Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice

Scot.E3 has added it’s name to this statement from the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice

A New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic exposes an economic system unable to meet the needs of people and planet. Our only solution to address this global crisis, occurring amid a devastating climate crisis, is to join together and build a more just, resilient, and sustainable world. As members and allies of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice we are making an initial set of demands of governments as they respond to the pandemic. 

The word apocalypse comes from the word for revelation. The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing what the global majority has known all along: that the dominant economic system prioritises profits over people and planet.

With each new day of infections, deaths and destroyed livelihoods, the pandemic is exposing the gross injustices of our existing systems. Years of neoliberalism, ‘structural adjustment’ and austerity have dismantled the social welfare state, specifically underfunding and hollowing out health systems across the globe. We are left with deficits of life-saving equipment, and surpluses of polluting industries. 

The dimensions of the collective suffering and individual trauma unfolding are too vast to contemplate. Families confronting loss or lockdown in abusive relationships; bodies facing devastating illness; communities facing hunger and isolation. 

But the pandemic has also shown our enormous collective strength, and the possibilities that emerge when a crisis is taken seriously, and people join together. 

For those of us in the global climate justice movement, the unravelling of the pandemic comes as no surprise. For decades, as movements we have denounced the violent impacts of an unequal global economic system, the devastation of an accelerating climate crisis, and the shockingly cruel ways in which those least responsible bear its heaviest burdens. For decades, we have demanded an end to a status quo that was and continues to be a death sentence for the world’s poorest. The coronavirus crisis is a stark reminder of a prolonged past, and our response to it a dress rehearsal for the present and future. 

Justice 

As with the climate crisis, the COVID-19 crisis loads the heaviest burdens on those most vulnerable. The poorest are affected first and worst. It inflames the disparities carved by wealth, gender, class, race, (dis)ability and other intersectional factors. The highest costs are being borne by those least able to pay them, who were always condemned to bear such costs.

Most clearly, those most at risk of infection are those least able to isolate themselves. 

A lockdown means confinement in our homes. But some of us are entirely without a home, or live with multiple family members and relatives in one house. Some of us are internally displaced people’s or refugee camps, or in detention centres, or go without access to running water and sanitation. For some of us, home is the site of violence and abuse, and staying home means an end to public activity we rely on  for our day-to-day subsistence. Some of us can’t stay home because we are working in the most crucial and life-sustaining sectors, such as agriculture, without protection, including many of the subsistence and family farmers who feed over two-thirds of the world.

Women and girls bear the brunt of care work in our current system, in the home, in our communities and also in the economy, as they are the majority of health care workers. This pandemic has shown us the importance of care work, the work needed to raise families, to cook and clean and take care of the sick and elderly.  It has shown us the profound impact of the lack of public services  and social institutions for care work .  We must use this moment to understand the importance of care work,  share it among all peoples and build a society and economy that takes on care work based on feminist, care-affirming principles.

In many countries, health, food and basic services sectors are supported by migrant labour, many of whom do not have a voice, recourse to public funds and most often serving with the least protection. Migrant voices are also most often ignored in climate discussions. In times of crises, whether health or natural calamities, they are one of the most vulnerable, discriminated against, and ignored.

Those most affected by the climate crisis – people in the Global South who have faced the violence of environmental degradation, extended drought, and forced displacement – have now become one of most vulnerable populations to contagion and its effects. In areas where the health of communities has been debilitated by polluting industries, leading to an array of respiratory and immunological conditions, people are particularly at risk to COVID-19.

The pandemic is already opening the door to a major economic crisis, with an upcoming recession that will render the vast majority of the global population – who live day-to-day with precarious livelihoods – in a condition of even more chronic poverty. The risk of famine and deep disruptions to food sovereignty is significant. Southern countries are burdened with illegitimate and unsustainable debt – accumulated through decades of exploitative and predatory lending by Northern governments, international financial institutions and big banks in collaboration with southern elites and those Southern governments with authoritarian and corrupt practices. The prioritization of payments of these debts have taken a heavy toll on public services and continue to take up a huge part of public spending that should be allocated instead to public health responses to the pandemic.

A Crossroads

We are at a crossroads. For years, we have demanded ‘system change not climate change’. System change now seems more necessary than ever, and more possible. The rules of the game are changing swiftly. Upheaval is unavoidable.

The question is: what kind of change is unfolding? What kind of system is emerging? What direction will change take?

The powerful are taking advantage of the crisis to advance disaster capitalism and a new authoritarianism, handing themselves expanding police and military powers, and rushing through extractive projects. Many governments are seizing the chance to push through draconian measures, police the population, undermine workers’ rights, repress the rights of Indigenous peoples, restrict public participation in decision-making, restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, and institute widespread surveillance. In the worst situations, repressive actors are using the moment of political instability to violently quash dissent, legitimise racism, religious fundamentalism and advance predatory mining frontiers, and execute land defenders.

But the crisis they are making use of, also offers an opportunity for our movements to shape the emergent future. Our movements know the way forward, the type of world we need to build. Across the world, people are realising that our dominant economic system does not meet peoples’ needs. They are clearly seeing that corporations and the market will not save us. They are noticing that when a crisis is taken seriously, governments are capable of taking bold action and mobilise enormous resources to confront it. The limits of the possible can be radically shaken and rewritten. Within weeks, policy proposals long-campaigned for in many contexts (an end to evictions, liberating prisoners, bold economic redistribution to name but a few) have become common-sense and mainstream responses.

