Paid to Pollute

A court case launched today against the UK Government that exposes the billions it gives to the oil and gas industry. The case is supported by the Paid To Pollute campaign, a new initiative coordinated by Uplift and endorsed by a number of organisations including Greenpeace UK, Platform London, Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, UK Student Climate Network, Parents For Future, Fridays For Future Scotland, Extinction Rebellion, and Mothers Rise Up.

From it’s beginning more than 50 years ago oil and gas extraction from the North Sea has been heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. To find out more about the UK’s North Sea oil tax regime, which has handed super-profits to international oil companies while the taxpayer now foots the bill for decommissioning, you can read the featured report on our North Sea Oil and Gas page.

Scottish Government puts profit before people in public transport stitch up

Public transport campaigners in Glasgow have led the way in showing how a transport system that meets people’s needs is an important part of the transition to a zero carbon economy. Mike Downham explains why Glasgow City Council’s response to the campaign is desperately inadequate.

There’s a stitch up going on between the SNP Scottish Government (led by Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport) and the SNP Glasgow City Council, along with the Glasgow City Region Cabinet of eight local authorities (SNP Councillor Susan Aitken leads the former and chairs the latter).

First Glasgow bus 38225: Image by Calum Cape CC BY 2.0 

A remarkable article about this was published three days ago on the A Thousand Flowers blog.

It says, for example:

While the SNP have made the long overdue renationalisation of Scotrail one of the central themes of their current election campaign, they are actively inhibiting even tentative steps to reintroduce public control to the bus network.

And:

According to Glasgow’s dominant bus operator First, it’s “practical changes on the ground for the people of Glasgow that are needed, not a stale and out of date regulatory debate.” Here at 
ATF we would tend to disagree – questions of ownership, power and accountability are crucial to the functioning of any part of society, whether that’s football clubs or local buses. Scotland’s private bus operators have had three decades to show they can deliver a good service, and it’s been a resounding failure.
But while securing the power for local authorities to tackle this issue is all very well, if it isn’t resourced and worse still, actively undermined, then what’s the point? 

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 enabled and encouraged Local Authorities to explore three options – Bus Service Improvement Partnerships (BSIPS), Franchises, and Municipal Ownership. But in November last year the Scottish Government announced a £500 million Bus Partnership Fund, restricting the fund to the development by Local Transport Authorities of BSIPS. “The Bus Partnership Fund will complement the powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, enabling local authorities to work in partnership with bus operators, to develop and deliver ambitious schemes that incorporate bus priority measures”. The Government hasn’t even given guidelines for the exploration of Franchises or Municipal Ownership. Now Glasgow City Council is talking up their progress with a BSIP, as if Franchises and Municipal Ownership aren’t options – despite having previously committed to exploring all three options.

This sleight of hand, under cover of the public focus on Covid-19, is not only dishonest and utterly undemocratic – it’s potentially disastrous for the millions of people across Greater Glasgow who depend on bus transport and for whom the current system is both unfit for purpose and unaffordable. It amounts to another scandalous hand-out to the private bus companies.

Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, spoke in March this year at the Get Glasgow Moving AGM, as a follow-up to his visit to Glasgow in 2018 to collect evidence for his report. He said three things about public transport: first that an efficient and free public transport system in Glasgow would be the most immediate and most realistic way to address Glasgow’s huge poverty and human rights issues; second that there were many examples internationally where this had been achieved through public, democratic control or ownership; and third that there were absolutely no examples internationally where a privately owned public transport system had met needs and rights.

Meanwhile Greater Manchester made history in March “by becoming the first UK city-region to commit to re-regulating its buses since Margaret Thatcher de-regulated them in 1986”, see this report on the Get Glasgow Moving website.

New Report – Green Jobs in Scotland

A report released today, written by Transition Economics for the STUC shows how the transition to a low or Zero carbon economy could create a large number of new jobs. The report’s findings underline the need for planning, public investment and public control and consequences if these steps are not taken.

New STUC report shows the potential for up to 367,000 green jobs in Scotland. However poor policy choices could see less than 131,000 jobs being created.

Written by Transition Economics, “Green Jobs In Scotland” looks at how energy, buildings, transport, manufacturing, waste, agriculture and land-use need to be decarbonised, and sets out how Scotland can maximise green job creation, as well as fair work and effective worker voice in these jobs. It finds:

