War on Want’s new report ‘A Material Transition’ exposes the environmental destruction and human rights abuses that mining for renewable energy could unleash. The climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and rampant global inequality all have their roots in our resource-intense society.
The report highlights what can be done to avert this devastation and sets out a pathway for a globally just energy future: respect for the rights of affected communities, ensuring just and fair supply chains, and a reduction to harm for workers and the need for new resource extraction.
We’d like to publish a review of this report please get in touch if you would like to submit one.
In this post Scot.E3 activist Ann Morgan shares the letter she has written to Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair work and Culture. Add your voices to Ann’s.
Dear Fiona Hyslop,
I have lived in West Dunbartonshire mostly all my life (I am now retired and live in Govan) and retain links with family, friends and community organisations. I have followed and participated in the Save Loch Lomond campaign. The campaign currently highlights the possibility of a planning application by Lomond Banks, subsidiary of Flamingo Land and the extension of the exclusivity agreement, effectively excluding alternative community led proposals for the site and for job creation.
I wish to comment both on the ecological impact on the site and provide examples of sustainable climate jobs.
I do so as a participant in SCOT.E3 (Employment, Energy, Environment) and as a member of Unite the Union (retired members). I am active in a number of local community projects including food -growing and provision and I am keen to share the successes of initiatives with other communities, including the Leamy Foundation /Growing West Dunbartonshire Project. I am not commenting on behalf of these agencies but draw on my research and activism within them to outline objections and alternatives to the proposed developments at the lochside.
The Scottish Government declared a Climate Emergency in April 2019. Emissions reductions targets include reductions of 70% by 2030. This declaration must be followed by action.
Allan McQuade of Scottish Enterprise, in reference to the proposal, talks of sustainability and syas that the fight against climate change as ‘central to everything we do.’
Action must be two-fold, Protective and proactive.
Protection around biodiversity is of paramount importance. The State of Nature Report (a collaboration between conservation and research organisations) reported in 2019.The report contains the best available data on Scotland’s biodiversity. Key findings show 49% of species have decreases in abundance with 11% threatened with extinction. The First Minister in response states that Scotland must lead the way in facing the challenges to biodiversity.
With the above in mind, I request that the cabinet minister considers the impact on biodiversity on the National Park environment. Specifically, on the impact on Drumkinnin Woods within the West Riverside site. This is erroneously referred to as a Brownfield Site. It is part of the National Park. The stated aim of the designated Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area.
The proposed development is at odds with the Scottish Government and National Park aims. The ecological impact would
Endanger wildlife-insects, birds, trees and water species. Woodlands and rivers are especially vulnerable.
The impacts arise from noise, light, traffic emissions and increased pollution.
The above are exacerbated when there is a high concentration of visitors in the one area. Sustainable Tourism encourages movement, public transport use with rover tickets and electric people carrier hire. Single car use and enabling by large car parking space must be disincentivised.
The FM also describes in the annual Programme for Government that it is a key aim of the Scottish Government to empower communities. The retention of the exclusivity agreement contradicts this aim. Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland)Act 2004 public bodies in Scotland have a duty to further conservation in biodiversity.
My involvement with Scot.E3 has given me insight into the potential for Climate Jobs (see 1 million Jobs pamphlet). Specific to Scotland a just transition could include advancing regional specific renewables energy, district heating and a programme of retro fitting and new build housing and public building with apprenticeship skills in insulation, joinery, roofing, glazing and heating, linking with schools and further education. My perspective, shared with environmental groups, is that this type of job creation is both more sustainable and career focused than many jobs in the hospitality sector, often minimum waged or even zero hours contracts and seasonal. That said, there are ways to encourage sustainable and responsible tourism with quality training for those seeking careers in the tourism. It is of concern that the original proposal carried none of these assurances. Any development with employment opportunities must adhere to the principles outlined in the Fair Work Convention.
Finally, the experience of the pandemic has greatly impacted on local and global tourism. There are scientists, ecologists, biologists, economists and epidemiologists (David Attenborough included) who are warning of future pandemics, with potential of more virulent strains. The current variant is concerning with increased contagion /transmission.
Rob Wallace, evolutionary biologist, charts the link between habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and the increase in zoonotic transmission of infection. Again, this points to the important of biodiversity protection. Tourism is of course both impacted by and causal in transmission. Therefore, a rethink on safety in travel and transit will be required for tourist dependent development. Linked with emission reduction this presents as an opportunity to put environmental protection as Allan McQuade asserts, central in Scottish Enterprise approval.
The fragility of tourism as well as its importance to the Scottish Economy is recognised. Within this perspective, social justice with environmental integrity is required.
Friday 1st February, 7pm at Lochgelly Town Hall, Bank Street KY5 9
This is a really important meeting. According to the Scottish Environmental ProtectionAgency (SEPA) the ExxonMobil plant at Mossmorran in Fife is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Scotland – only the INEOS complex at Grangemouth is a bigger polluter. People living in the vicinity of the plant have suffered from excessive flaring and poor air quality for a long time. The Mossmorran Action group has been campaigning for a resolution to these issues. George Kerevan has recently written about the ways in which SEPA has failed to respond adequately to their concerns.
The plant is currently being returned to operation after a shut down in August 2019. Flaring and pollution has been at a high level and yesterday around 170 workers walked off the site to highlight concerns over working conditions and safety. There needs to urgent action to protect the health and safety of local residents and workers. But in light of the climate crisis Mossmorran must also be part of a plan for a rapid phased run down of the Scottish petrochemical industry in which the workers are supported in a just transition to new sustainable jobs – part of the just transition that is so urgently needed.
Climate Justice is the theme of this year’s Edinburgh World Justice Festival held at various venues in Edinburgh between 28th September and 19th October. Among the speakers at the conference held on Saturday 12th October was Asad Rehman from War in Want. The video is just over 20 minutes and is highly recommended.
Edinburgh City Council (having already told school students in the city that they can only walk out to take action over climate once in a year) is now saying that they can’t march down Princes Street on 20th September. This from a council that has happily closed down streets around the city in the last few days to facilitate a multi million dollar movie. No questions asked about the huge climate footprint of that operation.
School students around the world have done a magnificent job in putting collective action on the agenda. Contact the council, email your councillors, get your workmates and/or union branch to send a message to the council that their declaration of a climate emergency rings hollow unless they give full support to the school students who are leading the way.
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.
Our 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.
In previous posts and briefing documents we have argued that HUnterston poses a grave threat to the safety of everyone living in the Central Belt and that moreover, nuclear should have no part in the transition to a sustainable economy.
The Office of Nuclear Regulation has given EDF permission to restart reactor 4 at Hunterston B. The date is not yet certain but the probable date is 30th August. Although cracking in Reactor 4 is not as extensive as in Reactor 3, there is an issue of some cracks openings that are greater than 1.2 cm wide (ie ~½ inch).
Actions you might wish to take:
Write (with copies to social media) to the following people – (addresses are given below)
the Chief Inspector of the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR),
the Chief Executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA),
your own MSP and the current Scottish Minister for Energy
the Scottish Government’s Director of Energy and Climate Change
In writing to the above and in using social media, you might express the views that:
both the Hunterston B reactors should remain closed for good
that EDF and North Ayrshire Council should publish their plans for evacuation in the event of a nuclear accident; and
that free potassium iodate tablets should be pre-distributed to the population within 50 km of Hunterston B.
Consider planning, organising and participating in demonstrations outside Hunterston.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.