energy.
It was striking that all the speakers at the Stop Cambo rally highlighted the need for workers to be at the centre of the transition away from oil and gas. Just Transition has become the common sense of climate activists in Scotland. And climate is finally on the agenda of the trade union movement. At the Scottish Trades Union Congress in April three of the composited motions focused on the issue. But there is a real challenge here. The STUC motions proposed by Unite, GMB, Prospect and the RMT tail the business-as-usual agenda that is driven by Oil and Gas UK and supported by Westminster and Holyrood – support for continuing extraction of oil and gas, carbon capture and a hydrogen economy. There’s a need for a sharp debate. The politics and practice of transition can’t be ducked by either climate activists or workers.
Even if the untested technologies on which Oil and Gas UK’s strategy is based work, Net Zero will not mean no net emissions, but simply shift responsibility for emissions elsewhere, often to the global south. And business-as-usual also means a continuing drive for profit maximisation, low wages, and precarious employment. Just Transition is not possible on the back of the North Sea Transition deal.
For Just Transition to become more than a slogan, we need to win workers to the need for mass working class action over climate. At this moment in our history class and climate are deeply intermeshed. Fighting for a future for our children and grandchildren with a transition strategy that provides a real chance of avoiding a climate catastrophe goes hand in hand with winning decent jobs and conditions, fighting racism and gender oppression and building workers’ power. The need is obvious, but the politics of how to make it happen is critical and requires a break with the union/employer partnership approach which underlies existing trade union policy.
Cambo is just one more piece in the jigsaw of the fossil fuel economy that needs to be dismantled. However, the decision to go ahead or not is politically important. Boris Johnson wants to milk the UK’s hosting of COP26 for all its worth. It will be embarrassing if developing new oil and gas fields is foregrounded in news from the COP, and that may mean a decision is postponed until 2022. Not because the UK is out of line with the other industrialised nations participating in the COP. Relying on carbon capture and other techno fixes is in line with the thinking that has informed the COP process over the years. A public outcry over Cambo in the run up to COP26 can help blow away the mist of greenwashing that will be generated around the Glasgow talks and help to push the climate and union movements in the direction of a radical worker led strategy for system change not climate change.
We are currently updating all our briefings and working on some new ones. The original version of Trident and Jobs was published three years ago. The issue is as important now as it was then. You can download the PDF version here. Like all our briefings it is published under a Creative Commons License that means you can download, use and adapt provided you acknowledge the original was published on this site.
The case for scrapping Trident
In 2015 the joint STUC /Scottish CND report ‘Trident and Jobs: the case for a Scottish defence Diversification Agency’ was launched at the STUC congress. The report provides a powerful case for scrapping Trident and strong arguments that defence diversification would have a massively positive effect on jobs and employment. However, six years on the Westminster government is pushing ahead with Trident replacement.
According to CND UK this will be at a cost of at least £205 billion. This money should be spent on jobs, homes, education, and health, improving the lives of the British people without threatening the lives of others.
Nuclear weapons are a threat to us all
But the case against Trident isn’t just a case for better jobs. A Unite Executive statement in 2010 summed up the wider case against Trident, saying:
The question of Britain’s nuclear weapons system is not about employment alone, however. It is first of all a moral issue, and then a strategic one concerning Britain’s place in the world and the international development we wish to see. Such weapons would, if used, constitute a mortal threat to humanity’s survival; they are massively expensive; senior military figures have described them as ‘militarily useless’ and said that they should be scrapped; and our possession of them encourages other countries to seek a similar arsenal.
No time for business as usual
Despite excellent policy positions, in practice, unions organising in the defence industry have continued to argue for the status quo on the grounds that Trident represents jobs. We argue that when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are so high that immediate action is required to avoid catastrophic climate change and with high levels of unemployment business as usual is not an option.
A million climate jobs
It’s time to combine the powerful economic and moral cases against Trident with the case for the major reorientation in economic activity that makes a rapid transition to a low carbon economy possible. This is not a fanciful notion. The Campaign Against Climate Change has worked through in detail how a million climate jobs across the UK could be paid for and could make the transition in short order. Defence diversification and a transition to a low carbon economy can work hand in hand. The workers and the skills that currently support Trident and other parts of the defence industries are an essential and necessary part of the transition.