We are living through a convulsive but very fertile political moment. Our world has been forced into solidarity by a virus which ignores all borders; our deep interdependence has never been more undeniable.

In such a crisis rethinking and reimagining our economic model is inescapable. Resilient and justice-based solutions are not only possible, but the only real solution.

It is clear now that we need a response of solidarity, equity and care, with massive public investment that puts people and planet first, not polluting industries and profiteers. Just recoveries, and global and national new deals to build a regenerative, distributive and resilient economy is both necessary, and increasingly politically feasible.

The Fight for A New Normal

We will not return to a normal in which the suffering of the many underwrote the luxuries of the few. While politicians will push for a rapid resumption of the status quo, we can’t go back to normal, as social movements have affirmed, when that normal was killing people and the planet.

Our climate justice movements are in both a perilous and promising situation. The urgency of climate breakdown has dropped under the radar, even as climate violence is relentless, expressed most recently in devastating storms across the Pacific, forest fires in China, and torrential rains in Colombia. Unless we take this political moment, climate action will be on the backburner, and economies in the rich North will be turbocharged and revived with dirty investments that deepen the climate crisis. We must be vigilant and persevering to ensure that addressing the climate crisis must be front and center of bailouts, and programmes to ensure the resilience of society and all peoples.

Our movements have an expertise which is invaluable at this time. While COVID-19 and the climate crisis may have different direct causes, their root causes are the same: a reliance on the market, a failure of the state to address long-term threats, the absence of social protection, and an overarching economic model that protects investments over lives and the planet. The same extractivist system that extracts, burns and destroys ecosystems, is the same system which enables dangerous pathogens to spread. The solutions to the COVID-19 and climate crises are the same: solidarity, redistribution, collaboration, equity, and social protection. It is our opportunity and responsibility to join the dots, and use this political moment to confront corporate power, and build a more just and sustainable society.

The Horizons We Can Claim

The pandemic has changed the game. We have the resources to build an economic model that doesn’t trash the planet and provides for all. We have the momentum to recover from this crisis in a way that builds our resilience and fortifies our dignity as societies. Now is our time to claim it.

As members of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, we demand a bold response to the COVID-19 pandemic that simultaneously helps address the wider climate crisis, and transform the unequal economic system that has led to both.

We demand that governments:

  1. Prioritise the health and wellbeing of people. People must always be valued over profit, for an economy is worthless without its people. No one is disposable. Fully fund and resource health services and systems, ensuring care for all, without exception. Governments must also prioritise robust investment in other essential public services, such as safe shelter, water, food and sanitation. These services are not only essential in stemming the spread of disease in the long-term, but are core to governments’ obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights for all. Therefore, they must not be privatised and instead be managed in an equitable, publicly-accountable manner.
  1. Guarantee the protection of marginalised populations. Provide aid, social protection, and relief to rural populations and the families that compose them, who are at the forefront of feeding our world. Special protection must also be guaranteed for the social and human rights of all peoples put in vulnerable and precarious circumstances, such as those in situations of homelessness, people in prison, refugees and migrants, elders in home care, orphans, and especially environmental defenders who are now being murdered with even greater frequency under the cover of the COVID-19 emergency.
  1. Issue immediate economic and social measures to provide relief and security to all, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our societies. Protect labour rights and guarantee protections for all workers, from the formal to the informal economy, and guarantee a universal basic income. Recognise, visibilise and value all care work, the real labour that is sustaining us during this crisis.
  1. Governments must stop subsidies for fossil fuels and reorient public funds away from the military-industrial complex, and private corporations, and use them instead to ensure access to clean energy, water, and important utilities and public services  for the well-being of communities.
  1. We call for an immediate cancelation of debt payments by Southern countries due in 2020 and 2021 with no accrual of interest nor penalties, so that funds can be used for health services to combat COVID19 and for economic assistance for communities and people who are facing greater hardships in the face of the pandemic and responses to it. A mere suspension of payments is not enough, and will simply delay the pain of debt servicing. We also demand an immediate start to an independent international process to address illegitimate and unsustainable debt and debt crises to pave the way for unconditional debt cancelation for all Southern countries.
  1. Governments must also transform tax systems, abolishing fiscal holidays for multinational corporations which undermine revenues, and abolish value-added tax and goods and services taxes for basic goods. Take immediate steps towards stopping illicit financial flows and shutting down tax havens.
  1. Support a long-term just transition and recovery out of this crisis, and take the crisis as an opportunity to shift to equitable, socially just, climate-resilient and zero-carbon economies. We cannot afford bailouts that simply fill corporate pockets or rescue polluting industries incompatible with a living planet. Rather, we need an economic recovery that builds resilience, dissolves injustices, restores our ecosystems, and leads a managed decline of fossil fuels and a justice-oriented transition towards a fair & sustainable economy. Governments should pursue economic programmes including  just trade relations that prioritize domestic needs,  dignified and decent jobs across the entire economy, including in the care economy, ecological restoration and agro-ecology,  essential services and decentralised renewable energy — all necessary for an equitable and climate-just world.
  1. Reject efforts to push so-called “structural reforms” that only serve to deepen oppression, inequality and impoverishment , including by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, who may use the pandemic to push schemes in the Global South under the guise of “shortening the time to recovery.” The neoliberal pillars of austerity, deregulation, and privatisation — especially of essential services such as water, health, education etc — have devastated people across the world and are incompatible with a just recovery.
  1. Bolster international cooperation and people to people solidarity. Global problems that respect no borders, whether they be the climate or COVID-19 crisis, can only have cooperative and equitable solutions. In a deeply unequal world, transferring technology and finance from the richest to the poorest countries is  crucial. Governments should facilitate instead of hindering the efforts of people’s movements, citizens groups, Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations to link up across borders and countries for mutual support. We also call on governments to honor their historical responsibility and stop using tactics that dismiss that responsibility and delay a strong international response, such as withholding funding from the WHO and other institutions in a time of crisis.
  1. Collaborate on the development of and unrestricted access to vaccines and any medical breakthroughs of experimental therapy drugs, led by principles of international cooperation and free distribution.  We need to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccine will reach all and that no country will be able to become a monopoly buyer, and no entity a monopoly producer.
  1. Immediately cease extractive projects, from mining to fossil fuels to industrial agriculture, including extraterritorial projects undertaken by corporations headquartered in your country, which are accelerating ecological crises, encroaching on Indigenous territories, and putting communities at risk.
  1. Reject any and all attempts to waive liability of corporations and industries. The actors that are responsible, in so many ways, for this multifaceted crisis and the broken system absolutely cannot be granted loopholes that allow them to escape responsibility for their abuses at home and across the world.
  1. Governments must not take advantage of the crisis to push through draconian measures including the expansion of police and military powers that undermine workers’ rights, repress the rights of Indigenous peoples, restrict public participation in decision-making, restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, or institute widespread surveillance under cover of the crisis.

