Update on the November conference

We are really pleased that Simon Pirani will be speaking at the Scot.E3 conference on 16th November.  Simon is the author of ‘Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption’ (Pluto, 2018).  Here’s a video of him speaking about the book:

 

Stopping North Sea Oil and Gas Extraction

Scot.E3 public meeting at Kinning Park Complex, 43 Cornwall Street, Glasgow G41 1BA, 7pm Tuesday 24th September.

Ryan Morrison from Friends of the Earth Scotland will speak about Friends of the Earths co-authored report ‘Sea Change’ which shows how a rapid phase out of carbon extraction from the North Sea and investment in renewables could safeguard the livelihoods of those working in the oil and gas sector and create many more jobs. Other speakers include young climate activists and Mike Downham from Scot.E3.  Tickets from Eventbrite.

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Strike on September 20th

There are marches and rallies all around Scotland – check out the one nearest to you on the Scottish Youth Climate Strike website.   All around Scotland workers are taking action in support of the student strikers.  Often this is taking the form of walkouts and workplace meetings.  We’d love to receive a report of action in your workplace that we could collate and share as part of building momentum for the movement.  Email triple.e.scot@gmail.com

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Fife, fighting for our future

An important march and rally for the local community, trade unionists and environmental activists in Kirkcaldy on Saturday – fighting for climate jobs and a sustainable future.  The ScotE3 banner will be there.  Assemble 11am at Kirkcaldy Town Square.  Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/228664054720454/

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TUC supports 20th September action

The Trades Union Congress meeting today has supported the 20th September action – we reproduce a statement from the Campaign Against Climate Change here:

TUC conference has today unanimously passed a motion to support the school student Global Climate Strike on 20th September and has called on TUC affiliate Unions to organise a 30 minute work day campaign action to coincide with the school students strike on 20th September.

We congratulate the delegates at TUC who have voted to recognise the significance of the Global School Students strikes, initiated by Greta Thunberg and the need for adults and especially the Trade Union movement to stand alongside young people, to ensure they do not stand alone in fighting for the urgent action needed to tackle climate change and ecological crisis and to deliver Climate Justice.

We ask all Trade Unions to now turn words into action and get organised to build on the fantastic examples of Trade Union solidarity action already in place for 20th September. 

The 20th September is already set to be the biggest turnout of working people many organised through their Trade Unions in the UK uniting in solidarity with young people. But it can be even bigger and we still have two weeks to deliver solidarity action to put hundreds of thousands of Trade Unionist onto the streets.

We would like to salute the young people who have led the action and also the UCU NEC members who put forward the motion to TUC conference calling for a 30 minute stoppage. They have been bold enough to recognise the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for Trade Unionists to not only respond to the call for Trade Unions to join them but to be bold in their actions and demands. The support for the UCU statement with over 2000 Trade Unionists and over 100 organisations backing the call for solidarity and a 30 minute workplace stoppage on 20th has also shown us the appetitive that there is for climate action within the Trade Union movement.

We ask all Trade Unionists to do everything they can to match the boldness required of us by the urgency of the Climate Crisis. We have just under two weeks now to build maximum solidarity on the 20th. 

This is just the beginning and we will need to continue the work of building solidarity, fighting to ensure our unions have the most progressive policies which match what the science tells us that we need to do and to continue to demand the Climate Jobs and a Green New Deal which can deliver the Just Transformation that we need.

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Upcoming events in Fife, Glasgow and Edinburgh

Thursday 12thSeptember: Support Global action on climate crisis – meeting called by Edinburgh Trades Council at the Quaker, Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace EH1 2JL

Saturday 14thSeptember 11am: Demonstration organised by Fife Trades Council and the STUC – assemble Kirkcaldy Town House –if you are from Edinburgh and could volunteer to take the Scot.E3 banner – please let us know by emailing triple.e.scot@gmail.com

Friday 20thSeptember:Climate strike  – see details at https://scote3.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/climate-strike-20th-september/

Tuesday 24thSeptember: 7pm – 9pm:Stopping North Sea Oil and Gas Extraction – Scot.E3 meeting with speaker from Friends of the Earth Scotland, at the Kinning Park Complex, 43 Cornwall Street, Glasgow G41 1BA

Thursday 16thOctober: 7.30pm:Thinking global, acting local – the politics and practice of just transition – Scot.E3 meeting, part of the Edinburgh World Justice Festival at the Augustine Church, George 4thBridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EL

Saturday 16thNovember, 10am – 5pm:2019 Scot.E3 conference – ‘Thinking globally, acting locally – organising for a just transition’ Saturday October 5th at the St. Ninian’s Hall, Charteris Centre, The Pleasance, Edinburgh.  Please share the FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1133891030332559/ and the Eventbrite link https://tinyurl.com/y6bt6p5j

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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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Sea Change – a review

In May we welcomed the publication of an important report on North Sea Oil and Gas. Ann Morgan shares her reflections on the report here.