Jobs under threat
Jobs in the defence sector in Scotland are under threat with reduced frigate orders and the end of the aircraft carrier contracts. Arguing for the status quo to protect jobs has simply slowed a decline in employment. The strategy has failed and will not work in the future. Waiting for the private sector to intervene and invest in alternative construction jobs is also a strategy doomed to fail. Industries that aim for short term profit will not take the long-term decisions required.
Action for change
Change will have to be fought for. However, the time is right and there are openings we can exploit. In 2016 the Scottish Government nationalised the Ferguson shipyard on the Clyde. In the same year it announced a proposal to consider a state-owned energy company. But progress has been glacially slow. A necessary sense of urgency could be injected with a campaign that unites trade unions, environmentalists, and peace campaigners. A state energy company needs to be more than just a retailer of green energy. It could coordinate investment into production and distribution and plan long term for retraining and training in the necessary skills for climate jobs. And in protecting jobs and creating new jobs it could win the argument with those workers in defence, construction and oil and gas who feel vulnerable to change.
If not now when?
To get such a campaign moving and transform policy into action requires urgent and democratic debate among the workforces involved and serious and sustained support from their unions and from environmental campaigns. The stakes are high, but we have the possibility of taking a real lead in Scotland. In the words of Primo Levi – if not now when?
About Scot E3 Scot.E3 is a group of rank-and-file trade unionists, activists, and environmental campaigners. In 2017 we made a submission to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on a Scottish Energy Strategy. Since then, we have been busy producing and sharing leaflets and bulletins.
We believe there is a compelling case for a radical shift in energy policy. Large numbers of jobs have been lost in the Scottish oil and gas sector. Nearly a third of Scottish households suffer from fuel poverty with the elderly worst affected. In 1989 primary energy capacity in Scotland was 45% more than the level of demand, yet we’re heading for a serious shortfall in energy production by 2030. And looming over all this is the prospect of catastrophic climate change, which will wreck the future for our children and grandchildren.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. However, we have the knowledge and the skills to make a difference to people’s lives in the here and now. Leaving things to ‘the market’ is clearly not working. A sustainable future requires a coherent strategy for employment, energy, and the environment. We need a sense of urgency. We need a coordinated strategy and massive public investment.
In Scotland we have a unique set of circumstances: a strong skills base; abundant resources for sustainable energy production; and an opportunity to develop a strategy that puts jobs and environment at the heart of economic strategy. What we do locally could be an inspiration for action worldwide.
Mike Downham reviews ‘Who wields the welding rod’ recently published in the London Review of Books
It’s impossible to do justice here to James Meek’s 12,000 word piece “Who holds the welding rod?” (LRB 15th July).
This exceptional investigation took journalist Meek to Hull, Campbeltown and remotely (because of Covid) to Vietnam through a Vietnamese researcher. The piece is threaded with the bitter experiences of many individual workers and an intimate account of the Campbeltown community’s past and present predicaments.
The story starts with a vivid picture of the voyage of a German-owned cargo ship loaded with wind towers which had left the Vietnamese port of Phu My in early April last year, arriving more than a month later in Hull.
The towers are massive. The hollow tapered columns, made of thick painted steel, are designed to be attached to the sea-bed, raising the turbines high enough above the sea for clearance of their huge blades. They are hundreds of feet tall and weigh hundreds of tonnes.
This shipment was destined for Hornsea Two in the North Sea, which will be the largest offshore windfarm in the world, scheduled to be operational next year.
The towers were made in a factory in Phu My by the Korean company CS Wind. The towers for Hornsea One were made by a CS wind factory in Campbeltown. CS wind doesn’t have a factory in Korea. Instead it has factories in Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, China, Canada and Scotland (Campbeltown). It’s really one vast international factory. The factories in both Canada and Scotland have been closed down because CS wind said they couldn’t make a profit. In the year or so before closure working conditions in the Campbeltown factory deteriorated to such an extent that serious accidents, some of them permanently disabling, became common. Then 100 jobs were lost from a small remote town which offers few other employment opportunities.
The Scottish Government had made it attractive for CS Wind to start a factory in Campbeltown, though it could have invested instead in an available Scottish company. They chose the cheaper investment of a Korean company, knowing full well that the reason it was cheaper was that CS Wind pays its workers less and works them for longer hours. The jobs it provided people in Campbeltown, more like slave labour than jobs, lasted less than three years.
