In the first of what we hope will be a series of further perspectives on BiFab following the article we posted six days agoDavid Jamieson argues that capitalists and their institutions are not in a serious conflict over the failing ‘just transition‘ in Scotland.David iseditor of the Conter website and his article was first published there.
The tragic saga of the BiFab yards at Burntisland, Methil and Arnish goes on – but for how much longer? The Scottish Trade Union Federation reacted with vehemence to the Scottish Government last week (24 November) “as itsneaked out a joint statement with the UK Government on pulling the plug on Bifab and breaking promises to keep unions informed of developments”. The vaunted ‘Just Transition’ has been flushed.
The first things that we learn on this recognition are obvious: capitalism will generate a chaotic response to climate change and environmental destruction, one that will only feebly mitigate its effects. Further, this transition will be organised to benefit capital, create new transnational production networks (that will damage the environment) and will be borne on the backs of workers, who will variously lose work, be exploited in the new industries, or see their communities pulverised by the collapse of old industries and the extractive qualities of the new.
Perhaps the less commonly understood are the organic links between different nodes and actors in the system. It has been common for politicians, trade unionists and activists to seek out responsibility for the industrial carnage by dividing-out responsibility between the triad of actors; the EU, the UK Government and the Scottish Government (a fourth of we count the profit seeking of the private firms).
In recent weeks Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer suggested EU state aid rules did not preclude government action to save the yards, the GMB union demanded to see the legal judgement (as well they should) the Scottish Government alleged informed them of the limits of their action. Meanwhile, Sundry Scottish nationalists repeated the now well-worn approach of blaming Westminster exclusively, while some Scottish Labour activists pretended things might be significantly different were their party in charge at Holyrood.
It’s one thing to apportion blame where it is merited. It is another to raise this portioning to a pathology, with mutually guilty actors redefined as healthy and malicious to serve a wider (but shallow) political perspective.
In one sense, it is absolutely true that EU state aid rules can be got around when the political will exists, especially when both the London and Edinburgh governments, whether they like it or not, are soon to leave the bloc. But this misunderstands the relations between the EU and its member states. The EU is not a ‘transnational’ organisation that submerges national sovereignty beneath a common project. It is an organisation of class rule, just as the national governments that operate within its structures.
As such, there is an organic unity between Brussels and London, Paris, Berlin and Athens. Brussels can expect national governments to adopt an appropriate attitude to state aid rules (varying in implementation from powerful Berlin to relative supplicant Athens with everywhere else in between) understanding that the lineage of power between these elite actors is coherent and conjoined.
In the case of Scotland and the Bifab yards, the EU provides the excuse (governments can only supply so much finance to industrial ventures under these circumstances) and the Scottish Government, aware that rules and instituted authorities are negotiable (as elsewhere on the continent – not least Germany) opts for full and grovelling supplicancy. This happens for reasons both domestic and foreign. The foreign policy terms are obvious enough – the SNP leadership wants to align an independent (and devolved) Scotland with Brussels, and wants to signal submission to rules in advance. Additionally, as is common across the EU, the Scottish Government doesn’t want to encourage demands for the protection of jobs and industries in Scotland – particularly when industries like North Sea oil are shedding jobs rapidly.
These attempts at distributing criticism to sub-factions of the ruling class have become commonplace on the left in recent years. It is this projection that has led to the abundance of adjectives before the words ‘capitalist’ and ‘capitalism’: disaster capitalists, neoliberal capitalism, late capitalism, fossil capitalism. Finance capitalism is counter-posed unhelpfully to productive capitalism. Whole new strata of ‘oligarchs’ with ‘dark money’ are constructed.
It is no bad thing that, for the purposes of analysis, we can identify sub-categories of broader class structures. But this is most often done to ignore the organic totality of the capitalist system – its highly evolved capacity to manage internal divisions and reproduce a coherent social order – and to appeal to more rational or even moral elements in the establishment.
In a recent analysis for the Guardian George Monbiot made this case explicit by distinguishing “housetrained capitalism” which “seeks an accommodation with the administrative state, and benefits from stability, predictability and the regulations that exclude dirtier and rougher competitors” from a more pernicious “warlord capitalism”. These housetrained capitalists are the same who for decades have viciously de-regulated British society, leading to an utterly dysfunctional state incapable of a robust response to the pandemic. They are the majority capitalist bloc who support the continued attacks on workers in Rishi Sunak’s latest pay freeze. But in the minds of Guardian writers they ought to be protected from a dangerous insurgency of their peers.