To add your organisations name to the statement you can find it online here.

Lorie Shaull from Washington, United States – Kids Want Climate Justice CC BY-SA 2.0

Just Transition and Energy democracy

Sam Mason is a policy officer for the PCS union and active in PCS workers for climate justice.  Sam introduced the latest Scot.E3 online meeting, which looked at Just Transition and Energy Democracy.  Her introduction is available on the Scot.E3 YouTube Channel.

Sam started by reflecting on the pandemic and the talk that Jonathan Neale gave on the 5th April.   She went on to explain the concept of energy democracy, its’ importance to people’s lives and livelihoods and why, when market solutions have failed, public ownership is necessary for its’ realisation.   Later she spoke about how energy democracy is a necessary part of a just transition to a new sustainable economy and is about human rights and human needs nationally and internationally.  

In the discussion participants in the meeting talked about: rebuilding the union movement as part of the campaign for just transition, the role of the state, the impact of the pandemic and global recession on oil process and jobs in the north sea, limits to growth, greenwashing, the role of hydrogen in a sustainable economy and participatory democracy.  These contributions were not recorded.  We’d welcome contributions to this blog on any of these topics whether you were at the meeting or not.

What will a return to ‘normality’ mean to us?

Mike Downham responds to the recent post on Pandemic, Climate Crisis and the threat of a return to ‘normal’.

Pete Cannell (5th April) has helpfully spelled out what a return to normality after the pandemic will mean to the ruling elite. But what will it mean to the rest of us?

Even at this relatively early stage of a crisis likely to go on for many months, I hear people talking about the things they don’t want to go back to after it’s all over. Most commonly people talk about how society has suddenly become kinder, and how they don’t want to go back to a less kind way of life where they are less well-connected with their neighbours, work too hard, delegate so much of the care and education of their kids, and are dependent on long and insecure supply chains for their food.

Not all people feel the same of course – confusion and fear can readily overcome any other feelings.  We don’t know yet whether tendencies like these will grow and spread. But if they do, they could turn out to be important. The biggest crisis we face is not this pandemic, despite all the loss and suffering it has produced and will go on producing, perhaps to a scale we can’t yet imagine, particularly in the global south. The biggest crisis we face is climate change. We know we have to achieve radical and systemic change if we are to slow down global warming.  We will have the best chance of achieving that change if we keep track of the new aspirations which people develop in the face of this pandemic.

Radical change won’t happen, we have to make it happen. But, for the first time in our lifetimes, history is on our side. Pete quoted Arundhati Roy in his piece. Here is something else she said, lifted from Annie Morgan’s post on 18th March: 

A new world is not only possible, she is on her way.  On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing’.

Joe Brusky – System Change not Climate Change CC BY-NC 2.0

Edinburgh Wet’suwet’en Solidarity

The peak winds from Storm Jorge hit central Edinburgh as we gathered to send a message of solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en this afternoon.  Gusts of over 80 km per hour destroyed our main banner and numbers were depressed by the extreme conditions but more than 20 of us stood firm in solidarity.  Most passers by were unaware of what is happening in British Columbia but we got a good reception with many people stopping to talk.  The protest was called by Scot.E3 and  supported by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Young Friends of the Earth Scotland, Global Justice Now Scotland, rs21 Scotland, People and Planet Edinburgh, Edinburgh Youth Climate Strike, Green Anti-capitalist Front and XR Edinburgh.  The breadth of support provides a good basis for continuing solidarity actions as we build for mass mobilisation at COP 26 in Glasgow later in the year.

 

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Images by Eileen Cook and Pete Cannell CC0

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Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en!

