Demand a Just Transition to renewable energy

One of the lead stories on the BBC today is the UK’s oil and gas industry assertion that the best response to tackling greenhouse gas emissions is to continue production at maximum levels.  Oil and Gas UK’s “Roadmap to 2035” argues consumption would remain above the levels they could produce. 

Neil Rothnie, life long offshore oil worker and activist, argues the case for an end to business as usual and a just transition out of hydrocarbon production in the North Sea.

Both the UK oil industry and Government seem to think that new licenses should be issued and oil and gas exploration on the North Sea stepped up.   The industry estimates that 20 billion bbls of fossil fuel remain under the North Sea.  No one in authority seems to think that these reserves should not be fully exploited.

This begs the questions;

If a policy of business as usual is to be applied to the North Sea, why then should Saudi Arabian, Gulf of Mexico, Venezuelan, Sakhalin, Nigerian and other hydrocarbon reserves not also be fully exploited?

What would the effect of producing all the world’s oil and gas be on global warming and climate change?

The Scottish Government seem to be prepared to try and lead us to an independent Scotland based on a carbon economy.  According to the First Minister, Scotland’s carbon emissions would increase if oil production from the North Sea was stopped. This only makes any kind of sense if there is to be no transition to a renewable energy system to replace fossil fuel from the North Sea.

Despite government complacency, the oil industry will come under increasing pressure – financial and political – to reduce and eventually end hydrocarbon production, though perhaps not till it’s too late to avoid catastrophic climate change if the politicians and industry leaders have their way.

The past practice of both oil industry and Government suggests that the workforce, offshore and onshore, will then be abandoned to their own devices, creating the sort of wilderness in the North East of Scotland that the UK coalfields became when there was no just transition from coal.  Energy workers and their families from all over the UK would then be very badly affected.  Though this time it looks as though they won’t suffer in isolation if climate science predictions are realised.

The unjust transition from coal wasn’t inevitable.  The miners and their families were punished for standing up to Thatcher’s plans to cripple organised labour. Offshore employers wanted anyone but ex-miners with their tradition of struggle, on the North Sea, and the unions failed to step up to the mark. This time it has to be different for everyone’s sake.
A just transition to renewable energy could be planned and enacted starting now.  New oil and gas exploration could immediately be stopped and a planned rundown of hydrocarbon production and a massive development of renewable resources begun now.

Not a penny of the oil windfall has so far been saved for the peoples of the UK.  Is it not now imperative that all (declining) oil profits must be immediately re-invested in developing the renewables energy sector?  Retraining of the oil industry workforce is a must where there is an expected skills gap in a much-expanded renewables sector.  The current oil and gas workforce can and should be re-deployed to replace the fossil fuel that we can no longer afford to produce.  Without a just transition to renewable energy from sun, wind and wave, we are fucked.

2018-07-19 08.57.05Our children and grandchildren deserve more from us than business as usual.  They and the rest of the remaining life on the planet need a chance of a future that does not include the misery of living through a global meltdown.

Harland and Wolff: occupying for nationalisation, jobs and the climate

As workers at Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard fight to save their jobs, demanding nationalisation as the employer goes into administration, Brian Parkin from ScotE3 reports on the response from the UK Construction Rank and File group, argues for solidarity and highlights links with action to tackle the climate emergency.  This article was first published on http://www.rs21.org.uk

The mighty shipyard of Harland and Wolff, whose enormous cranes, Samson and Goliath, dominate the Belfast skyline, is now facing the final phase of closure. Most famed for being the shipyard that built the ill-fated Titanic, these yards and their local supply companies employed up to 30,000 workers at their peak. Now, after repeated capacity and job-sheddings, only 121 workers remain.

The remaining workers have been given redundancy notices, but have said no to the supposed inevitability of market forces and the whims of hedge-fund capital. In a bid to save their jobs, they have mounted a workplace occupation. These men and women of the Unite and GMB unions are not looking back to the days of mighty ocean liners and battleships. Instead, they have evaluated the productive assets of the yards and have seen them as part of the vital industrial capacity that can begin to turn the tide in the battle against climate change. They have combined their technical skills with their knowledge of the Harland and Wolff production potential with a vision of how they can fabricate the structures and internals of wave, wind and tidal units that can harness the vast renewable resources that can provide clean, affordable and abundant energy.

