The People and Nature blog has published two articles that take a critical look at the UK Climate Change Committee UKCCC). In an introduction to the two articles by Peter Somerville, Gabriel Levy notes that UKCCC has played an important role in warning that on current progress the UK is not going to meet its’ targets at any of the milestones set over the next two decades. However, he notes that
The CCC’s carbon budgets are not a realistic guide to the UK playing its part in tackling climate change – and are used by government ministers and other politicians to obstruct and delay effective action.
The way the CCC budgets are calculated would allow the UK economy to emit at least twice as much greenhouse gas as any amount that could possibly be described as its fair share.
Both the brief introduction to carbon budgets and the two linked articles on How the UK Climate Change Committee steals from the carbon budget are strongly recommended. In the run up to COP26 in November there will be a crescendo of announcements from the UK government and the climate movement needs to be alert to false solutions, mystification and greenwashing.
With the delayed COP26 United Nations Climate talks scheduled for Glasgow in November the eyes of the world are on Scotland in 2021.
The Westminster and Holyrood governments aim to present themselves as international leaders in tackling the climate crisis. However, the policy of both governments is to maximise economic recovery of North Sea oil and gas. The Sea Change report shows how this policy is completely incompatible with keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees centigrade. Oil and gas production needs to stop here in Scotland and worldwide. At the same time the lives and livelihoods of those working in oil and gas must be protected.
We therefore demand:
The immediate cessation of all new exploration, development and drilling activity in the British sector of the North Sea.
A planned and phased end of oil and gas production in the North Sea that would ensure that activity ends by 2030.
The establishment of a publicly owned and democratically controlled Scottish Climate Service with a five-year target to create 100,000 climate jobs. The SCS would manage new investments in the production, distribution and storage of renewable energy and Scotland wide projects, for example, retrofitting homes and offices to high insulation standards and district heating.
Guaranteed employment and retraining with the SCS for all oil and gas workers whose jobs end as a result of decommissioning.
We would like individuals and organisations to discuss the pledge, support and campaign for it. If you, or your organisation, would like to add your name to the list of supporters, please email Scot.E3 at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can use the form on our contact page if you wish. The list of signatories is here.Please get in touch If you would like someone from Scot.E3 to speak at a discussion on the issues that the pledge raises
Stuart Graham writes about how trade unionists in Glasgow are organising for COP26 and beyond
Glasgow Trades Union Council (GTUC) attended the STUC Trades Councils conference on Sat 30 January and had requested that a session was added to deal with COP26 and the required level of mobilisation for the Nov summit. Consequently 2 of the Glasgow delegates led the session to discuss the work started on one campaign (Free Our City campaign for free public transport) and the intention to devise another (along similar coalition-building type lines) around a retrofitting agenda for the city. The opportunity to engage with Glasgow City Council on these issues has been presented by the fact that GCC declared a climate emergency in June 2019, published a list of recommendations from the Climate Emergency Working Group that considered the response and has subsequently undertaken public consultations on transport and the wider Climate Emergency Implementation Plan (CEIP). While these are not always going to provide the desired solutions (indeed the transport proposals are particularly frustrating at this stage) this does provide some kind of opening to initiate genuine social dialogue and discuss what social protections are actually needed in the process of just transition. However, we need to ensure that such social dialogue remains genuine and capable of being a two-way conversation and not just a monologue with the option to tell the council in question how much you agree or disagree with an already defined endpoint.
As the provision of renewably-powered, free public transport is one of the significant, societal transformations that the Free Our City coalition (which includes GTUC) has identified as capable of delivering the just transition to a low carbon/carbon neutral economy, GTUC will be meeting with trades councils from the local authorities surrounding Glasgow to devise a common approach to take to the politicians which sit on the Strathclyde Regional Cabinet. Bus service provision in Greater Glasgow cuts across local authority boundaries to such an extent that we will require a common mobilising agenda that is also capable of being adapted as we go. Whether we view this solely from the perspective of municipal bus transit for a domestic population, or consider the amount of visitors we may be hosting come November (if the covid-19 vaccine roll-out permits an in-person attendance at COP26 that we were expecting pre-pandemic), we need to continue to make the case that the Bus Service Improvement Programmes (BSIPs) that continue to subsidise private companies like First Bus and Stagecoach, with public funds, are neither good enough nor capable of delivering what bus users across Greater Glasgow need. Therefore irrespective of the current or anticipated positions of the various administrations which make up the Strathclyde Regional Cabinet, part of any campaign on public transport/buses needs to have the demand for public ownership and democratic control at its centre. Public sector job creation – as drivers or mechanics as well that offered through renewables-focused supply lines – would also result from re-municipalization.
