The problems with BECCS

Scot.E3 has joined with a number of other organisations in signing a letter sent to the Scottish Government arguing that Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage should have no place in the their updated Climate Change Plan.

The key points in the letter are listed below.

Image from USFS staff at the USDA National Agroforestry Cente
CC BY-NC
  1. Risk of exacerbating rather than mitigating climate change

Biodiverse forests are vital protection against the climate and ecological emergencies. Protecting mature forests and allowing more land to revert to forest and other natural ecosystems is a vital part of our efforts to sequester and store carbon. Large-scale tree burning for biomass energy is not compatible with this need, and any level of BECCS implementation would further increase demands for extraction of wood and other types of biomass.

To date, the only working example of BECCS anywhere in the world is the capture of CO2 from ethanol fermentation. This process emits more carbon than it sequesters once the fossil fuels burnt during the refining process and the emissions released by land-use change are taken into account. Cutting down trees for energy production exacerbates the climate crisis because it takes too long for new trees to grow back, and forest ecosystems that are logged will not recover for many decades, if ever.

  1. High risk to nature 

The suggestion from the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that Scotland could grow and supply around 33% of all UK biomass and would therefore be an ideal location for BECCS is extremely concerning. Existing demand for biomass energy in the UK far exceeds the availability of genuine biomass residues and wastes. If BECCS was applied on a large scale in Scotland, it would increase the demand for wood and land, and therefore add pressure on woodland and other biodiverse ecosystems.

The world’s only example of a pilot BECCS project involving the burning of biomass – one which has not succeeded in sequestering any carbon so far –  is at Drax Power Station in Yorkshire. Drax is the world’s biggest biomass burner and routinely sources pellets made from clearcut, coastal and hardwood forests in the Southeastern USA as well as from forests in the Baltic States. These forests are home to countless rare and endangered species and Scotland must not have a role in their destruction. 

In Scotland, biomass electricity relies heavily on burning domestic wood from tree plantations, most of which are Sitka spruce. The Forestry Strategy for Scotland highlights the major role of biomass energy in the overall demand for wood, itself one of the ‘strategic drivers’ of expansion. Conifer plantations may be faster growing than native woodlands and thus preferred for bioenergy, but they provide little habitat for wildlife. 

European biofuel policy has shown that large-scale demand for crop-based biofuels causes large-scale land-use change. In the case of European crops, it involves more intensive agriculture with greater agrochemical use, contributing to the decline in farmland birds, animals, insects and wildflowers.

  1. Diverts resources from meaningful responses to the climate emergency

We urge the Scottish Government not to rely on speculative negative emissions technologies such as BECCS in the energy sector to make up for, or “undo”, carbon emissions. These unviable technologies distract us from the urgent action needed to tackle emissions at source and meet our climate targets.

Scotland’s new 2030 climate target requires urgent action to reduce emissions, and the costs – both financially and environmentally – of trying to develop BECCS are huge, representing a real risk of diverting much needed resources and financing away from proven and effective responses to the climate and biodiversity crises which, unlike BECCS, can be implemented immediately.

The Scottish Government must end support for new fossil fuel developments, focusing instead on ensuring a Just Transition that protects the livelihoods of communities which currently rely on high carbon industries.  Swift efforts must be made to upscale truly clean energy, to develop a mix of energy storage systems at scale and to greatly expand the roll out of heat pumps and the insulation of homes.

The Scottish Government must invest in, and provide policy support for, increasing biodiverse forest and woodland cover and the protection of forest, peatland and wetland ecosystems which naturally sequester carbon prioritising the expansion of native woodland through tree planting and natural regeneration. 

Read the full letter here.

Global Youth Strike for Climate

A year ago, on 20th September seven million people around the world demonstrated for climate action. The Edinburgh demonstration organised by Scottish Youth Climate Strike (SYCS). SYCS are calling for people to protest on Friday September 25th. For the latest information check the SYCS website – there will be physically distanced protests where safe to do so – you can also add your voice on social media – make a sign calling for a Just Green Recovery and post a picture of it using #BuildBackBetterScot.

Follow @_sycs_ for more information (Instagram only)

Follow @syclimatestrike for more information (Facebook Only) 

Support Alexander Dennis – Green Buses for Just Transition

Thanks to Friends of the Earth Scotland for sharing this information.  The skills of the workforce at Alexander Dennis and the production facilities are vital for the transition to a zero carbon economy.