Sunday 1st March, 2pm – 3pm at the east end of Princes Street, Edinburgh (opposite Balmoral Hotel)

Scot.E3 has called a protest in solidarity with indigenous land defenders in the Wet’suwet’en territory of British Columbia.  They are protesting against the construction of a new gas pipeline across their land.  The construction project breaks the Canadian constitution, however, the protests have been met with harsh repression by Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  There has been solidarity action across Canada.

At a time of climate crisis we should be phasing out oil and gas.  The Wet’suwet’en protesters are in the front line of our common struggle for a sustainable future.

‘It’s a whole damn army up there. They’ve got guns on, they’ve got tactical gear on. They look like they’re ready for war.’
– Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Woos (Frank Alec).

Donate to the Unist’ot’en 2020 Legal Fund

More information at the supporter toolkit site 

Canadian Facebook Page

UK Campaign Facebook Page 

At the time of writing the Edinburgh solidarity event has been cohosted by: Friends of the Earth Scotland, Young Friends of the Earth Scotland, People and Planet Edinburgh, rs21 Scotland, Edinburgh Youth Climate Strike and Extinction Rebellion Edinburgh

There is also a protest in London at Canada House on the same day.

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Report back from the XR “Oil & Gas” Public Meeting

We recently published the Scot.E3 contribution to the XR “Oil & Gas” Public Meeting held in the Garnethill Multicultural Centre, Glasgow on Saturday January 25.  Thanks to Neil Rothnie for this much more comprehensive report.

Rather than try and summarise the individual contributions by invited speakers and the discussions from the work groups, I’ll try and give a sense of what I thought the meeting achieved. 

It was, it seemed to me, a success.  It was well attended.  Maybe 60 odd people? Men and women were fairly equally represented and there was a wide range of ages amongst those attending, though we were predominantly young.  The speakers were good, the meeting attentive and discussion lively. 

The success of the meeting owes much to the fact that it took place at the end of the month long Rig Rebellion 2 which, receiving considerable media attention, had brought the issue of fossil fuel production in UK into sharp focus. This meant that the struggle to end fossil fuel production on our patch was no longer just a theoretical question.  We are engaged.  This was reflected in the meeting.

A document laying out the basic premises on which the meeting was called had been circulated widely in the movement in Scotland. A “critique” of Rig Rebellion 2 presented by Andrew and a further document for discussion presented by Paul had been received by the facilitators and Paul was able to attend and speak to the documents during group discussion.  All three of these documents are appended.

The meeting was facilitated by Dario Kenner, active in XR Families in London who had travelled up with partner and two toddlers – an expression of seriousness if I ever did see one.  Dario is author of “Carbon Inequality: The role of the richest in climate change” (Routledge, 2019). He’s also co-author with Rupert Read of a memo to XR. I’ve appended it.  Dario’s presence, more than any argument, shouts that the struggle to decarbonise the economy, to take on the polluters, is a UK issue as part of a global issue.  Certainly not a Scottish issue. No more than XR Aberdeen can be expected to shoulder the burden of confronting Big Oil, XR Scotland do not have the resources to take on the UK’s major polluters and chief source of UK’s greenhouse gasses.  We are part of a movement that spans the whole of the UK. 

A very personal message from a rebel “allegedly” involved in the most ambitious of the Rig Rebellion 2 actions was delivered to the meeting. It placed central stage, the issue of civil disobedience and direct action against the polluters, and nailed, as central to the struggle for survival, the end of fossil fuel production.  Our speaker challenged the web of relationships in which oil and gas worker, rebels and the myriad other victims of climate change are caught up, in a toxic system built on misinformation, social conditioning, debt, powerlessness, privilege, excuses and ignorance.  Rig Rebellion 2 means that no longer is the discussion about the future of North Sea oil & gas to be solely the property of industry and Government.  The text will be appended if legal advice allows.

My ideas/comment on what the meeting achieved borrows heavily from the contributions of the two main speakers.  Ryan Morrison from Friends of the Earth Scotland talked us, at breakneck speed, through the FotE sponsored “Sea Change” report , and Pete Cannell from Scot E3 took the discussion on to how we respond to this crisis.  I’ve tried to reflect, as best I could,  what came out of the group discussion I was involved in, and/or had notes from.

The big lie at the centre of today’s, still restricted, public discussion about global warming and species extinction is laid out clearly in Sea Change as presented to the meeting by Ryan. We can’t avoid climate chaos without tackling global warming.  We can’t stay “well below” 2 degrees of warming without decarbonising the global economy.  That is, not without the planned rundown of the source of greenhouse gasses – fossil fuel production. (North Sea oil & gas on our patch).  And we can’t decarbonise the economy by following the “magic thinking” of industry and Government (Pete Cannell) who want business as usual and the maximum economic recovery of every barrel of oil & gas under the North Sea.  20 billion barrels more is the industry’s guesstimate. This gives us warning of what the industry plan is globally.

The issue of a “just transition” is central to the struggle to end fossil fuel production, and it’s not just about providing well paid jobs in renewables for workers who stand to lose well paid jobs in oil & gas, important as this is.  Just transition is seen very differently in the global south (Ryan) and when we get the chance to explore this when activists from throughout the global south descend on Glasgow for COP26 later this year, we can show no more solidarity than be seen to be fighting to end to fossil fuel production in the global north starting with on our own patch, the North Sea.