All too aware of empty promises and crocodile tears of politicians and would-be investors, the workforce have played their ultimate hand: they have occupied and taken over the means of production in order to prevent asset strippers and bailiffs moving in and destroying further the productive potential of their sole means of production – and with it the hope of clean energy technologies so badly needed as climate change accelerates.

But these workers cannot fight alone. So far their unions have promised official support. But that support will be conditional – until a prospective bidder comes along with the any rescue bid inevitably demanding further flexibility and productivity promises of the workforce. Which is why the example of the UK Construction Rank and File in promising solidarity is so important. And now, within weeks of the global climate strikes and protests on 20 September, the climate change movement has a concrete example to put workers’ action centre stage.

Harland and Wolff and an emerging campaign of former BiFab workers in Fife are at last bringing together the issues of jobs worth having within a campaign for a planet capable of being saved.

The UK Construction Rank and File passed the following motion at its annual general meeting on Saturday 3 August:

  1. The Annual General Meeting of the UK Construction workers rank and File note the heroic factory occupation of the Harland and Wolff plant in Belfast in their bid to save jobs.
  2. We further note their demand that the present plant and jobs therein be turned over to the production of renewable energy technologies that will not only meet the growing demand for clean renewable sources of energy, but will also make a vital contribution to the fight against impending and potentially catastrophic climate change.
  3. In their present struggle the H&W workers are showing the way by which in the fight for jobs, the conversion of employment and means of production can be redeployed into both socially and environmentally dedicated ends.
  4. We commend the leadership on Unite for the official support that they are extending to the H&W occupation and call upon the wider labour movement to take up the fight for jobs, communities and the energy needs and environmental responsibilities of future generations.
  5. Furthermore, we urge all workers to support next month’s climate strikes and protests, both as a show of solidarity with H&W, but as a sign of the commitment to the working class’s vital role in the fight against climate change and our planets environment and eco-systems.

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Climate Camp

We’ll be running a workshop at the XR Climate Campo at Holyrood on Monday evening (17th June), 7pm – it’s on ‘Climate jobs, just transition and building a movement with social justice at its heart’ – do come along if you can and in any case support the Climate Camp – on this week from this evening until Thursday.

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Sea Change

This week has seen the publication of an important report on North Sea oil and gas.  ‘Sea Change – climate emergency, jobs and managing the phase-out of UK oil and gas extraction’.  The report is co-published by Platform, Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth Scotland. It finds that

  • The UK’s 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in already-operating oil and gas fields will exceed the UK’s share in relation to Paris climate goals – whereas industry and government aim to extract 20 billion barrels;
  • Recent subsidies for oil and gas extraction will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase-out of coal power saves;
  • Given the right policies, job creation in clean energy industries will exceed affected oil and gas jobs more than threefold.

Recommendations to the UK and Scottish Governments include:

  • Stop issuing licenses and permits for new oil and gas exploration and development, and revoke undeveloped licenses;
  • Rapidly phase out all subsidies for oil and gas extraction, including tax breaks, and redirect them to fund a Just Transition;
  • Enable rapid building of the clean energy industry through fiscal and policy support to at least the extent they have provided to the oil industry, including inward investment in affected regions and communities;
  • Open formal consultations with trade unions to develop and implement a Just Transition strategy for oil-dependent regions and communities.

We hope to publish a longer review of the report in the near future.  However, in the meantime we strongly recommend downloading, reading and sharing the PDF.

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NFLA Seminar on just transition

On Friday 10th May I attended the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Spring Seminar in Dundee on behalf of Scot.E3. The subject of the seminar was ‘Dealing With Climate Change, Just Transition and Divestment Issues’.

The four presentations grappled with issues of just transition and sustainability from a local authority perspective:

You can use the hyperlinks to access the presentations. NFLA have also produced a useful briefing on some of these issues – ‘Climate Emergency’ Declarations and the practicalities in Local Authority Action to go ‘Carbon Neutral’

Eileen Cook

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Notes and actions from the April organising meeting

Notes from Scot.E3 Edinburgh organising meeting180419

  • Attending PS, ZT, CM, PC, EC, BP – apologies from KW, WB, SB, MD
  • Agreed to rewrite the preamble to the article that responds to criticisms of Just Transition in the light of the new STUC statement on climate action and publish it on the blog.
  • The leaflet we distributed on the first day of the STUC in Dundee was well received.Thanks to SCND for hosting the fringe meeting on jobs, divestment and sustainability that we spoke at – about 30 people attended.  We also joined a discussion organised by the STUC with young people from recent climate action.
  • Throughout the meetingideas for further briefings/resources/blog posts came up in discussion. These included:
  • The case for taking INEOS into public ownership
  • Sustainable housing
  • Divestment, nuclear decommissioning and a sustainable future
  • Why nuclear shouldn’t be part of a just transition
  • A critical look at energy from waste schemes

If you are interested in contributing to any of these please let us know.