  • Energy: The transition to zero-carbon energy could see 30,000 – 95,000 jobs created over 15+years. However, this will require a national energy generation company, local content rules, and upgrades to ports and manufacturing sites. Without policies like this we could see less than 16,000.
  • Buildings: Decarbonising buildings & broadband could see 61,000 – 136,000 jobs created over 10+years, plus a further 22,000 – 37,000 jobs over 3 years in building new social housing. This area holds the greatest potential for job creation but requires billions of investment – including in a street-by-street retrofitting programme run directly by Local Authorities.
  • Transport: Upgrading and expanding transport could see 26,000 – 60,000 jobs over 10+ years with a further 11,000-13,000 ongoing jobs in operations. However, this will require significant investment in municipally run electric buses, railways, shipping, cycle and walking infrastructure etc.
  • Manufacturing and Industry: Heavy industry is particularly hard to decarbonise but 5,000 – 9,000 jobs could be created in steel, CCS and re-manufacturing, while existing employment numbers in chemicals and refining could be protected. However, even achieving this will require investment in plant conversions and an industrial strategy to promote domestic manufacturing.
  • Waste: The circular economy and waste management could provide 17,000 – 23,500 jobs. But this needs policies to boost recycling capacity, improve waste collection, scale up the deposit and return scheme, develop tool libraries, expand reverse logistics services, and expand remanufacturing.
  • Land-Use and Agriculture: Greening land-use and agriculture could create 17,000 – 43,000 jobs over 12+ years. But this requires significant investment in reforestation and rewilding, alongside support for local organic farming and stronger enforcement of labour standards in Scottish agriculture.

The recommendations in the report span UK, Scottish and Local Government, with the scale of public investment required to meet climate targets and potential job levels exceeding what the Scottish Government alone can access under the current financial settlement. However, calls for a more active industrial strategy, far greater levels of public ownership and significant public investment noting that employment in Scotland’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy decreased in 2019.

You can read the full report here.

New Hope for BiFab?

It’s excellent news that the BiFab yard in Fife will reopen over the next few months with the prospect of 290 jobs working on the production of eight platforms for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm project.  It’s a time for optimism but also a time for organising to ensure that this is not another false dawn. 

 Burntisland Fabrications yard at Methil by Bill Kasman CC BY-SA 2.0

Neart na Gaoithe is just 15km off the Fife coast.  When complete the windfarm will have 54 turbines generating enough electricity to power 375,000 homes.  54 turbines require 54 platforms, and it makes environmental sense to build these massive structures as close to the site as possible.  But BiFab will only be making eight, the others will be produced thousands of miles away.   

Announcements from the new private owners are positive about more orders in the pipeline, but we have heard this before – and back in 2017, prior to all production ending in early 2018 there were 1400 workers at BiFab.  There have been four wasted years.

We’ve argued on this site that the Methil yard should be a key part of the engineering infrastructure that’s needed to build a new sustainable, zero carbon economy.  The Methil, Burntisland and Arnish facilities can form part of the much more extensive network of sites required as we build an integrated, full-scale green energy economy.

We’ve also argued that the transition to the new economy we need so urgently can’t be left to the chaos and instability of the market. The workers at BiFab paid the price for the anarchy of the market in 2017/18.  To avoid this happening again, to guarantee jobs and a future for our children and grandchildren, we need public investment, public ownership, long term planning and democratic control.  

The ‘net zero’ con trick

Last month the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, together with Oil and Gas UK released the text of the North Sea Transition Deal.  We will look at this document in more detail in a future post. 

Suffice it to say that this is ‘transition’ that references the climate crisis, and talks about net zero, but is wholly driven by the interests of the oil industry.  The two big ticket items in the strategy are ‘Carbon Capture and Storage’ and ‘Hydrogen’.  And although the document comes out of Westminster, the minutes of the North Sea Transition Forum that brings together the industry with the UK and Scottish governments, suggest that Holyrood is on board with the strategy. 

A case study on the Oil and Gas UK website illustrates the kind of thinking that informs the strategy.  The study is headlined 

Injecting new life into assets – Supporting Net-Zero goals and producing more oil. A novel polymer flooding agent is helping to improve field recovery rates and accelerate the energy transition process.

You may need to read those headlines a few times!  The new polymer makes it easier to extract the oil.  This reduces the amount of carbon emissions associated with the effort of extraction.  Oil is pumped faster, and more oil can be extracted from a given reservoir.  So, there’s a small reduction in emissions at the point of production and more oil released into the system.  The magic here is that we are not supposed to count this massively greater amount of carbon because the greenhouse gases will be captured (by as yet unavailable technology).  And, of course, the polymer is available now – the oil is being pumped now – and carbon capture may be available at some unknown point in the future.  

Check out Scot.E3’s campaigning pledge for COP26 which outlines action to cut through the greenwashing and magical thinking that currently characterises policy on transition from fossil fuels.

Photo by Snapper CC BY 2.o

Scot.E3’s campaigning pledge for COP26

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:

  1. The immediate cessation of all new exploration, development and drilling activity in the British sector of the North Sea.
  2. A planned and phased end of oil and gas production in the North Sea that would ensure that activity ends by 2030.  
  3. 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 for 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.
  4. 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 triple.e.scot@gmail.com .  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

A Material Transition

War on Want’s new report ‘A Material Transition’ exposes the environmental destruction and human rights abuses that mining for renewable energy could unleash. The climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and rampant global inequality all have their roots in our resource-intense society.