Background 
Despite the Scottish Government’s fine rhetoric on climate action and just transition, hundreds of workers are currently at risk of redundancy at Alexander Dennis (ADL), the Falkirk-based manufacturer of high-performance hybrid buses. Unite the Union has found evidence that despite the claims of ADL, these job cuts were planned before the health crisis as part of a restructure strategy. Like the still under threat BiFab offshore platform fabrication yards in Fife, Alexander Dennis should be at the forefront of the just transition to a zero carbon economy, not struggling for survival. 

Why your help is needed
Environmentalists and climate change campaigners can stand in solidarity with workers fighting to save their jobs – jobs that are vital to the green economy and protecting livelihoods.  


Please support the @UniteScotland and @UniteADL campaign on social media, and call for MSPs to sign motion S5M-22467 in the Scottish Parliament. The text of the motion is below, along with links to suggested tweets to share and tweets to send directly to MSPs. 

A demonstration of solidarity like this from environmentalists and climate change campaigners with workers and trade unionists will help build stronger alliances and a broader movement for climate action. Please take action today! 

Scottish Parliament Motion

Motion S5M-22467: Richard Leonard, Central Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/08/2020 R

Importance of Engineering and Manufacturing to the Scottish Economy

That the Parliament recognises and affirms its support for the importance of engineering and manufacturing to the Scottish economy; considers that the sector will play a crucial role in a just transition to a cleaner and greener economy; expresses its concern at the announcement by Alexander Dennis Limited, a world leading bus manufacturer, that a significant number of jobs throughout its UK operations are at risk, including at sites in Falkirk and Larbert; recognises the serious impact that this would have on thousands of workers, and calls on the Scottish Government to offer every assistance to support the company and its skilled workforce and to work with it and the trade unions to ensure that it has an important future in supporting the development of a clean and green public transport infrastructure for communities across Scotland and further afield.

Tweets to retweet 
If you’re short on time, please retweet these focused at UK & Scot Govs

If @NicolaSturgeon wants a cleaner, greener future then jobs like @ADLbus will be crucial to making this a success. 

Time for @scotgov to support these key manufacturing jobs in Falkirk.
https://twitter.com/UniteADL/status/1303762702616190976 

We’re still waiting on action from @BorisJohnson and @GOVUK. 4,000 green buses were promised. Our members at @ADLbus are ready to build them.

Suggested text to tweet @ your MSPs

If you want to engage your MSP, share this tweet with them. Find out who is your MSP

We call on MSPs to support @ScotParl Motion https://bit.ly/2D5cVOH 

@ADLbus workers want to be part of a cleaner greener future. @UniteScotland @unitetheunion

If you want to ask your MSP to sign the motion

Hi

@XXXXXMSP

Bus manufacturing is essential to the green economy – Alexander Dennis should be thriving & at forefront of#JustTransition to zero carbon, not struggling for survival.

As my MSP, please support the motion bit.ly/2D5cVOH 

@UniteADL

@UniteScotland

If you want to thank your MSP for signing the motion (we should remember to praise MSPs when they do good stuff!)

Hi

@XXXXXMSP

Bus manufacturing is essential to the green economy – Alexander Dennis should be thriving & at forefront of#JustTransition to zero carbon, not struggling for survival. 

Launch event – Free Our City

A message from Free Our City

To address the climate emergency and tackle persistent poverty, hundreds of cities across the world – from Kansas to Calais – are making their public transport networks free for everyone to use. We think Glasgow should too!

Free Our City is a new coalition of community, trade union and environmental groups campaigning for Glasgow to be the next city to make its public transport free (see our leaflet attached).

If you would like to find out more, please join us for our free online conference & launch event on Saturday 19 September, 11am – 1pm

We’ll be joined by speakers from different cities around the world to share their experiences of campaigning for, implementing and living with the many benefits of free public transport. They’ll be opportunities to ask questions and breakout sessions to discuss how to develop, get involved in and work together to win the campaign in Greater Glasgow.

The event will be on Zoom. Please ensure you register in advance on Eventbrite, so we can email you the log-in details for the event. It will also be live streamed on Facebook.