  • There will be a climate bloc on Edinburgh May Day (4thMay) – we are working with Friends of the Earth Scotland to build this. PC will check whether we can organise a meeting for people on it to attend afterwards possibly at the May Day Bookfair at the Leith Community Centre, Sunday 5th
  • We still need to find a couple of people who can take the Scot.E3 banner through to the Glasgow May Day march (5thMay). The banner will be on the Edinburgh march on the 4th, can anyone take the banner through to Glasgow for this given that we also have to cover the Leith event.
  • We’ve been invited to speak at the Edinburgh Green Party meeting, 7.30pm at the Augustine Church on 25thApril – PC to speak.
  • Edinburgh City Council Climate emergency meeting 25thApril, 6pm at the City Chambers Scot.E3 have been asked to host a table – WB taking responsibility for this but others welcome – you’ll need to register at this Eventbrite link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/climate-emergency-action-needed-6pm-thur-25-apr-edinburgh-city-chambers-tickets-59567249246
  • Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scotland seminar on climate change, just transition and divestment issues, Dundee City Chambers, 10th May – EC going to this
  • State Energy Company

American Climate Rebels

A post from REEL News

In 2018, Reel News went on a 14 week tour of North America to look at grassroots struggles around climate change, particularly struggles around a “just transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy, where workers and communities control the process so that they benefit from the transition, and around “just recovery” – recovery from extreme weather events which do not exascerbate current inequalities.

What we found were inspiring and visionary struggles all over the continent, led by working class communities of colour, with people organising just transitions and just recoveries themselves. Now, we’ll be presenting what we found in the form of a weekly online 11 episode series starting on Sunday April 14th – 7pm UK time, 3pm New York City time, Midday California time.

Episode 1 is about Alberta, Canada, where the long oil sands boom  has come to an end. Falling oil prices are leading to thousands of job losses – which has started a serious conversation in the labour movement about transitioning away from oil to renewables. The need is becoming more urgent as the big oil sands companies look to maximise profits and slash even more jobs through automation. This film looks at a number of initiatives, the history of oppression of First Nations people to get the resources in the first place, and a rare chance to hear from oil sands workers themselves, including women and First Nations workers.

With the current growing uprising over climate change giving renewed hope, we’re hoping that this will not only inspire you further – but will also help a little in putting the idea of just transition at the forefront of the movement.

‘Unlocking the job potential of zero carbon’

‘Unlocking the job potential of zero carbon’ from the Green European Foundation is a valuable addition to the evidence base that a socially just transition to a zero carbon economy is practical and possible.   The authors model the impact on jobs, short-term (during the transition) and long term, of moving to zero carbon by 2030. The estimates they provide are conservative – they don’t consider the additional employment that would be created by the additional economic activity – they don’t consider jobs in the supply chain and they don’t include activity for which rigorous data is unavailable.

The new report’s approach is not identical to the work done by the Campaign Against Climate Change published in the Million Climate Jobs Pamphlet. However, their forecasts for the whole of the UK are very similar.   They expect 980,000 additional jobs will be required during the transition reducing to 710,000 after zero carbon is reached. New jobs are calculated on a regional basis with a full breakdown available in the report’s appendix. The number of new jobs during the transition is estimates as 60,946 falling to 26,905 in the long-term.

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Briefing #8: Just Transition

The latest Scot.E3 briefing looks at what we mean by Just Transition and how a focus on climate jobs, workers rights and social justice can be core the the transition to a zero carbon economy.  Please download, use in your workplace and community group.  These briefings are produced under an open license so do feel free to adapt – although we’d appreciate if you include attribution to the existing material and if you can send a copy for further sharing/development.

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Fuel Poverty Briefing

The latest briefing looks at Fuel Poverty in Scotland, the Scottish Government’s Draft Fuel Poverty Bill and the importance of Climate Jobs.  Please share and download to print paper copies for distribution.

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Image shows page 1 of the briefing