Time to phase out North Sea Oil and Gas

Retired oil worker and XR Scotland activist Neil Rothnie responds to the recently published XR strategy for 2022.  Neil argues that the strategy is weakened by not making specific reference to the North Sea when North Sea Oil and Gas remains at the heart of both the UK and Scottish governments energy strategies. 

Begin a planned rundown of North Sea oil and gas production without delay.

That’s a real ‘demand’ and is directed at the UK oil industry and the UK and Scottish Governments.

North Sea oil and gas is a major contributor to the greenhouse gases that are the UK’s contribution to global heating.

 So why does the Extinction Rebellion UK Strategy 2022, on the fossil economy, make no mention of North Sea oil and gas?  

The new 2022 strategy document talks instead about End(ing) The Fossil Fuel Economy in general, and specifically demands No New Fossil Fuel Investment,   No New Fossil Fuel Licences,  and an End (to) Fossil Fuel Subsidies Now.  

But – End the Fossil Fuel Economy – is not a demand.  It’s a slogan!  And the three specific demands could be met in full today without making a jot of difference to the climate catastrophe that’s unfolding.  

Because without one more penny being invested in the North Sea, without one more licence issued, and without a penny more in public subsidy, everything is already in place to ensure that North Sea oil and gas fields will, unless someone puts a stop to it, produce more than the UK’s share of global greenhouse gases that will heat the atmosphere to way over +1.5 degrees, and trigger the irreversible climate change that leads, according to the science as I understand it, to mass extinctions of life forms on the planet.

A similar scenario is set to be repeated all over the world.  In Norway, the Gulf of Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the China’s coalfields, etc etc.  So, it’s a global problem that has to be addressed in each locality.  

In the UK, we have a responsibility to begin to choke back North Sea oil and gas production.  In the US the responsibility to end fracking and wind down hydrocarbon production from the Gulf of Mexico falls, in the main, to Americans.  In Russia to Russians . .  .

We must have the confidence that the peoples in each and every other fossil production zone will act at least as decisively as we will.  We can talk to them and encourage them, but above all we need to lead by example.  The main enemy is at home.  It’s our responsibility to fight our corner.

And the biggest support we can give to the masses of people in the global south who face climate chaos earlier and harder than us, is to end North Sea oil and gas production.

One massive implication of “disappearing” North Sea Oil and Gas from a UK strategy for fossil fuels is that you also “disappear” the North Sea oil and gas workers and their rights and their responsibilities.

Oil & gas production is going to go.  Sooner rather than later if the climate and our grandchildren are to have a chance. Oil workers must not be shafted like the coal miners were before them.

If you are an oil and gas worker. a climate activist, a trade unionist – if you live in a community that hosts the industry and the workers – or if you’re young and fearful for your future, put your name to our demands*.

  • No more redundancies of oil and gas workers.
  • Workers whose jobs are threatened as the oil industry is wound down, must be furloughed until they are retrained and re-employed.
  • North Sea wind jobs must be made to pay North Sea wage rates.

*These three demands are still in draft but will form part of a new Scot.E3 campaign in 2022.

Disaster Environmentalism

The People and Nature blog has just published three really thought proving articles.

The first ‘Disaster environmentalism looking the future in the face’ takes a critical look at recent writing by Rupert Read, Jem Bendell and others that argues that civilisational collapse as a result of climate change is inevitable and for approaches to dealing with collapse that require ‘deep adaptation’.

The second ‘Disaster environmentalism: roads to a post-growth economy’ is a contribution to the debate on Degrowth.   It argues that ‘“Economic growth”, as manifested by global capitalism, is completely unsustainable. “Green growth”, or “socialist growth”, are no substitutes. Our challenge to the economic system must open the way for a society based on human happiness and fulfillment, values completely at odds with – and distorted and defaced by – the rich-country consumerist ideology that helps to justify ever-expanding material production’.

The final post ‘Disaster environmentalism: what to do’ explores the political implications of the positions outlined in the first two posts and takes a sharp look at the politics and practice of social change.

Taken together the three posts are an important contribution to debate in the climate movement and recommended reading for climate activists.

Typhoon Ondoy Aftermath

Typhoon Ondoy Aftermath CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

‘Climate jobs, just transition and building a movement with social justice at its heart’

A report from Pete Cannell on a recent ScotE3 workshop.

Back in June I facilitated a ScotE3 workshop on the Monday evening of the Extinction Rebellion Holyrood Rebel Camp.  The workshop was titled ‘Climate jobs, just transition and building a movement with social justice at its heart’.

Around 30 of us squashed together under a gazebo on a bright but chilly summer’s evening.  There was an excellent discussion looking critically at what we mean by Just Transition and how we can make social justice more than just a distant aspiration.  The rest of this post is an attempt to capture some of the content of the workshop.

I framed the discussion by explaining the origins of ScotE3 as a collective of rank and file trade unionists and climate activists in Scotland looking to develop the movement for a just transition.   I explained that while ‘just transition’ is a contested term, ScotE3 has taken inspiration from several sources; initially from the campaign for a million climate jobs, from the grassroots campaigns in working class and indigenous communities in the US and from the Lucas plan campaigners; more recently from the BiFab workers, the school student strikes and the urgency injected by XR.  We see climate jobs, social justice and grass roots democracy as the key to just transition and also as central to building the social movement we require to avoid catastrophic climate change.

In the group we discussed the difference between ‘climate jobs’ and ‘green jobs’. Climate jobs are jobs that lead directly to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.  So for example, workers building and maintaining offshore wind farms replace power stations that burn coal, oil or gas; bus drivers reduce the amount of oil burnt in cars.

We also discussed what is meant by just transition.  It can be a slippery concept because governments, unions and climate activists all use it.  I argued that its value comes from the way it has been used by working class climate rebels who have made it much more than just a vague aspiration. So to be useful just transition and social justice need to inform the demands we make, the priorities we organise for and the nature of the social movement we build.  It is about protecting the individuals and communities whose livelihoods currently depend on the carbon economy.   But it’s not just a conservative demand; it’s also about ensuring that the new sustainable economy is egalitarian, democratic and reflects the diversity of Scotland in the twenty first century.

Thanks to all the participants in the workshop for their contributions and questions.

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Image – Pete Cannell Flickr CC0