It’s time to take capitalism seriously. That means not separating it out into ‘bad’ and ‘good’ (or simply ‘less bad’) factions and institutional centres. The temptation to do so is a conservative one; those who no longer believe in a mass, democratic challenge from the base of society typically look up to competing factions at the pinnacle. But the fundamental division is society is not between capitalist factions marshalling vying visions of their rule, but between all the elements of their class and those who produce the wealth of society, but do not control it.
Yesterday saw the publication of ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland’. The report was written by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with a remit to make recommendations to the Scottish Government. As Ben Wray notes in today’s edition of Source Direct the report is strong on buzzwords but devoid of real urgency and concrete proposals. The end of this week is also the deadline for submissions to the Just Transition Commission. As a contribution to this debate we publish the near final draft of Scot.E3’s submission, which makes the case for radical and immediate action on the climate crisis.
There has been a yawning gap between the Scottish Government’s rhetoric on the climate crisis and its actions. Vaunted cuts in domestic greenhouse gas emissions are almost entirely attributable to the greening of electricity production and the export of emissions as a result of deindustrialization. To date the Scottish Government’s actions have failed to measure up to the urgency of the crisis.
However, the impact of Covid19 on society and the economy provides an opportunity to take decisive action. Job losses in the North Sea oil and gas sector, as a result of the impact on oil and gas prices, are already significant and are increasing rapidly. There have been layoffs before , however, this time round many analysts are predicting that the sector is unlikely to bounce back. These redundancies will have a direct additional effect on employment in the supply chain and an indirect effect on local economies, particularly in North East Scotland. The North Sea is only part of a much larger employment crisis in Scotland that includes tourism, some sectors of manufacturing, education and retail.
The economic and social dislocation of Covid19 is having a massive impact on the lives and livelihoods of working people in Scotland and across the world. Attempting to reset the economy to its pre-pandemic state at a time of climate crisis is madness. Millions of working people will bear the brunt of hardship, unemployment, sickness, stress and anxiety, and precious time to act on a Just Transition to a new sustainable economy will be lost.
The time to act is now
Many of those being made redundant in Scotland, oil and gas workers, engineers at Rolls Royce, have skills and experience that are needed to develop a new sustainable economy. They represent a precious resource. Yet if climate action is deferred, their knowledge and skills will be lost. Meanwhile, those who have lost their jobs, together with their families, and communities will have repeated the experience of mining communities in the 1980s. If these workers are not supported now it will be so much harder to win the case that Just Transition is possible.
Around the world responses to Covid19 have demonstrated that rapid action and mobilisation of human and material resources by governments is possible at a time of crisis. We suggest that the Commission recommends that the Scottish Government should learn from international responses to the pandemic and tackle the Climate Crisis and ‘recovery’ from the pandemic with the same urgency.
Public information on the nature of the crisis and the policies being adopted will be crucial in winning hearts and minds. But Just Transition has to go beyond rhetoric – people will not be convinced unless there is clear evidence at every stage that Just Transition is underpinned by actions that have social justice at their heart. But it should also be based on the premise that while the crisis is global, Scotland has a significant role to play. We are a country rich in sustainable energy resources. We have workers with exceptional skills and experience. We have a historic obligation as part of a British state that contributed massively to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last two centuries.
Establish a Scottish Climate Service
The JCT Interim report noted that climate action needs to be planned, systemic and coordinated across the whole of the country. The private sector simply can’t do this, the public sector can. However, planning requires appropriate infrastructure. One component of this, the National Investment Bank, is in place – but its role needs to be much expanded. The mooted State Energy Company, as another supplier in the energy marketplace is inadequate. It should be replaced by a vertically integrated, publicly run organization that is involved in every aspect of energy; generation, distribution and supply. The third necessary component is integrated research, education and training, planning, monitoring and evaluation. Scotland has rich potential in this respect. The knowledge and creativity from Universities and Colleges, think tanks like Common Weal, unions, workers, communities and climate activists can contribute to a democratic, open and coordinated planning process. All three components might be seen as part of a Scottish Climate Service.It is perfectly possible to initiate effective action to reduce carbon emissions now. We have the scientific knowledge and technical expertise. A great deal of work has already been done on the steps that can be taken immediately. Our Common Home – Common Weal’s costed blueprint for a Green New Deal for Scotland – is an example. There will be need for debate and development of the details. Critically investment should be into technology that exists and that provides solutions that are effective now. New and unproven technologies like CCS should have a low priority (reversing what seems to be current practice).