CS wind may sound powerful but it’s at the bottom of the pyramid of control in the wind industry. At the top are the project developers, who put up the money – companies like Orsted (controlled by the Danish government) and SSE (London-listed, Scotland-based). The project developers contract engineering companies to manufacture and install the turbines. In Europe and much of the world the dominant engineering players are Vestas (Danish) and Siemens-Gamesa (German-Spanish), both of whom manufacture the blades and the turbines themselves because they are high-value, and contract out the rest, including the wind towers.
Are the conflicting goals of cheap green energy, free trade and secure well-paid jobs irreconcilable? At one point Meek thinks they are. But later he says:
It shouldn’t be more important that the North Sea wind farms get built than that some of their towers are made by low-paid labourers working twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week; and yet the immense utopian project to decarbonise human activity forges ahead, while the equally utopian project to end the setting of ‘low income country’ worker against ‘high income country’ worker barely exists. The mad dream of a green energy transition might just be starting to come true, with much of the credit due to stubborn activists, clever engineers and a handful of far-sighted policymakers. But it is also happening for the unlikely reason that it has been redefined as a global capitalist-consumerist project. It realises utopian goals while simultaneously keeping stock-markets ticking over, making the rich richer and spreading a general sense of virtue. The system has been able to turn the green energy transition into a set of products – electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines – but the transition to a world of better-treated workers involves systemic changes that are the antithesis of commodification.
We have an internationalist movement to save humanity from climate. But we also have an internationalist movement to save humanity from capitalist exploitation. For the latter movement to win the struggle, as Meek concludes, a world factory like CS Wind’s demands a world trade union.
In April the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) published a new report ‘Green Jobs in Scotland’. written by Transition Economics. The headline finding is that the decarbonisation of the Scottish economy could lead to 367,000 new jobs. That’s about 16% of the number of workers employed currently in Scotland.
The jobs message is powerful but it’s not new. More than a decade ago the ‘Million Climate Jobs’ pamphlet looked at how large numbers of new jobs are essential to the transition to a zero-carbon economy. It estimated that a million new jobs are needed across the UK; scaled by population size this means around 100,000 jobs for Scotland. This prediction was confirmed by a December 2018 report by the Green European foundation, which provides regional estimates for job creation in Scotland. Six months later the Sea Change report showed how a planned run down of North Sea Oil and Gas could mean many more, new, skilled jobs in renewables. The STUC report adds to this body of evidence. However, the challenge remains for trade unionists and climate campaigners alike to take the evidence, make it widely known and build a mass movement to make it happen.
Green Jobs in Scotland comprises 103 pages of densely packed analysis covering six broad sectors of the Scottish economy. It’s important to note that it is not a critique of either the Scottish or UK’s policies on climate. It takes as given, for example, the fact that both governments’ have strategies based on large scale use of carbon capture and storage. What it does do, sector by sector, is take current targets and policy recommendations and analyse in detail what needs to change for decarbonisation targets to be achieved. The graphic illustrates how, in the best case scenario, 367,000 new jobs would be distributed across six major industry sectors.
The report repays careful reading, not just because it provides solid evidence to back up the case for climate jobs, but also because, working within mainstream assumptions about the economy it shines a light on significant dangers along the road to transition.
The Transition Economics team highlight the inadequacy of current climate action plans and argue that for targets to be achieved the Scottish Government’s timeline to meet its 2045 targets needs to be revised
Scotland’s net zero emissions by 2045 target, decarbonisation has to accelerate.
They also make it clear that, to date, the promise of jobs has been illusory. Indeed, job numbers in the renewable sector have been in decline. This is a direct result of policies that have relied on the market. And the report makes it clear, that while with the right policies and funding in place, 367,000 new jobs in the Scottish economy is a possible outcome, without such policies the number of new jobs might be as low as 156,000. It concludes that
… it is also possible for Scotland to decarbonise without significant domestic job creation – and that those jobs created could be primarily precarious and under-paid.
The report gives examples of the consequences of giving free rein to the private sector. For example, in offshore wind and solar
… employment in renewable energy …has been below standard. Jobs tend not to be unionised, and there have been reports of large multinational energy utilities like EDF trying to avoid unionisation of their (new) renewables divisions, despite union recognition across the rest of the company. The wind power Sector Deal created by the UK Government excludes any provision for trade unions. This adds to significant Health & Safety concerns with wind power, repeated violations, and recent deaths amongst onshore wind workers.