The meeting took the discussion forward from the understanding that the Sea Change report gives us.  Direct action is crucial in applying pressure on industry and Government and as Rig Rebellion 2 did, bringing the issue centre stage.  But it is not in itself enough if the mass of people only look on – scared.  The ideas of a just transition must become the common sense of society. (Pete)  But to do that the ideas need to be sharply defined, not just the easy ones like why the oil & gas needs to stay in the ground, but those that confront the smoke and mirrors employed by industry and Government to justify business as usual.  We need to understand carbon capture and storage (discussed by Ryan).  If, as widely suspected, it cannot be delivered at anything like the  scale required, then we need to be able to expose this with thoroughly researched materials and in a clear and concise fashion.

Multi billion pound taxpayer subsidies (our money) is handed to the industry by a Government whose ear they have.  The threat of job losses in oil & gas that the industry say would accompany the ending of such subsidies and the ludicrous industry claim that they are ready to deliver net zero as a part of the solution as they continue business as usual. (Ryan). Our answer is the massive expansion of renewables during (and financed by) the end to subsidies to the oil & gas, and the planned run down of the industry starting now.  This could leave us with a world class green energy industry to replace oil & gas.  Otherwise where would we be in 2050 if this ludicrous plan for “maximum economic recovery” is allowed to proceed.  Apart from fire fighting the results of another 30 years of full on fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions, we’d still have a reliance on oil & gas from wherever, when the North Sea fields have been pumped dry.

The weakness in the regulatory regime that encourages the misuse of migrant labour who are paid a fraction of the UK minimum wage in the offshore renewables industry was noted. (Ryan)  A practice they no doubt learned from offshore oil decommissioning.  The Sea Change report puts trade union organisation at the centre of a just transition to renewables, though this, given the state of trade unionism on the North Sea, is problematic.

When we confront Big Oil in Dundee and Aberdeen as we have begun to do, who are we actually speaking to?  We challenge the industry’s vice grip on a media traditionally prepared to repeat any old nonsense that flows from oil company PR.  But we’re also speaking to wider society.  Those working in the industry might be the last people to be convinced, but they need to know that the energy transition is inevitable one way or another, and that their intervention will be crucial in determining whether it is to be fair to them or not.  They also need to know they do not have a veto.  All our grandchildren must have a future.

The discussion is impossible for me to record in any readable form.  I’m here setting down some of the ideas that emerged from the contributions of our speakers and from the workgroups I have notes from.  This is obviously not definitive and my be controversial.  It’s not the final say and can only at best provide a framework for further more concrete planning if, as I hope, an Oil & Gas Working Group can be set up to carry forward what the Rig Rebellions have started.

Although direct action can’t stop oil & gas production, it can identify Big Oil as the problem and can generate press interest and effectively open the issues to public scrutiny.  Maybe we can call our self Big Oil’s Big Nuisance.  That’s a joke!  But not for the industry who spend big keeping everyone “on message”.

Only as the role fossil fuels plays in generating greenhouse gasses and climate change becomes “common sense” in society (throughout the UK) can pressure be progressively brought to bear on Government and industry and finance to begin the mass expansion of renewable energy in sync with the rundown of oil & gas production.

The voice of even a small minority of oil & gas workers prepared to speak out on the issue of just transition and a future for their grandchildren would have a powerful effect and therefore outreach amongst this group is particularly important.  But whatever they want to say, the workforce must be encouraged to say it.  It is the workforce who will be forced to transition sooner or later, in a planned or a chaotic way.  They need to intervene if it is going to be anything like fair to them.  The last time there was an energy transition the coal miners and there families and communities, were shafted.

Amongst the citizens of Aberdeen, and amongst oil & gas workers, is where there is likely to be maximum pushback against these ideas, and has to be where we do our most serious listening. They will tell us where our arguments are weakest. Aberdeen also provides us with potential allies amongst those sections of the population who live amongst oil wealth and the high prices it generates, but who are living without oil wages.  Making common purpose with them in the Oil Capital of Europe will bring the spotlight on the iniquity of the system and the nature of Big Oil. The transition is inevitable.  But the industry, left to its own devices, will leave that city with little of value.  What it threatens to leave society with is mass extinction of species

Research into carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen production, pushed as solutions to global warming needs to be accessed and turned into outreach material. 

Imaginative materials allowing us to interact with citizens and oil & gas workers will be needed. 

Media penetration will be important.

Should it be decided that an Oil & Gas Working Group be established to take this discussion further and make concrete plans, I think one of it’s first tasks will be how it can penetrate XR UK Circles, and challenge them to take responsibility for encouraging the whole movement to see ending oil & gas production from the under North Sea, and a major upscaling of renewable energy production, as a major strategical aim for the movement. This will need the whole movement with all its skills and operating at its regenerative best.  UK’s greenhouse gas reserves/emissions are not a Scottish issue. XR UK must be challenged to encourage a movement wide campaign.

None of this is possible unless the necessity becomes “common sense”.  Outreach is fundamental.

This is the year of COP26 in Glasgow.  Let us show our solidarity with the activists from the Global South who come to Scotland.  Let them see our determination to end fossil fuel production in the UK.  We can organise transport and hospitality for Nigerian and other activists from around the world who may want to share our action and give their own message to Shell (and others) in Aberdeen, one of the the Oil Capitals of the Global North. 

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Image: Aberdeen Harbour  CC0 from Pixabay.com

Hydrogen Debate and the Future of Heat

We are pleased to publish a contribution to the growing debate on the use of Hydrogen to replace north sea gas for domestic heating written by Pete Roche – the article was originally published in the bulletin of Nuclear Free Local Authorities.