Core principles that should underpin recommendations to the Scottish Government
End support for maximum economic extraction from the North Sea and begin a managed and rapid phase out of North Sea Oil and Gas through public control of oil and gas production and processing
Take INEOS’s Grangemouth facilities into public control
Support the workers who are losing their jobs in the North Sea with guaranteed income and fully funded support for retraining
Planning, action and investment for Just Transition should start now – establish a Scottish Climate Service
Ensure that social justice is at the heart of transition. Social justice requires the protection of lives and livelihoods, working with BAME communities to end environmental racism, the creation of a gender equal economy and a focus on further improvement of air pollution in our cities
Democracy and accountability – involve energy sector workers, climate activists, workers and communities in the process of building the new sustainable Scottish economy
Creation of 100,000+ climate jobs – these are jobs that ensure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (energy, transport, housing, home insulation, a new smart grid …) and jobs that are neutral with respect to emissions but contribute to health and well-being (care, health, education, recreation, nature conservation, local food production)
Ensure the safety of workers in all industries – no one should be penalized for refusing to put themselves in an unsafe working environment
A massive expansion in opportunities for education and training in all of the disciplines and skills required for transition – keep full time education free and make part-time education opportunities free for all
Public control over an expanded and integrated free public transport system
Comments on this submission are very welcome as are reactions to the Advisory Group report. Use the contact tab to get in touch.
Geraldine Clayton looks at the urgency of building a new green economy post pandemic and reviews the Absolute Zero report, which was published in November 2019.
Discussions are now underway on how best to restart our economy after the coronavirus crisis. There is much to play for, and many groups and organisations have taken the message they want from the present crisis. We all, however, want to build a more efficient and less fragile economy than that which came about after the banking crash. For this to happen we will need a skilled workforce spread across the country able to take on the challenges ahead. The answer is surely in the regional planning and industrial strategies we can use to revitalise communities across the country by working towards a real zero carbon future.
In the world of finance, investors are now looking towards green policies for economic recovery. Unless policy makers put these at the top of the agenda we will be jumping from the coronavirus frying pan into the climate change fire. We need to be making structural changes now; investing in the supply chain for a green economy, changing legislation and regulation, and implementing an environment-led stimulus package. Putting the energy sector into some form of public ownership would place workers and communities at the centre of the recovery through public enterprise strategies and regional planning. The Scottish government could take advantage of the fact that EU state aid rules have been largely suspended to take over strategic sectors of the economy such as clean energy production. This would provide badly needed revenue. Profits would not be going onto the balance sheets of companies owned in this country and subject to future takeover activity, or to overseas investors. By acting now will we be advancing progress on tackling the climate emergency. But there is no time to waste. The government must either lead from the front or it will become irrelevant to the changes taking place around it.
What better way to build the economy than around tasks such as retro-fitting insulation for energy saving, getting rid of old gas boilers, building district heating systems, smartening up the grid, and developing, manufacturing and installing the new technologies we will need to conform to our carbon reduction targets?
The UK FIRES ‘Absolute Zero’ report which came out last November, written across five universities in the UK, funded by the government and endorsed by the House of Lords, states that we need to be out of fossil fuels by 2029, including that used in shipping and aviation. The only exception to this will be for a limited amount of oil to be used in the making of some plastics.
Sad to say the oil majors and fossil fuel companies, while publicly endorsing the need to act on Climate Change, are at the same time massively increasing their investments in a huge expansion of oil and gas extraction. They are putting themselves forward as the solution, when they are a major part of the problem.