An investigation revealed that migrant workers hired to work on crane ships and guard vessels for offshore windfarm construction and offshore cable-laying sites were paid a fraction of the minimum wage and made to work more than 12 hours a day – both at the Beatrice site and others. Instead of ensuring acceptable labour standards, the UK government has now repeatedly extended a waiver work for permit requirements in the wind sector to facilitate the employment of foreign crews – raising concerns about poor safety and human rights conditions for migrant workers, as well as concerns about local jobs and training opportunities in the sector.
Throughout, the report assumes that climate projects will be undertaken by the private sector with public participation. The role for participation is to set policy goals, make investments and provide some level of regulation – legislation on fair work practices for example. One example that is given notes that there are serious skill shortages in some sectors and recommends a co-ordinated approach to skills provision for the climate transition through the creation of a new public body – Climate Skills Scotland. The new organisation’s role would be
to play a co-ordinating and pro-active role to work with existing providers (e.g. FE colleges) to quickly roll out the new qualifications required.
So essentially, public participation means supporting and facilitating the private sector. But given the track record of the private sector there must be grounds for questioning whether this level of participation is adequate. It’s clearly right to suggest, as the report does, that there is no certainty that the headline figure of almost 400,000 jobs will be achieved, or that jobs will be unionised and provide good pay and conditions. Even if both Holyrood and Westminster step up the pace and address investment in the projects outlined in the report, the private sector will still be driven by profit maximisation. That’s why renewable job numbers in Scotland have declined, why renewable projects source production on the other side of the world resulting in massive carbon footprints, and why wage rates and working conditions are driven to the bottom. Scot.E3 argues that public participation is not enough to ensure that we meet zero carbon targets or to ensure that the jobs that accrue from transition are good jobs. We need public ownership and democratic control.
Finally, the report touches upon three areas which, in our view, require urgent attention if Scotland’s roadmap for transition to zero carbon can have any credibility. The first of these is North Sea Oil and Gas. Most oil and gas production is not included in Scottish emissions figures or in targets for emissions reductions. The report notes that:
Scotland’s oil and gas output is equivalent to an additional 180.3 MtCO2e when used, more than four times greater than Scotland’s own greenhouse gas emissions [our emphasis].
These uncounted emissions represent a whole herd of elephants in the room and must be addressed as part of a planned, coordinated and just transition. This requires a sharp shift from the current policy, espoused by both Holyrood and Westminster, of maximum economic recovery of North Sea hydrocarbons. It also requires a break with the long-term partnership with big oil which has been cemented over 50 years by massive subsidies from the public purse and is now driving the policy focus on hydrogen production in order to sustain the industries dominant economic position.
The report is critical of a focus on hydrogen production from oil (blue hydrogen), arguing that it could delay progress with green hydrogen produced by electrolysing water. However, in line with its overall concentration on existing government policy it fails to look at the serious criticisms that have been made of zero carbon plans that foreground hydrogen.
Finally, the report notes how the private companies contracted to build energy from waste plants have tried to drive through serious cuts in pay and working conditions. However, it is uncritical of a strategy that requires a continual stream of waste for burning (and thus generating greenhouse gas emissions) for decades to come) and is incompatible with a zero-carbon transition and the Scottish Government’s aspirations for a circular economy.
A report released today, written by Transition Economics for the STUC shows how the transition to a low or Zero carbon economy could create a large number of new jobs. The report’s findings underline the need for planning, public investment and public control and consequences if these steps are not taken.
New STUC report shows the potential for up to 367,000 green jobs in Scotland. However poor policy choices could see less than 131,000 jobs being created.
Written by Transition Economics, “Green Jobs In Scotland” looks at how energy, buildings, transport, manufacturing, waste, agriculture and land-use need to be decarbonised, and sets out how Scotland can maximise green job creation, as well as fair work and effective worker voice in these jobs. It finds:
Energy: The transition to zero-carbon energy could see 30,000 – 95,000 jobs created over 15+years. However, this will require a national energy generation company, local content rules, and upgrades to ports and manufacturing sites. Without policies like this we could see less than 16,000.
Buildings: Decarbonising buildings & broadband could see 61,000 – 136,000 jobs created over 10+years, plus a further 22,000 – 37,000 jobs over 3 years in building new social housing. This area holds the greatest potential for job creation but requires billions of investment – including in a street-by-street retrofitting programme run directly by Local Authorities.