Register for the event here: https://freebuses.eventbrite.com

We believe public transport in Glasgow should be free, but we want to hear what you think!

Free Our City

Scot.E3 is part of the Free Our City campaign which launches with a conference on 19th September. We’re demanding a world-class, fully-integrated and accessible public transport network for Glasgow – free at the point of use.

Over the last few years hundreds of forward-thinking cities across the world – from Kansas to Calais – are upgrading their public transport networks and making them free for everyone to use. This radical policy is a necessary one: to address the climate emergency and gross inequalities in our society.Free public transport benefits everyone, but especially those living on poverty pay or benefits, young people, women, black and ethnic minorities – who all rely on public transport more. In a city like Glasgow with such low car-ownership (49% of households), free public transport would have a dramatic effect in reducing social isolation and lifting people out of poverty.

Last year, Glasgow City Council agreed the ambitious target to reduce the city’s emissions to net-zero by 2030, and agreed to undertake a ‘formal assessment of the potential for making the transition to a public transport system that is free to use’.

The Free Our City coalition has been founded to ensure this ‘assessment’ becomes action, and that this policy becomes a reality sooner, rather than later. We don’t have time to waste. Reliance on private cars is the main cause of carbon emissions and toxic air pollution in our city. In order to meet the 2030 target, car mileage will have to be cut by as much as 60% in the next ten years [1]. We need to provide universal and comprehensive active travel and public transport networks, so that everyone can fully participate in the social and economic life of our city without need or aspiration to own a car.

Free public transport also has economic benefits which far outweigh the cost of running it – returning £1.70 to the economy for every £1 spent, [2] and it can pay for itself in increased tax receipts. But it is only practical and cost-effective to deliver with full public control of the whole public transport network [3]. We must therefore use all new powers available in the Transport Act 2019 to re-regulate our bus network (under ‘franchising’) and set up a publicly-owned bus company for Greater Glasgow to take over routes and reconnect the communities left stranded by private bus company cuts. 


Why now? 

The coronavirus crisis has proved that public transport is an essential public service to get our keyworkers to their jobs. It has also laid bare the absurdities of running our public transport on a for-profit basis. The need to maximise profits from fares is not compatible with current social distancing guidance. When services were reduced during lockdown, they ended up costing us more to run. The Scottish Government has already bailed-out failing private bus companies by more than £300 million. This should be an opportunity to buy back our buses, so that they can be run in the public good for the long term.

There are many ways to improve the safety of our public transport and public control is central to them all. If we own and run our own buses, then we control the safety for staff and passengers. We can improve pay, conditions and training for staff. And we can deliver far more frequent and reliable services for passengers to reduce overcrowding, and better plan the routes to speed-up journey times and minimise the need to change. We can upgrade the fleet to zero-emissions electric buses and make them more spacious, with air-conditioning and multiple entrances and exits [4].  Upgrading the fleet of Glasgow buses can be an opportunity to save Alexander Dennis, the world-leading bus production company based at Larbert, which is currently threatening to make 650 workers redundant because orders have slowed down through the coronavirus pandemic [5].

We need to use this crisis as an opportunity to build back a far better public transport network, which actually serves our needs and helps us meet the many challenges of the decade ahead. Once the pandemic has passed, we will be faced with a massive economic crisis and a climate emergency that is not going away.[

 Building a world-class, fully-integrated and accessible public transport network – free at the point of use – will provide the thousands of high quality, ready to go green jobs that we’ll urgently need for our city to make a just and green recovery [6].

Imagine if buses were free?

The Free Our City coalition is launching with a conference “Imagine if buses were free?” on Saturday 19th September. Speakers from other cities which have achieved free public transport will describe how their system works. We will discuss in break-out groups what we need in Greater Glasgow, and how we move forward to achieve it. The conference will be open to all, welcoming representatives of community organisations across Greater Glasgow and interested individuals to share in the discussion. Register for the conference on Eventbrite. Promote the conference by sharing the Facebook Event and the Event Tweet .


[1] During the crisis, publicly-controlled buses in London were made free so that passengers did not need to make contact with the driver to pay fares.