The industry spends a lot of money and effort on lobbying. They have set up a network of supposedly independent organisations around the world whose job it is to lobby policy makers with positions that run counter to a lot of the top line statements of the major companies. This practice is known as ‘astroturfing’. It’s a murky business, but thanks to a determined group of academics, journalists and investigators some of these activities have been exposed. Another strategy is to hide behind trade organisations. Cross sector industry bodies tend to adopt the positions of their most vocal members, often fossil fuel related companies. The other majority members tend to stay silent, so these stances prevail. Trades associations have been weaponized by the fossil fuel companies to allow them to outsource the ‘negative stuff’. These, along with other lobbying strategies, have hindered governments globally in their efforts to implement policies aimed at allowing us to reach our climate change targets. The industry says its position on climate change is transparent and clear, yet their lobbying activities tell another story. Added to that, years of suggested solutions based on breakthrough technologies, including projects such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), and on market driven fixes like carbon markets have held us back from dealing with the ecological tsunami which could soon overtake us. For years the industry has proposed these types of solutions, and has been asking governments for money for funding CCS and other projects. These solutions are expensive and up until now none of these schemes has been proven to work at scale.
The Absolute Zero report states “The target of zero emissions is absolute. There are no negative emissions options or meaningful carbon emissions offsets. The UK is responsible for all emissions, including imported goods and international flights and shipping.” “Breakthrough technologies cannot be deployed at the scale needed rapidly enough.” We are concerned that most plans for dealing with climate change depend on breakthrough technologies, so will not be delivered in time. Until we wake up to the fact that breakthrough technologies will not arrive fast enough we cannot even begin having the right discussion.”
The stark reality is that the carbon to CO2 ratio is 1:3.7, which means that to stick to absolute zero emissions, for every ton of carbon we burn, we would have to take 3.7 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. (Professor Miles Allan , in ‘The Life Scientific’ on Radio 4).
The current crisis has exposed the cracks in our system, and we now have a clearer understanding of what an emergency is. Even the super-rich cannot escape in any meaningful sense. Our life support systems are under threat, and there is a danger we could soon reach the point where, in a world in which biodiversity loss is amplified by climate change, there will be no turning back. Coronavirus will be brought under control eventually, but environmental collapse will be permanent from a human perspective.
If the fossil fuel industry wants to sell its product it should demonstrate that it can be used safely, and that the industry can clean up its own mess. It cannot do either. The fact that the industry spends so much time and effort in lobbying demonstrates that its arguments are weak. These arguments include;
“We can’t get out of oil and gas because if we do, production will be taken up by the ‘bad’ producers, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Our oil is good oil.”
The Deep Water Horizon well was exploratory at the time of the disaster, but the oil destined for production would presumably have gone under the heading ‘good oil’. Would the people of the Niger Delta, who have lost much of their livelihoods to oil pollution think Shell’s oil is ‘good oil’? It takes nine times more land to produce a barrel of oil on the US mainland than it does in Russia or Saudi Arabia because of the amount that is recovered from fracking. That is neither environmentally nor financially sound. We have a moratorium in Scotland on onshore fracking, but companies such as INEOS are pushing hard to have the moratorium overturned. In any case, the ‘chemically enhanced’ treatments used in oil recovery to get that ‘extra bit’ of oil out of a well are now standard practice across the world, including in the North Sea.
Many people still believe we import much of our gas supply from Russia. In fact we weaned ourselves off Russian gas years ago, and now import only a tiny fraction from there. Most of our gas comes from Norway, while the Norwegians obtain their own domestic power from hyrdro-electricity.
We were fed a similar line regarding the ethics of supplying arms during the seventies and eighties by the arms industry, who told us that if British companies stopped selling weapons this would allow the ‘wicked’ arms sellers to take over. Decades later the world is still awash with arms, and we are entering into yet another arms race. Oil, and the rights of access to it have both stimulated and fueled conflicts for a very long time now. But natural resources for clean energy are spread across the planet. There is no point in fighting for the wind, the sun or underground and airborne heat sources.
“We need to produce more oil and gas to save on expensive importing.”
Oil and gas is bought and sold on the world’s markets, so the oil produced here will go to the highest bidder. A report in January 2019 from the UK’s National Audit Office estimated the costs of dismantling offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea over the next twenty-five years could exceed £240 billion, most of which will be funded by the taxpayer. When this, along with the tax handouts and generous benefits handed out to companies are taken into account, the product appears to be rather expensive.
“We have the skills and the technological know-how to solve the problem of climate change.”
They are right, but it’s time for the industry to put their money where their mouth is. Their biggest resource lies in their workforce, who have families, and like us are hoping to live in a world where the future will be safe for their children and grandchildren. This is a truly solvable problem, and the fossil fuel companies have the resources, capital, cash flow and engineering capability to make this happen. Together they account for 10% of the world’s economy. But it requires the whole industry to clean up its waste rather than hoping someone else will do it for them.