Transport: Upgrading and expanding transport could see 26,000 – 60,000 jobs over 10+ years with a further 11,000-13,000 ongoing jobs in operations. However, this will require significant investment in municipally run electric buses, railways, shipping, cycle and walking infrastructure etc.
Manufacturing and Industry: Heavy industry is particularly hard to decarbonise but 5,000 – 9,000 jobs could be created in steel, CCS and re-manufacturing, while existing employment numbers in chemicals and refining could be protected. However, even achieving this will require investment in plant conversions and an industrial strategy to promote domestic manufacturing.
Waste: The circular economy and waste management could provide 17,000 – 23,500 jobs. But this needs policies to boost recycling capacity, improve waste collection, scale up the deposit and return scheme, develop tool libraries, expand reverse logistics services, and expand remanufacturing.
Land-Use and Agriculture: Greening land-use and agriculture could create 17,000 – 43,000 jobs over 12+ years. But this requires significant investment in reforestation and rewilding, alongside support for local organic farming and stronger enforcement of labour standards in Scottish agriculture.
The recommendations in the report span UK, Scottish and Local Government, with the scale of public investment required to meet climate targets and potential job levels exceeding what the Scottish Government alone can access under the current financial settlement. However, calls for a more active industrial strategy, far greater levels of public ownership and significant public investment noting that employment in Scotland’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy decreased in 2019.
In the year that COP26 comes to Scotland Neil Rothnie asks why there is no public debate on the Petroleum Amendment Bill
For the last 15 months the Petroleum Amendment Bill has been sitting on the table in the House of Lords. The Bill is a private member’s bill based on the recommendations of the Sea Change report. It calls for an end to oil and gas exploration, the rapid phasing out of production and a transition for oil and gas workers into the renewables industry. 270,000 jobs are supported by the industry.
So just when were the oil and gas workers, their families and communities going to be informed of the existence of this plan, and get the opportunity to scrutinise and discuss it?
Who has been in on this discussion? Who has been making what plans?
Presumably the Government has a view on the Bill. Why the silence? Their current plan, the Act that the Bill aims to amend, is spectacularly unfit for purpose. It calls for “maximising economic recovery” of North Sea oil and gas. This is at complete odds with their claim to be leading the world against climate change. When UK Cabinet Minister, Alok Sharma, chairs the COP26 discussions in Glasgow in November is he going to be inviting delegates from Russia, Saudi Arabia, America, China and every other fossil fuel producer to follow the UK lead and maximise economic recovery of their own fossil fuels?
Are the trade unions in on the discussion? Have they informed their members on the North Sea what is being proposed?
Does the industry not feel the need to comment on a radical plan that has massive implications for their business on the North Sea and internationally. If it’s necessary in the UK such a plan not necessary internationally?
Do the Labour Party, the SNP and the Greens have positions on the Bill? Lady Sheehan is a Liberal Democrat so presumably her party has a view. What is it?
Why the silence? Does the media, the BBC and the newspapers, know of the existence of this Bill. Are they deliberately ignoring it and going to continue only to report what is written for them in the oil company public relations departments? A proud tradition that has disappeared the North Sea from national scrutiny.
What about the environmental movement itself? Scot.E3 has been campaigning on employment, energy and environment for three and a half years; but such is the silence that it was only alerted when Baroness Sheehan and Mary Robinson (past President of Ireland) alluded to the Bill in a recent article in the Times.
Congratulations to climate campaigners in Cumbria who have fought so hard to prevent the building of a new coal mine. The council had given the go ahead but the application has now been called in by the Westminster Government with the result that there will now be a public enquiry. The proponents of the mine say that it will bring 500 jobs to West Cumbria. The campaign has argued that tackling the climate crisis means that the carbon must remain in the ground and that serious responses to the crisis will create many more jobs. The report they commissioned ‘The potential for green jobs in Cumbria’ shows exactly how this could happen. Local conditions vary but this is possible everywhere.
Jonathan Neale spoke about his new book “Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs” at a Scot.E3 online public meeting on 12th March 2021. The book is a tremendous resource for climate activists and trade unionists.
You can watch the full video of Jonathan’s talk below. But do read the book – it’s available in hard copy from Resistance Books – make sure your local bookshop stocks it.
“The most compelling and concise guide to averting climate breakdown.”
Brendan Montague, editor, The Ecologist.
The Ecologist has published the digital version of Fight the Fire for free so that it is accessible to all. Click on this link to download a PDF or ebook from the Ecologist website.