GTUC are in the early stages of devising a local retrofitting campaign too and are watching with interest the progress of and obstacles to Leeds TUC’s retrofitting report and recommendations. Carbon emissions from domestic energy use/consumption remains a significant contribution to the city’s overall emissions levels, and while GCC’s CEIP has a commitment to a retrofitting programme, it is nowhere at the scale or level of ambition which will be required to retrofit all of the city’s homes, which will have different specifications depending on property types, ranging from multi-storey flats to tenemental and four-in-a-block properties. While still in its very early stages, what is known about the scale of the retrofitting task ahead of us all, is that it has massive, public sector job creation potential and this is what we want to see. Hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs created to carry out the deep retrofitting of all homes, with the associated training available to those who want to work in this sector, as well as for those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic or are finding it particularly difficult as they are younger workers with little to no work experience because of the lack of real job opportunities (both pre- and mid-pandemic) and being forced into precarious work. We will once again attempt to do so through coalition-building, and hope that Living Rent will also be one of the coalition partners due to its status and work as the only tenants union in the city.
We appreciate that the priorities detailed are specific to Glasgow/Greater Glasgow and rely upon the demands of urban societies/economies. And we know that some of the more rural local authorities/trades councils eg. Highlands & Islands, will have significantly differing demands, including a greater reliance on electrical vehicles. Once known, these aspects can be better articulated, but will take some time to properly assess. However, the proposal is to use one, other or both campaigns as a mobilising template or impetus which trades councils can then use to build coalitions and bespoke campaigning agendas around. Transport and housing affect everyone – so the aim is to try and harness the energy that type of appeal can bring as a common mobilising agenda across trades councils. Scottish trades councils will be meeting more regularly throughout 2021 under these and other auspices, to bring their affiliates under the banner of the COP26 coalition and call for more participation and action at all levels, and as we (in Glasgow at least) will definitely be here for the Nov summit, to build for it as if we are expecting a million people are (still?) coming to town.
In the lead up to COP 26 in Glasgow the UK government will be pushing governments and corporations to declare new net-zero targets. With every announcement we can expect politicians and large parts of the media to declare that these are real steps on the road to tackling the climate crisis. In most cases this will not be the case.
Far from signifying climate ambition, the phrase “net zero” is being used by a majority of polluting governments and corporations to evade responsibility, shift burdens, disguise climate inaction, and in some cases even to scale up fossil fuel extraction, burning and emissions. The term is used to greenwash business-as-usual or even business-more-than-usual. At the core of these pledges are small and distant targets that require no action for decades and promises of technologies that are unlikely ever to work at scale, and which are likely to cause huge harm if they come to pass.
Typically net zero strategies allow greenhouse gas emissions to continue while assuming that at some stage in the future equivalent amounts of carbon can be removed from the atmosphere. The technologies proposed for this are untested at any significant scale. Moreover, the sums just don’t add up. We’ve written elsewhere on this site about BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage). Where they use tree planting or other forms of taking carbon dioxide by plants there is simply not enough space on the planet to achieve the targets.
The report suggests some key questions when net zero plans are being discussed.
When the “net zero” target is reached, how much GHG pollution will still be taking place? Will GHG emissions be reduced to nearly zero – or not?
How much CO2 removal does the plan rely on to reach “net zero”? How and where will this be achieved?
Which sectors and GHGs are included? Some or all?3
How many years or decades before a country or corporation can claim to be at “net zero”?
Between now and the “net zero” target date, how many cumulative emissions in total will have been added to the atmosphere?
Will there be “overshoot”, i.e. accumulating atmospheric emissions that take the planet to more than 1.5°C of warming before the assumed CO2 removals take place, thus significantly increasing the risk of crossing irreversible tipping points?
The conclusion is that effective action on climate requires strategies to drive down greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
Key findings from the report
The term “net zero” is used by the world’s biggest polluters and governments as a façade to evade responsibility and disguise their inaction or harmful action on climate change.
“Net zero emissions” does not mean “zero emissions” and should not be accepted at face value.