“We will still need a mix of fuels by 2050”
Just listen to the science.
The sharp drop in the price of oil allows us to see what will happen in the future. The value of these companies lies in the value of their oil, and they have tanks of it. The days of peak oil have gone, but still many of them continue to take on debt to enable them to carry on with exploration and drilling. Offshore drilling tends to be done at greater depths than previously, and in more hazardous conditions. Clean-up operations will become much more difficult and expensive in the future. Oil leaks have increased recently, including in the North Sea, and the oil companies have been told to clean up their act. Climate change means insurance firms will be hit with increasing claims related to extreme weather, and fossil fuel companies will lose their value as the world implements increasingly urgent climate targets.
The Arctic is now being viewed as one of the most lucrative places for fossil fuel investment, but oil production in the area is beset with environmental dangers. Protection treaties have not been agreed for oil and mineral extraction in the Arctic, and there are no safety protocols in place for the region. The detrimental effects of oil spills in such a cold climate will be many times longer lasting than in temperate areas (think how much longer things last when kept in your fridge or freezer). The Deepwater Horizon disaster was estimated to have cost $100 billion to clear up. Any such occurrences in the Arctic region could be much costlier and more damaging to the environment. Shell, to its credit, has said it will not explore in the region until regulatory measures are put in place, but many other companies are keen to get started.
For pension funds and other investors, oil dividends and investments have up until now been safe and lucrative, but this cannot continue. Shell has for the first time in decades cut its shareholder dividends, and BP has seen a sharp drop in profits. Over the past three to five years global stock indexes without fossil fuel holdings have held steady with, and even out-performed otherwise identical indexes that include fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel companies once led the economy and the world stock markets. They now lag.
According to the Institute for Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis, trustees face growing fiduciary pressure to divest from fossil fuels due to volatile revenues, limited growth opportunities and a negative outlook. Scottish local government pension funds have been advised by the Scottish Local Government Fiduciary Duty Guidance Advisory Board that pension committees may take environmental social and governance considerations into account in relation to investments if the financial performance of that investment may be impacted as a result of any particular environmental, social and governance considerations. Legal & General has put climate change risk as its top concern in terms of profit warnings.
Oil tends to mirror the stock market’s rise and fall, so it’s not a particularly good investment in a properly diversified portfolio. The value of these companies is bound to crash. We don’t know when this will happen, but we know it will.
Fossil fuel and aviation companies are currently asking the government for yet more handouts and tax breaks. The UK already has some of the lowest oil tax rates in the world. Last year Shell paid no tax at all on its UK operations. They already receive handsome tax breaks on investments and decommissioning, but the taxpayer can no longer keep on funding private businesses only to see them create more costs in the future in the form of climate impacts. The UK should remove all incentives and tax breaks from oil and gas extraction and redirect them to funding a just transition. Money spent on green initiatives will provide decent training and employment opportunities and help small and start-up businesses which are well placed to deploy new technologies. Given the right policies, job creation in clean energy industries will exceed affected oil and gas jobs more than three times over. These opportunities will be spread across the UK.
Our situation regarding climate change and loss of biodiversity is very serious indeed. We are closer to a real tipping point than we think. The stimulus packages released now hold the key as to whether this coronavirus crisis delays or advances progress on tackling the climate emergency. As the saying goes, why not make an opportunity out of a crisis? After all, I don’t think we will get another chance.
The twin gas plants run by Shell and Exxon Mobil at Mossmorran in Fife have had a devastating impact on the lives of people living nearby. At our 3rd June online meeting Linda Holt and James Glen from the Mossmorran Action Group (MAG) gave a presentation on the progress of the campaign.
In the discussion that followed Linda and James addressed questions about the campaign and participants shared useful links and ideas for solidarity and joint activity.
Linda noted that the MAG Facebook page is a really useful resource for following what’s happening and is used to share reports of flaring and other impacts from the gas plants. However, Twitter has proved effective in pressurising the Scottish Government – the MAG twitter handle is @MossFlare – do follow and retweet.
We discussed the importance of phasing out Mossmorran as part of a Just Transition in Scotland and the opportunities for joint campaigning.