Sea Change: Climate Emergency, Jobs and Managing the Phase Out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction

Introduction

Sea Change highlights the tremendous potential for a just transition and in outlining the scale of the potential increase in new climate jobs provides convincing evidence that trade unions, activists, politicians and economists can utilise in designing a sustainable economy.

Bella Caledonia calls the report a ‘landmark’.  A landmark is defined as a’ turning point’ or a ‘critical point.’ However, as the report is released there are very mixed messages from policy makers.  On the one hand the declaration of climate emergency by the Scottish Government and many local authorities and on the other the Oil and Gas Authority press release on 10thJuly 2019 announcing new licences for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons.

The Gas discovery by the Chinese State Owned CNOOC in January this year is said to be the largest in over a decade.  Exxon Mobil and Shell and other oil companies are busy extolling the virtues of Natural Gas, greenwashing thus

‘This versatile and abundant resource is contributing to emissions reductions all over the world’

No word of emissions of methane (research is currently underway to assess methane emission underestimated previously in the North Sea).  As we know methane is a potent greenhouse gas and natural gas is not a ‘bridge’ fuel as the report emphasises.

Just transition

The ScotE3 draft manifesto defines a just transition as

‘One that ensures no individual or community suffers economically or socially as old jobs end and new jobs are created’.

Sea Change makes it clear that a just transition to renewable energy is manifestly possible with the potential that three new climate jobs could be created for every North Sea job at risk. 

Just transition is the way to win hearts and minds and the Sea Change report gives an informed and detailed bridge to that improved working and living environment.  An effective campaign is needed to turn around the Oil and Gas Authority (OAG) insistence on opening up applications for the 32ndround of licensing.

Alternatives

To end fossil fuel dependence and move to the alternative, a clean and safe working and sustainable environment, will not be easy.  However the structured and planned transition that Sea Change describes cannot be ignored.  The report notes that oil and gas was developed with Government support and intervention.  Indeed the big energy companies continue to attract subsidy for their hydrocarbon activities. It argues that it is now high time for intervention and investment to enable a renewable transformation.

Sea Change is an outstanding analysis of the importance of energy at the ‘production’ level and has relevance in the systemic changes required, in public ownership, in governance and accountability and in designing new social models.  The report further illustrates a point also made by Asbjørn Wahl that solutions cannot be made on an environmental/scientific analysis alone.  Action is required to change the power imbalance nationally and internationally.

The need to end extraction

Sea Change documents the current impact of North Sea Oil and Gas and demonstrates in the starkest terms that the continued practice of Maximum Economic Recovery (MER) Is incompatible with the Climate Change Act and emissions reduction.  Mary Church Head of Campaigns at FoE (Scotland) puts it succinctly

‘ Climate Science is clear that we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels, yet the government and big oil companies are doing everything they can to squeeze every drop out of the North Sea … we must ban further exploration and redirect the vast subsidies propping up extraction towards creating decent jobs in a clean energy economy.’

The report 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 of carbon emissions agreed in the Paris Climate goals. Currently Government and industry aim to extract 20 billion barrels.
  • The additional oil and gas extraction enabled by recent subsidies will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase out of coal power saves.
  • Given the right policies, clean industries could create more than three jobs for every North Sea oil job lost.

The authors call for the withdrawal of the OAG authority’s 32ndlicensing round.  They recommend that the UK and Scottish Governments work with affected communities and trade unions in a managed phase out of North Sea oil and gas, investing in education, retraining and reskilling (although it is acknowledged that many existing jobs are highly skilled and transferable) and influencing the priorities of the Scottish National Investment Bank with a significant degree of public ownership. Infrastructure costs can be met with a rapid phase out of oil subsidies underpinned by a fiscal policy of support for clean energy to at least the level to which the oil and gas industry have been supported.

Otherwise the future looks bleak.  The report notes that

  • Offshore oil industry increasingly pressurised (See RMT union’s report on North Sea working conditions)
  • Renewables – currently no significant UK jobs creation with manufacturing jobs going overseas
  • Oil and Gas extraction from newly developed fields would push the world beyond climate limits

In short, the Westminster and HolyroodGovernments face a choice between two pathways to stay in climate limits.