The report highlights what can be done to avert this devastation and sets out a pathway for a globally just energy future: respect for the rights of affected communities, ensuring just and fair supply chains, and a reduction to harm for workers and the need for new resource extraction.

We’d like to publish a review of this report please get in touch if you would like to submit one.

The Petroleum Amendment Bill – why the silence?

In the year that COP26 comes to Scotland Neil Rothnie asks why there is no public debate on the Petroleum Amendment Bill

For the last 15 months the Petroleum Amendment Bill has been sitting on the table in the House of Lords.  The Bill is a private member’s bill based on the recommendations of the Sea Change report.  It calls for an end to oil and gas exploration, the rapid phasing out of production and a transition for oil and gas workers into the renewables industry. 270,000 jobs are supported by the industry.

So just when were the oil and gas workers, their families and communities going to be informed of the existence of this plan, and get the opportunity to scrutinise and discuss it?

Who has been in on this discussion? Who has been making what plans? 

Presumably the Government has a view on the Bill.  Why the silence? Their current plan, the Act that the Bill aims to amend, is spectacularly unfit for purpose.  It calls for “maximising economic recovery” of North Sea oil and gas. This is at complete odds with their claim to be leading the world against climate change. When UK Cabinet Minister, Alok Sharma, chairs the COP26 discussions in Glasgow in November is he going to be inviting delegates from Russia, Saudi Arabia, America, China and every other fossil fuel producer to follow the UK lead and maximise economic recovery of their own fossil fuels?  

Are the trade unions in on the discussion?  Have they informed their members on the North Sea what is being proposed?

Does the industry not feel the need to comment on a radical plan that has massive implications for their business on the North Sea and internationally.  If it’s necessary in the UK such a plan not necessary internationally? 

Do the Labour Party, the SNP and the Greens have positions on the Bill?  Lady Sheehan is a Liberal Democrat so presumably her party has a view.  What is it?

Why the silence?  Does the media, the BBC and the newspapers, know of the existence of this Bill.   Are they deliberately ignoring it and going to continue only to report what is written for them in the oil company public relations departments?  A proud tradition that has disappeared the North Sea from national scrutiny.

What about the environmental movement itself?  Scot.E3 has been campaigning on employment, energy and environment for three and a half years; but such is the silence that it was only alerted when Baroness Sheehan and Mary Robinson (past President of Ireland) alluded to the Bill in a recent article in the Times. 

Photo by Zukiman Mohamad on Pexels.com

Made in Scotland

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) together with Peace and Justice have published an excellent report ‘Made in Scotland’ which highlights how Scottish arms manufacturers have fuelled the war in Yemen.

Scot.E3 argues that workers in the arms industry should be redeployed to provide the engineering skills that are necessary for building a new sustainable, zero carbon< Scottish Economy. For more on this see Briefing 5.

Excerpt:

UK-made warplanes, bombs and missiles have fuelled the conflict in Yemen which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 24 million people, 80% of Yemen’s population, requiring humanitarian assistance as of January 2019. Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead the coalition, alongside Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait and Morocco. Coalition forces have targeted hospitals, clinics and vaccinations centres across Yemen, and after nearly six years of conflict, the country’s healthcare infrastructure has “almost collapsed.”

Polls over recent years have found the Scottish public are significantly opposed to Saudi arms exports. Just 11% of Scots said arms sales to Saudi Arabia were acceptable in a 2019 Opinium poll. In 2018, a ComRes poll gave similar results, with only 14% of Scots supporting continued arms sales to the Kingdom.

Despite this public opposition, weapons and military goods made in Scotland, from Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Midlothian, Glasgow and Lanarkshire, are all in operation with the Saudi-led coalition forces. At least 16 arms companies operating in Scotland have applied for military export licences to Saudi-led coalition members or worked directly with military forces since 2008.

In the Scottish Parliament, the Government has faced criticism over grants and support given to arms companies by its business support body Scottish Enterprise. Scottish Enterprise provides ten of the companies mentioned with free account management services, yet held meetings around diversification from arms sales with only four of them over the past 12 months.

Cumbria and climate jobs

Congratulations to climate campaigners in Cumbria who have fought so hard to prevent the building of a new coal mine. The council had given the go ahead but the application has now been called in by the Westminster Government with the result that there will now be a public enquiry. The proponents of the mine say that it will bring 500 jobs to West Cumbria. The campaign has argued that tackling the climate crisis means that the carbon must remain in the ground and that serious responses to the crisis will create many more jobs. The report they commissioned ‘The potential for green jobs in Cumbria’ shows exactly how this could happen. Local conditions vary but this is possible everywhere.