There is simply not enough available land on the planet to accommodate all of the combined corporate and government “net zero” plans for offsets and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) tree plantations.
Collectively, “net zero” climate targets allow for continued rising levels of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions, while hoping that technologies or tree plantations will be able to suck carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air in the future.
By putting the burden for carbon sequestration onto land and tree plantations in global South countries – which have done little to cause the climate crisis – most “net zero” climate targets are effectively driving a form of carbon colonialism.
Many governments and corporations have pledged to achieve “net zero” by a distant date, further compounding the harm caused. “Net zero by 2050” is too little, too late.
When assessing “net zero” targets, we must remember key questions of fairness and ethics: Whose land? Whose forests? Whose emissions? Whose responsibility?
Instead of relying on future technologies and harmful land grabs, we need climate plans that radically reduce emissions to Real Zero.
Scot.E3’s contribution to the gathering is ‘The Urgency of Now – Climate Jobs and Just Transition’ which takes place at 6pm on the 15th November.
The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified calls for a global Green New Deal – an urgent transformation of the global economy with massive investment to tackle climate change and address inequality. But what does a just transition look like for oil workers facing immediate redundancies because of low oil prices and privatisation? And with much wider unemployment expected, how do we take the initiative to create momentum for climate jobs on a local level, creating solutions rooted in communities and a real alternative?
This workshop draws on recent research with offshore oil and gas workers in Scotland. While many are looking for better job security, they are not being given a clear path to transfer their skills to renewable energy. The oil industry in Brazil also faces insecurity due to privatisation. Meanwhile, campaigns for free public transport in Glasgow and for a mass home retrofitting programme in Leeds are challenging the piecemeal approach taken by national government and calling for investment that meets the needs of local communities and creates climate jobs ‘from the ground up’. Workshop participants are invited to bring their experiences of mobilising for a just transition and climate jobs in their own sector / community.
All events will take place on Zoom and we will email through the relevant links beforehand when you register. You can get help installing zoom here.
Contributors Antony Devalle (Sindipetro-RJ, Brazil), Gabi Jeliazkov (Platform), Stuart Graham (FreeOurCity), Ellen Robottom (Leeds Trade Union Council)
Apologies for the short notice – we’ve just received notification that there’s an Open Assembly of the ‘Glasgow Agreement’ tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm – the invitation to attend is copied below. You can see the latest draft of the agreement here.
We want to invite you to our next open assembly of the Glasgow Agreement on the 27th of September (Sunday), from 2pm GMT until 4pm GMT. You are more than welcome to participate, and to invite other groups that you know and that might be interested to participate in the Glasgow Agreement, even if they are not in the process yet.
Agenda: We will talk about: the current status of the text and how you can be involved on the process; what space does the climate justice movement need in 2021; what is the inventory tool and the climate agenda. Introductory webinar: We will also have an introductory webinar at 1:30pm GMT, in the same links, for those who don’t know the Glasgow Agreement that well. Feel free to join us if you want to know more about the agreement before the assembly!
From soaring death-tolls to the threat of global famine, COVID-19, designated by the World Health Organisation as a pandemic only a month ago, has brought about the rapid disruption of our world economy like no other event in human history.
This is a public health crisis, but it’s also an unprecedented crisis of inequality, as lockdown guidelines, implemented around the world, are followed by the collapse of entire industries, unprecedented spikes in unemployment, a growing scarcity of essential commodities as a consequence of the ongoing disruption to global supply chains, and huge social dislocation arising from these.
A worldwide crisis is being exposed, of lack of access to even basic infrastructure – housing, clean water, energy and food – that would make a lockdown viable for many millions of people around the world. As the negative impacts of disruption set in, it’s the people most deprived of this basic infrastructure that feel the hardest impacts.
Inequalities of race, gender, age and ability are being exacerbated. Those with the means and security to self-isolate and access medical support are able to do so, while those without are left to suffer the consequences.
There are currently more than 70 million people around the world that have been forcibly displaced from their homes. 3 billion people have no access to hand-washing facilities.
This devastating level of deprivation undermines our collective power to contain and suppress the ongoing spread of new disease. We’ve seen no clearer illustration of the way that global inequality threatens the collective security of all of us.