An argument about the future use of hydrogen, in particular for heating, has been raging amongst energy professionals and lobbyists since the Government announced it was looking at setting a date by which all boilers on sale would be “hydrogen ready”, meaning they can burn natural gas but can also be converted easily to burning hydrogen. It was also announced that the natural gas supply at Keele University is being blended with 20% hydrogen in a trial that’s of national significance.

Households could soon be required to install a boiler capable of burning hydrogen when they next upgrade their central heating system. The government has already pledged to ban installation of fossil fuel heating systems in new homes from 2025. In November Sajid Javid, the chancellor, visited the headquarters of Worcester Bosch to inspect its prototype hydrogen-ready boiler. The company says the boilers would be available by 2025. They would be £50-£100 more expensive than existing boilers, which typically cost about £900. The benefit over existing boilers is that they can continue burning natural gas but be converted to burning hydrogen in an operation that will cost about £150 and take a gas engineer one hour.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Hy4Heat programme aims to determine the feasibility of hydrogen for heating in homes and includes work with industry to develop prototype hydrogen appliances, including hydrogen ready boilers. About 1.7 million boilers are replaced each year so if they were required to be hydrogen-ready from 2025 most homes would have the necessary boiler by the mid-2030s to allow a switch to hydrogen. (1)

One of the arguments in favour of converting our gas boilers to hydrogen is that we have poorly insulated houses with insufficient space for installing a heat pump. If you were to design a heating policy from scratch, you would not choose hydrogen. You would build well-insulated houses that use electric heat pumps. (2) Worcester Bosch argues that a house needs to have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above for a heat pump to be able to heat the house effectively. According to them of the 3,276,000 UK properties within the EPC band C rating, some 3,223,000 have a condensing boiler. One of the ways of jumping one clear band within the EPC methodology is to replace a non-condensing boiler with a condensing version. This means that many of the properties in band C are really constructed to band D levels of fabric and therefore unsuitable as they stand for a heat pump installation. (3)

Ed Matthew Associate Director at independent climate and energy think tank E3G says hydrogen is the wrong choice for heating homes. Blue hydrogen (manufactured from natural gas) needs CCS so would be massively expensive and keeps us hooked on gas. Green hydrogen (made by electrolysis using renewable electricity) is 4 times less efficient than using heat pumps. “Hydrogen is being pushed by the gas industry. Beware.”

Dave Toke, reader in energy politics at Aberdeen University agrees. He calls it: “the start of one of the greatest pieces of greenwash that have been committed in the UK.” The oil and gas industry is promoting so-called ‘blue hydrogen’, that is hydrogen produced by ‘reforming’ natural gas, and capturing the carbon dioxide that is produced. Yet currently most hydrogen is produced by reforming natural gas and not capturing carbon dioxide, a process that will dramatically increase carbon dioxide emissions if hydrogen is used to heat homes. The efficiency of the gas reformation process is only around 65% meaning that much more carbon dioxide is generated to produce the hydrogen as fuel compared to simply burning the natural gas. He says any claims that the process will be done using carbon capture and storage, beyond that is a few demonstration projects supported by public grants, should be taken with a wagon load of salt.

But even if ‘green’ hydrogen generated by renewable energy were used, it would still be a grossly inefficient way of using that renewable energy. Renewable energy is normally distributed through the electricity system where it can power heat pumps in homes (either individually or through district heating systems) to much greater effect. The heat pumps use electricity much more efficiently compared to any hydrogen boilers, no matter how the hydrogen is produced. Indeed, a heat pump may increase the efficiency of the use of renewable energy by approaching fourfold compared to using ‘green hydrogen’ in a boiler. (4)

Richard Black from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) told BBC News: “We will and should have hydrogen in the mix of energy options, but it’s not a wonder solution to everything, which you sometimes get the impression from the rhetoric. There is hope – but too much hype.” (5)

Commentators also argue about the cost with some saying hydrogen will prove too expensive for mass usage, while others say switching to the use of electricity for heating will be far more costly than gas central heating and will put enormous strains on the grid during the winter months. However, heat battery manufacturer, Sunamp, claims that using an air source heat pump on off- peak electricity in conjunction with a heat battery can heat a house for a price comparable with gas central heating.

Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, has expressed confidence that a way will be found to produce hydrogen, which could provide a low carbon substitute for natural gas in heating systems, cheaper than is currently possible. (6)

The Commonweal Common Home Plan (see below) is sceptical about relying on the conversion of the gas grid to hydrogen. And moving to electric heating would roughly increase by a factor of five peak load on the grid which would require significant upgrades to cope. It prefers instead the idea of building district heating networks which can deliver heat from solar thermal, geothermal and industrial waste heat recovery.

New research commissioned by industry body Scottish Renewables shows the Scottish Government’s new Heat Networks Bill could see the equivalent of 460,000 homes – around a fifth of Scotland’s total – heated renewably by 2030, cutting emissions from heat by 10% and helping tackle the climate emergency. The research found 46 potential heat network projects across Scotland’s seven cities. The networks would initially serve 45,000 homes but could, with the right Scottish Government support, grow ten-fold by 2030. (7)

To date the Scottish Government has said the new Heat Networks Bill will “support, facilitate and create controls [for] the development of district heating” – but is yet to confirm the details. In response to this ongoing uncertainty industry has published, alongside the new research, a set of recommendations on how the Bill should support new projects. The potential projects represent a significant economic opportunity. Civil engineering such as the digging of trenches and laying of pipes accounts for 40% of a typical heat network’s costs, often using locally-sourced labour.