  1. Deferred Collapse: Continue to pursue Maximum Extraction through subsidies until worsening climate impacts force rapid action to cut emissions globally. The UK Oil industry collapses pushing workers out of work in a short space of time.
  2. Managed Transition. Stop approving licensing permits and tax breaks and phase out extraction.

Climate jobs

The report argues that a National Energy Strategy can mean an energy transformation that meets climate commitments while protecting livelihoods and economic well being.  Local manufacturing and workforce participation needs to guide this transformation with new approaches in economic development, strong trade union rights and sectoral bargaining.

‘Clearly it is an ambitious project to transform the UK energy sector within a couple of decades, just as the rapid development of the North Sea was an ambitious project …’

The report models the impact on the oil and gas workforce of ending the development of new fields.  Taking into account the jobs created through decommissioning and forecast retirement in the existing workforce, it estimates that 40,000 existing oil workers (direct and support chain) may need to be in a different job by 2030. To examine the scale of jobs that can be created in compatible clean energy industries and the level of policy ambition necessary, it models the numbers of new jobs that would be created in offshore wind, marine renewables and energy efficiency retrofits, sectors that have strong overlaps with existing oil and gas skills and finds that the number of jobs created will be at least three times more than the number lost.

Social Justice

The report also highlights the international justice commitment to ensure transition is fastest in wealthier countries and end operations, which harm poor communities and workers (Jake Molloy in the RMT report notes the harsh working conditions for Asian migrant workers in decommissioning in the North Sea for as little as around £3 an hour).  Decommissioning should be paid for by oil companies and decommissioning plans should detail and provide for a Just Transition for workers.

Overall, Just Transition plans, guided by climate limits, should provide structured pathways for the existing workforce, new workers and communities.  Terms and conditions of workers must be safeguarded and accountability to trade unions and local stakeholders in place.

Finally, the authors report that in other policy arenas restrictions on the supply of harmful substances (e.g. ozone depleting chemicals and asbestos) targeted the substances, whereas with fossil fuels only measures to slow the consumption have been taken leaving the market to determine extraction.  This is beginning to change.  It is to be hoped the banning of fracking in Scotland and UK wide in future will serve as an example of legislative measures to make unsafe practices unlawful.

It is worth noting that the authors place no great faith in carbon negative strategies such as capture and storage.  While these technologies may have their place in future developments, philosophy of enabling business as usual must be guarded against.  To finish with the words of the authors

‘Oil and Gas sucks investment …’

Investment in renewables could swiftly move us to reduction in emissions within climate limits.

‘Today’s decisions shape the long term energy future’.

Let’s begin the sustainable revolution.

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Confronting corporate power

A month ago we reported on the launch of the “Fife Ready For Renewal” campaign to insist that production work for the new Neart na Gaoithe wind farm should take place at the currently unoccupied Bifab yards in Burntisland and Methil.  On Friday 5th July the campaign stepped up a notch when 100 pickets assembled in Edinburgh.

IMG_4674Ex-Bifab workers, reps of 5 or 6 unions, School Strikers, ScotE3,  Friends of the Earth and others surrounded the EDF Renewables HQ in Morrison Street, Edinburgh. An expert bugler, echoing his fanfares round the tall buildings, attracted a lot of passing attention. No uniformed police. Four School Strikers were lined up behind a very long banner. They were shy so we got them to go to the front. Good speeches. The plan had been to present a letter to EDF, listing questions and demands. But we arrived to find their door locked. So the questions and demands were magicked onto two long scrolls, which were displayed at the front of the protest and photographed. Then it was decided we should march round the side of the building  to see if there was a back door open so the original letter could be presented. There was a back door – a big revolving one, behind which four large security guards retreated when they saw us coming – a lot of loud music and chanting by this time on a good PA system. Good large flags, multiplied by reflexion in glass walls. Two people were allowed inside to give the letter to the guards, then one worker managed to push his way backwards through the door with a big flag, which he waved at us through the glass with a big smile, while the guards pinioned him. There was a point when it looked as if the crowd would push through the door, but not this time. The guards nudged the worker back though the door, then decided to lock it. This was the best bit – a guard on his knees inside struggling to lock the door with a ground-bolt, but failing to get any of his big bunch of keys to fit. This gave a great photo opportunity, and was greeted with hilarity by the crowd, who offered technical training for EDF workers.

IMG_4675Thanks to Mike and Eileen for words and images.