The COVID-19 crisis and the inequalities it exposes are set against the backdrop of our greater ecological crisis. As the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has warned us, this crisis sees humanity on course for a century of “climate apartheid” as the impacts of rising temperatures fall with violent disproportionality between the wealthy and the poor.
As the repercussions of this pandemic plunge the world into deeper economic turmoil, we know that it’s those living already on the frontlines of climate crisis – indigenous communities, subsistence farmers, coastal communities and the urban poor, particularly in the global south – whose lives and livelihoods will again be most at risk.
Even before this pandemic, COP26 was billed as a crucial staging post in the challenge of bringing the world’s political leaders and civil society organisations together to achieve consensus on a pathway to rapidly reducing carbon emissions while building global resilience in the face of climate breakdown.
Necessarily postponed until 2021, COP26 will now be the first meeting of the world’s climate leaders in the wake of COVID-19. We will have survived one of the world’s worst public health crises in a century and we will be seeking a pathway to recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
COP26 will now be a vital arena in which to demand that this recovery, as yet to be imagined, be both a green recovery, and crucially a just recovery, that tackles the scourge of global inequality at the root, while reducing carbon emissions. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the deep inequalities in our structures, and highlighted the vulnerabilities of ecological, social and economic systems. But it has also shown how we can and must respond to crises. Our response must put the most vulnerable and marginalised first. It must be urgent and ambitious. It must be democratic, and we must resist authoritarian attempts to use crisis responses to increase their power and control. It must be based on transformative, people-centered solutions rather than political and economic business as usual, and it must be informed by whole systems thinking to ensure a truly just transition.
As we’re now discovering so vividly, our futures are deeply interconnected; whether we acknowledge that or not, there is no path to ecological balance that doesn’t start by putting the goals of social and economic justice front and centre.
Now is not the time to stop talking about climate change. Now is the time to raise our voices even louder, to call out the profiteers, to resist exploitation, to build power and stand in global solidarity as we prepare to tackle multiple crises and fight common injustices. If you wish to add your group/organisation to the list of signatories, please do so by filling this form.
COP stands for ‘conference of the parties’. Organised by the United Nations, it’s normally held on an annual basis and it is the place where the nations of the world come together to discuss policy on climate action. So to give it its’ full title COP26 is the 26th annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
COP 26 was due to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. However, the actual event is always preceded by a number of inter-governmental meetings. These have not taken place because of the global pandemic and as a result it has been postponed until 2021. The new date is not yet known. At the moment Glasgow is still expected to be the venue.
A history of failure
The first COP was held in 1995 in Berlin. It has taken place every year since then. 2020 will be the first year that a COP has been postponed. In terms of making an impact on greenhouse gas emissions the COPs have been an abject failure. The two most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. When COP 25 took place in Madrid at the end of 2019 the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen 67 parts per million by volume (ppmv) above what it was when the first COP met in Berlin. To put this in perspective CO2 levels increased by more during the 25 years of COP discussions than they had in the previous 200 years. Methane levels have tripled since 1995. Greenhouse gases act like an insulating blanket over the earth’s atmosphere and are responsible for rising global temperatures. So the massive increase in the amount of these gases in the atmosphere is the reason why the climate crisis is now acute and why rapid action to cut emissions is so important.
The Paris Agreement of 2015
Back in 2015 the COP (21) took place on Paris. The conference ended with an agreement that has since been ratified by 189 out of the 197 countries that participated (The Paris Agreement). Ratification committed countries to developing plans that would curtail global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees centigrade. Those who have not ratified include some important oil producers. Moreover, the USA ratified under Obama but has now withdrawn.
In principle ratifying the Paris Agreement commits countries ‘to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.’ The realityhas been that progress has been negligible. The agreement is essentially voluntary and avoids specific targets. Patrick Bond notes the ‘Agreement’s lack of ambition, the nonbinding character of emission cuts, the banning of climate-debt (‘polluter pays’) liability claims, the reintroduction of market mechanisms, the failure to keep fossil fuels underground, and the inability to lock down three important sectors for emissions cuts: military, maritime transport and air transport.’
Along with committing countries to regular reporting on progress the Paris Agreement also scheduled 2020 and COP26 as a major milestone at which all the countries would need to assess progress. Had the COP gone ahead in November an honest assessment could only have been that the Paris Agreement has been a failure. The failure will have intensified by the time COP26 takes place in 2021. No one should have high expectations that COP26 will take action to address this failure but it is an important opportunity for the climate movement to hold the rulers of the world to account. Success for our side must mean a bigger, stronger, better-rooted movement that develops the strength to insist that governments take action.