Star Renewable Energy, has installed a heat pump which can extract the small amount of heat generated by the Clyde. The river has an average temperature of around 10oC but engineers can boost it up to 80oC for use in homes. (8)

Meanwhile the HyDeploy pilot involving injecting hydrogen into Keele University’s existing natural gas network, which supplies 30 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties is now operational. (9) And 7 industrial partners have been pledged to support a demonstration project in Denmark, which, with offshore wind as a power source, will produce renewable hydrogen that can be used in road transport. (10)

  1. Times 4th Jan 2020 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hydrogen-boilers-may-be-only-choice-for-homes- by-2025-2rw5t3tpt
  2. Times 4th Jan 2020 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/an-exciting-carbon-free-future-depends-on- hydrogen-boilers-6ktqwpgw0
  3. See The Future of Fuel, Worcester Bosch, 2019 https://www.worcester- bosch.co.uk/img/documents/hydrogen/The_Future_of_Fuel.pdf
  4. Dave Toke’s Blog 4th Jan 2020 https://realfeed-intariffs.blogspot.com/2020/01/why-uk-government-may- be-encouraging.html
  5. BBC 2nd Jan 2020 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50873047
  6. Edie 6th Dec 2019 https://www.edie.net/news/10/Lord-Deben-chides-politicians-for-failing-to-act-on-decarbonisation-of-heat/Scottish Renewables 11th Nov 2019
  7. https://scottishrenewables.createsend.com/campaigns/reports/viewCampaign.aspx
  8. Times 12th Nov 2019 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/667e8b5c-04d4-11ea-872c-a98e8bfab8fc
  9. Edie 2nd Jan 2020 https://www.edie.net/news/8/UK-s-first-grid-injected-hydrogen-trials-begin-in-Staffordshire/
  10. Orsted 20th Dec 2019 https://orsted.com/da/Media/Newsroom/News/2019/12/945369984118407

The scale of pressure on domestic gas boiler

The scale of pressure on domestic gas boiler image by Marco Verch CC BY 2.0

 

 

 

 

From an activist perspective, looking beyond COP 25

Pedro Perez is a climate justice activist with a background in Human Rights and working with indigenous  Communities in Latin America.   He was in Madrid for COP 25 – in this article he reflects on the recent COP and considers the implications for COP26 in Glasgow.

This paper is a reflection of my experience during COP25 in Madrid:

COP 25 will go down in history as one of the most inconsequential conferences on climate change. A summit characterized by disagreements, a lack of consensus, and no significant agreements being reached to respond to the climate crisis. Civil society and social organizations that demanded climate justice and more action from industrialized countries, could not hide their disappointment and frustration at the end of the summit. There were those who considered COP 25 as shameful, while others described it as a failure.

The outcome of COP 25 is yet another reflection of how these large conferences have been organized and managed. Hosted by the United Nations, they are under the leadership of the countries of the global north and in part are financed with funds from large corporations.

The domination of the industrialized countries is clearly evident; they are the ones who lead and benefit from the summits. In practical terms, it could be said that COP 25 was a failure because significant agreements were not reached to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. From a media perspective, the summit represented a success for industrialized countries and large corporations, which, exercising control over the media, used them to greenwash their image and continue to manipulate society with false messages. They took advantage of the summit, as a sporsor, to give the impression they are committed to respecting the environment and nature while their economic activities continue to destroy the planet, causing climate, social and economic injustice.

Corporations such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, the energy sector and the financial world welcomed COP25. This double standard was evident in some of the publications (newspapers) on COP25 financed by Spanish corporations in the energy sector and distributed free of charge. Articles on climate change, had adverts from a travel company offered discounts on airline tickets. In another, Coca-Cola subtly transferred to the consumers of its products, the responsibility of recycling the millions of plastic bottles that the company produces every day.

At the initiative of Spain, COP25 was divided into two Zones, next to each other: the Blue and Green. zones. The Blue Zone was reserved for meetings of the scientific community, politicians and representatives of countries, corporations and, as observers, the accredited civil society. It is here that the countries of the global north and corporations assert their interest by creating powerful lobbies, which divides and creates blocks of countries, making it difficult to reach consensus and agreements on fundamental issues.

The Green Zone was a space open to the public in which Spain wanted to facilitate the participation of civil society from the global south and north and create a space to raise awareness and promote education on environmental issues related to climate change. However, the sponsors also had space here and took advantage to greenwash their image and present themselves as the standard bearers of innovation, science, transferable technology, capacity building and nature-based solutions. To show themselves as the leaders of the growing renewable energy market in the context of the neoliberal capitalist economic model which is beginning to be monopolized by energy corporations. That was a priority for Spain and an important area of ​​the Green Zone was used for that purpose.

In the Green Zone, social issues such as environmental justice and the agenda of the peoples of the global south were secondary, consigned to the background. While for example, the indigenous representatives of Chile, the host country, did have a presence here, it was not the most appropriate space to address the agenda of indigenous communities in any meaningful depth.