Linda and James talked about the SEPA investigations into Mossmorran and the limitations of SEPA as a Scottish Government Quango, whose board members are nominated by Scottish Government Ministers and dominated by representatives from the oil and gas industry. There was strong support for replacing SEPA by an independent body that could take a critical view of government (in)action. The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) was suggested as an alternative model. The UKSA has a statutory objective of promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics that ‘serve the public good’.
Prior to lockdown Climate Camp Scotland was planning its summer 2020 action at Mossmorran. Local campaigners were highly supportive, and it’s hoped that action will take place in the future.
MAG has attempted to get data on cancer in the areas adjacent to Mossmorran but NHF Fife refuses on the grounds of data privacy. The only data available covers an area so large as to be useless.
ExxonMobil and Shell largely employ workers from outside the local communities so that the communities don’t get to find out what’s really happening in the plants. Closing down Mossmorran would not have a negative impact on local jobs. The skills of those who work at Mossmorran are valuable and with support for retraining could be redeployed into new sustainable industries.
Platform and Friends of the Earth Scotland are carrying out a survey to gather information on the effect of the oil crisis and COVID-19 on job security and work conditions and to understand how the campaign for a ‘Just Transition’ is perceived by oil and gas workers and what kinds of demands workers would like to see addressed by a transition to net-zero.
The survey is directed at people employed in
The oil and gas industry
The supply chain (such as aviation, transport, car manufacturing and service industries)
Public bodies, unions or community organisations who regularly interact with the oil and gas industry and supply chain
On Friday evening (15th May) three of the authors of ‘A Planet to Win – why we need a green new deal’ joined us from the United States to talk about the issues that are raised in their book. The video of their introduction to the meeting is included in this post.
While the book focuses on the US and draws inspiration from the original New Deal its themes resonated with the participants in the event – mostly from Scotland but also from England and the Republic of Ireland. In an overview of the book Thea Riofrancos asks ‘what kind of labour movement do we need to win a green new deal and argues for the importance of broadening the idea of Just Transition and Climate Jobs to include care and social reproduction; a position that we have adopted in Scot.E3.
It’s impossible to do full justice to the range of issues raised in the discussion. Participants raised the issue of housing and home insulation. In Scotland, well over 90% of the homes expected to be in use in 2050 have already been built – so dealing with the current buildings and current layout of cities is key to reducing emissions from the built environment. Several people picked up on the issue of care and noted that the pandemic has underscored the fact that while care jobs should be central to a green new deal they have to be valued equally and paid equally to other jobs.
A Planet To Win lays the blame for the climate crisis on the fossil fuel companies – one participant suggested that staging a mock trial of CEO’s (and politicians?) for crimes against humanity might help take this view into the mainstream. There’s a useful link to who the leading ‘criminals’ are on the Why Green Economy site.
We didn’t have time to properly explore another question that was raised about how capitalist growth drives the continuing degradation of the climate. There is a useful article on Degrowth in a recent issue of the Ecologist.
There were also contribution on food and land use, taxation, the value of discussions that bring people together across national boundaries, the need to find new ways of using and conserving natural resources and the impact of extractivism on the global south. The final question before the speakers rounded up raised issues of the role of the state and the challenge of avoiding cooption by organisations whose purpose in proposing change is in fact to maintain the status quo.
If you were at the meeting or have watched the video we’d welcome contributions to this site on any of the issues raised.
Scot E3 (Scotland), Campaign against Climate Change (UK), Climaximo (Portugal), Bridge to the Future (Norway) and One Million Climate Jobs (South Africa)
We are asking organisations and individuals to add their names and to share with friends and networks. If you are happy to add your name to the statement please email firstname.lastname@example.org and copy to email@example.com. Please make it clear whether you are supporting as an individual or on behalf of an organisation. We will forward your details to the coalition of Climate Jobs campaigns who have produced the statement.
The covid pandemic has also shown what happens when governments ignore scientific warnings. Terrible as that has been, the effects of climate change will be far worse. We need to act now.
Humanity faces an environmental crisis and an economic crisis. Unemployment is rising at dizzying speed. We will need Green New Deals to put very large numbers of people back to work, fix our health and care systems, and meet human needs. Climate jobs must be a central part of this.
On the one hand, we need to do a thousand things to halt climate change. But by far the most important is to stop burning coal, oil and gas. These fossil fuels are now used for electricity, transport, heating and industry. We can, and must, cut those emissions by at least 95%.
However, humans will still need heat, energy, shelter, transport and material goods. So as we close down the old, we must build new alternatives. That’s where climate jobs come in.