COP fault lines
The COP is dominated by the big powers. So in the negotiations there are sharp divisions between the major industrial nations that are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions and the global south, which endures the biggest impact of climate change. These divisions were much in evidence at COP 25 in Madrid. At the COPs and in the run up to them there is also a great deal of activity from non-state organisations. Businesses, NGOs and union federations lobby before the event and can obtain credentials that enable them to be within the main conference areas. There is of course a huge imbalance in resources between the corporate lobbyists and the climate campaigners. Groups that represent women, indigenous people and poor people struggled to have their voices heard within the conference – indeed in Madrid some were excluded for holding a peaceful protest. The climate movement is mostly excluded from the conference zone by barricades and police; we make our case on the streets and in meetings and the counter summit. This will be the case in Glasgow.
Why should we organise for the COP?
From the start the COP process has operated within the domain of market economic orthodoxy. Crudely it has assumed that market forces will drive a move towards less carbon intensive technologies and hence reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There have indeed been significant developments in sustainable technologies – particularly wind and solar. And yet at the same time the big energy companies have also pursued a ruthless drive to exploit new hydrocarbon resources in a way that is completely incompatible with even the most modest targets for limiting global warming.
COP 26 will take place in 2021 in the economic and social aftershocks of a global lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mobilising for the COP is necessary because the event will be the occasion for a huge onslaught of ‘greenwashing’, aimed at persuading us all that the leaders of the world know best, and that the market, ‘business as usual’, can protect us. Now more than ever we know that ‘business as usual’ is not simply ineffective in face of global crisis, it costs lives. So building for mass protest in Glasgow is necessary, but is only part of the ongoing struggle to win a just transition to a people centred zero carbon economy.
There were two particular actions that we would really appreciate your help with.
We have taken out a subscription to the Zoom online conferencing platform and we plan to hold regular online public events. Please email suggestions for topics and for speakers to email@example.com. If you would like to offer to do a presentation yourself do let us know. We’re aware that online meetings may be a new experience for some people or you may not be familiar with Zoom. There is a now a simple guide to accessing Zoom meetings on this site.
We have five new briefings in production
The role of Hydrogen in a sustainable economy
Organising at work
The COPs and COP 26 – a guide
Is nuclear part of a sustainable solution?
If you know of good resources on any of these topics and can share links or references that would be really helpful. Our aim when we produce briefings is to develop a concise summary of the issues on 2 sides of A4 with links to further readings and resources via the website. If you’ve an interest in one or more of the topics and would like to link up with 2 or three others to help write the briefing and collate the web links do let us know. You can just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally if you have ideas for other topics that would work in the briefing format or for updates to existing briefings do get in touch.
What follows is a summary of the main points from the meeting – the full write up of the action points from the meeting is available here.
Following a discussion in which we shared information on the progress being made in mobilising for COP 26 we agreed to establish a new page on www.scote3.net dedicated to COP 26 and to prioritise a Briefing ‘What is the COP?’ The page is work in progress and ideas for useful content would be really appreciated. Please email them in.
At the January meeting we had sketched out an ambitious programme of meetings and events around Scotland and on the 20th we made further plans to link up with other groups to take this forward. We are also submitting an application for grant funding to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to support the activities that we have planned in the run up to the COP and beyond.
The North Sea Oil and Gas report has had a significant impact and was downloaded 242 times in the first 5 days from its publication. We are exploring the possibility of a fringe meeting on the report at the STUC conference in April and are keen to promote other opportunities for sharing the information and promoting debate on the process of phasing out North Sea Oil and Gas production.
We have been invited to speak at the Edinburgh City Council Unison AGM in February and the EIS/ULA AGM in March – we are always open to invitations to speak at events and we are working on the development of speakers notes as part of expanding the pool of people who are confident to speak at these events.
We agreed to contact other groups to see if we could hold a solidarity protest in support of the Wet-suwet-en in British Columbia. This is scheduled for 2pm on Sunday March 1st at the east end of Princes Street – there is a protest in London on the same day.
We also agreed to work with SCND and others to hold discussion meetings based around screenings of the new Lucas Plan film – The Plan. Details soon.