Spain’s lack of genuine interest in the agenda of the peoples of the global south and the demands of the movements and social organizations of the global north, led to the organization of a counter-summit, an alternative summit, the Social Summit with the support of environmentalists. The UGT union and the Complutense University of Madrid provided the spaces for it to take place.

The Social Summit for Climate convened a large demonstration in which thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid. It was attended by the Indigenous “Minga”, young people inspired by Greta Thunberg, human rights defenders, activists of the ecological movements and civil disobedience platforms, like Extinction Rebellion. The purpose was to draw the attention of governments and corporations, to the urgent need to assume a change in attitude and behavior, so that they recognize and assume responsibilities for the climate crisis that is caused by their economically motivated destructive activities. With a demand for environmental justice.

In the alternative summit they discussed among other issues: the causes that are giving rise to the climate crisis; the hidden face of the energy transition – the increase in the damaging extraction of the natural resources necessary for renewable technologies. The oil and gas fracking that remain the cheapest options to maintain economic “growth” and unlimited “progress”. False solutions such as carbon markets and REDDs; the neoliberal, patriarchal and neo-colonial capitalist economic model responsible for the environmental crisis, in which the solutions offered in the Blue and Green zones disastrously remain.

The alternative summit, which did not attract the attention of the official media, in practical terms was a success. Being a space for meeting and exchanging experiences, living together and joining the bonds of solidarity between the movements of the South and the global north. Strengthening the cohesion of the social movement that is growing significantly globally. A space for initiatives, of new plans and strategies to promote more ambitious actions ahead of COP26.

COP 26, Glasgow 2020 will have to assume the climatic emergency; pay attention to the gap between the global north and the global south that is widening significantly; respond to the social movement that is growing globally and that demands social justice and a more ambitious action to face the climatic emergency.

While the topics that will occupy the official agenda of the COP26, will be marked by a strengthening of the Paris Agreement that makes its implementation possible and has the capacity to assume the commitments of the Kyoto protocol that reaches its completion. But also, carbon market, update the NDCs and set new decarbonization goals.

COP26 in Glasgow will be the reflection of the commitment to the climate emergency and society. Its ambition will depend on the spaces assigned to civil society. COP26 can’t be used to greenwash the image and promote the lucrative interests of the corporations. It must be a space for radical approaches to climate and social justice and equality, diversity in participation of communities in the global north and genuine inclusion of the global south agendas and dialogue between all to create actions and solutions.

1024px-Marcha_por_el_clima_Madrid_06_diciembre_2019,_(16)

Image from WikiMedia

Climate Learning Week

UCU, NUS and other organisations have got together to produce themed resources on the climate crisis.  The aim is to get as many schools, colleges and universities as possible using the resources in the week 10th – 14th February.  The resources are relevant and useable at any time and we’ve added the link to the Resources page on this site.  If you are a student or work in education do check them out and think about how they can be used in your institution.

climate learning week

Housing and climate action

One of the workshop streams at the Scot.E3 conference in November was devoted to housing. This report is from Mike Downham who was one of the facilitators of the discussion.  

  1. Housing in Scotland is a disgrace – from the Muirhead tower blocks to new-build. A participant from Hungary, who has been in Glasgow for a year or so and has had extreme difficulties in finding somewhere to live and which is affordable to heat, said that Scotland’s housing compares very badly with Hungary’s, which at least has thick walls. “You’ve got to do something about it”.
  2. Student housing. The Universities are supplying student housing which is unaffordable except for wealthy students, mostly from the Far East, and make it difficult for most students to find less expensive accommodation. There has been a lot of public criticism about students having such high quality housing, while many citizens are homeless. But the reality is that the majority of students have huge difficulties in finding housing they can afford to rent and heat. It’s not unusual for them to end up on someone else’s sofa.
  3. Commodification of housing since 1980 is at the root of the housing crisis in Scotland. Housing policy has been primarily aimed at growing the national economy, instead of housing being recognised as a human right.
  4. What we can do together towards a just transition in Scotland’s Housing:
  • Demand that Councils bring building standards up to passive-house specifications and replace building control jobs lost in the name of austerity, without which new housing can’t be adequately inspected. These changes are perfectly feasible for Councils.
  • Put pressure on the Scottish Government to ensure that the new Scottish Investment Bank will direct enough funding to build the new houses needed (this is urgent – the Scottish Investment Bank Bill is going through parliament now).
  • Put pressure on Pension Funds to invest in housing.
  • Support grass-roots protest as demonstrated by Living Rent’s support for Muirhouse tenants, which started with door-knocking to get all tenants’ views.
  • Suggest to XR that they target some of their direct action on grass-roots projects such as Muirhouse
  • Suggest that grass-roots projects such as Muirhouse deliver their demands to the COP 26 – to both the formal and the alternative meetings.
  • Keep in our sites the eventual objective of a National Housing Company through which communities will choose the type of housing, local facilities and green species they need
  1. Climate is just one part of the wider argument – so the challenge for the Climate Movement is to build links with all other movements concerned with social injustice.
  2. “We need to close this down” – just as we would have no hesitation in doing if there was a proposal to build an asbestos factory at the end of our street. Though this was said in respect of the climate polluters, the fact that it was said in a discussion on Housing, Health and Fuel Poverty suggests that it should be our approach to all forms of social and planetary injustice.

Construction_of_the_passive_house_10_(18696022004)

Image (Construction of the Passive House) CC BY SA 2.0 from Sustainable Sanitation Alliance