On the other hand, the world is entering into recession and financial crisis at a dizzying pace. It is clear that governments in many countries will now offer hundreds of billions, and probably trillions of dollars, to rescue troubled banks, oil companies, aviation companies, and other corporations. The workers in those industries will be laid off. We need to spend that money on climate jobs for workers – a stimulus that can help human beings who need jobs, instead of bankers and share prices.
When we say “climate jobs”, we don’t just mean any worthwhile green job. We mean jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. The main jobs in most countries will be in renewable energy, building smart grids, public transport, new housing, converting old buildings, conversion of industry, forestry, helping farmers, and waste.
There is no reason for delay. We already have all the technology we need. Promises today of action in ten or thirty years are either pious hopes or lies. We need deep cuts in emissions next year, and every year after. That means massive numbers of climate jobs next year too.
Corporations and the market have had decades to solve the problem. They have not done so. We could argue about whether they can eventually do it. But it is clear that they will not act in time. Only governments can raise the amounts of money needed for climate jobs to replace almost all the fossil fuels we burn now. And only governments will do the many essential things which make no profit. So most of the jobs will have to be in the public sector.
Climate jobs, and wider Green New Deals, are a necessity. They are also a strategy for mobilising a mass climate movement. For too long the enemies of climate action have said we have to choose between jobs and the environment. Climate jobs projects cut through all that – we will have more jobs and save the climate.
Public sector climate jobs will also mean we can promise retraining and new jobs to miners, oil workers and other carbon workers. That is morally right. It is also politically important.
Humanity will never halt climate change without the organised and enthusiastic support of small farmers and workers in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The majority of people killed and ruined by climate change will also come from those continents. Most of them will be poor. But they will not fight to stay poor. Climate jobs means they can fight for a low carbon world with an alternative path to development. Climate jobs, and wider Green New Deals, can make poverty history.
The idea of climate jobs first came naturally from trade unionists. But we need a far wider and stronger movement than that. That means climate strikers, climate activists, trade unionists, scientists, engineers, voters and Earthlings campaigning together, in many different ways. Each country is different, and there is much to debate everywhere about how climate jobs projects could work. But we need a global campaign, in every country, growing until we reach a tipping point where humanity can rescue the future of life on Earth.
At last night’s meeting held jointly with Edinburgh CND we showed the 30 minute version of Steve Sprung’s film about the Lucas Plan. We strongly recommend watching the full version and you can find out more about the film at the dedicated website. You can also follow up on current developments via the new Lucas Plan website. If you weren’t able to make the meeting you can watch the 30 minute version here https://vimeo.com/305253552
At the same time as making some workers redundant, oil and gas companies have continued to operate rigs on a three weeks on three weeks off pattern. In ‘No Market Solution’, posted on this blog yesterday, Neil Rothnie asks a critical question about the safety of the workforce. He queries whether at a time of global oil glut this is really essential work and whether it can possibly be safe
Who knows how effective this [testing] is, or whether the infection is spiraling offshore only to come home with these guys at the end of their trip? Are all the companies quarantining all outward and inward bound workers? Are they testing everyone every day? Otherwise what possible precautions could be put in place to get workers offshore via helicopter to work eat and sleep (sometimes in shared cabins) cheek by jowl in an atmosphere of endlessly recycled air?
One of the tragic lessons we’ve learnt from Covid-19 is that concentrations of people in enclosed environments are horribly vulnerable to a highly infectious virus. Too late in the day the consequences of not protecting elderly and vulnerable people and care workers living and working in care homes have come to the fore in public debate. After initial publicity the plight of 100,000 workers who are still trapped on cruise ships around the world has been largely ignored. According to the Guardian newspaper at least fifty of the ships have Covid-19 infections spreading onboard while the workers are shut out of ports and unable to return to their homes.
In this context we need a public debate and rapid action to protect the lives of the North Sea workforce. It’s clear that the industry is not putting safety first – at a time of crisis they are making the workforce pay the price through redundancies and unacceptable risks to their lives, while at the same time continuing to pay out massive dividends to share holders.
Protect the workers now
Shut down offshore production and development until there is a clear case that it’s safe to resume. Ensure that livelihoods are protected.
Protect the workers in the future
Organise for a rapid, planned just transition out of hydrocarbons and into a new sustainable economy.