[2] By the end of 2020, as many as 1 in 3 young Scots could be unemployed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

[3] ScotE3, 2020, Act Now: save lives, save jobs, save the planet

[4] Transport for Quality of Life, 2019, A Radical Transport Response to the Climate Emergency, p.2

[5] Jeff Turner, 2020, How Much Will Free Buses for Glasgow Cost and What are the Benefits?, p.1

[6] Transport for Quality of Life, 2019, A Radical Transport Response to the Climate Emergency, p.4

Nuclear weapons, the climate and our environment

Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland has produced an excellent new report that looks at the links between nuclear weapons, tackling the climate crisis and degradation of the environment.  Written by Linda Pearson the report collects together a wealth of useful links for anti-war and climate campaigners alike.  The aim of the report is ‘to highlight the connections between climate change, nuclear weapons, militarism, environmental destruction, racism, gender inequalities and social injustice in order to build a broad-based movement that can challenge existing power structures and bring about systemic change’.

Scot.E3 from its formation has argued that defence divestment needs to be part of the transition to a sustainable zero carbon economy.  We agree with Don’t Bank on the Bomb that ‘… any Green New Deal plans should include a transition away from military production, as well as a transition away from fossil fuels’. 

The new report highlights the expenditure of huge sums of money on ‘modernising’ nuclear arsenals around the world.  The nuclear industry (military and civilian) is perhaps the most centralised and authoritarian manifestation of the military-industrial complex.  We would argue that it’s not simply that the money spent on nukes should be spent on developing a new sustainable economy; the nuclear industry and arms manufacture more generally distorts economic and social choices and constrains civil liberties.  The skills of engineers and scientists that could be devoted to productive, environmentally useful activity are instead harnessed to a system that produces waste, trashes the environment and risks all our lives.  The report highlights the interconnections between the drive for profit, the impact of climate change and increased military tensions.  One example of this is the race for commercial and military dominance of the Arctic.

Nuclear Weapons, the Climate and Our Environment – screen shot

Further Reading:

Scot.E3 Briefing Scotland Deindustrialisation and Diversification

Alexander Dennis – time for action

Alexander Dennis, based in Falkirk, is internationally important as a manufacturer of double decker buses.  In the wake of Covid19 it faces a short-term decline in orders.  The response of its new owners, Canadian firm NFI, is to cut 650 jobs.

Clean, sustainable public transport is a critical part of the transition to a zero-carbon economy and Alexander Dennis is a world leader in building all-electric and hydrogen powered buses.  The skills of the workforce at Alexander Dennis will be essential in reshaping the way we use energy, the way we produce and the way we live in response to the climate crisis.  Sacking 650 workers will blight lives, wreck futures and set back the struggle for a just transition to a new sustainable economy.  

In an excellent article in today’s Source Direct Ben Wray notes that the company is asking the government to buy the buses that private operators are not buying at the moment.  We do need government action, but as we argued recently in ‘Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save the Planet’ such action needs to be planned and systemic.  It needs to tackle issues of safe public transport and it needs to look forward to the zero-carbon future.  The private sector is incapable of this kind of joined up thinking.  Saving jobs, skills and livelihoods at Alexander Dennis should be seen as part of the broader campaign of taking public transport into public control.

All the signs are, however, that any Scottish Government action is unlikely to measure up to either the immediate crisis in Falkirk or the longer-term crisis of climate.  There is a huge gap between the government’s rhetoric on just transition and just recovery and their actions.  So how do we turn this round?  I’d argue that to make progress we need to think in terms of a ‘worker led just transition’.  It’s hard, but collectively we need to take every opportunity to turn the slogan into real action.  At a time of public health and climate crisis, when the wealth of the super-rich is rocketing up, and the Westminster government is spending billions on contracts to their friends and bailouts to big business, redundancies in carbon-saving jobs are unacceptable.  One option would be for Alexander Dennis workers to refuse to accept redundancy and occupy the factory.  Combined with a public campaign for socially useful production as a part of a just transition this would have huge resonance in Scottish society and could provide common cause to the trade union and climate movements.  The 1971 occupation of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders is a model – but this could be so much bigger.

Save Lives, Save Jobs, Save the Planet

Support Alexander Dennis Workers

Take Public Transport and Public Transport vehicle production into public ownership

Pete Cannell

Dennis Enviro 400XLB by dmilburn007 CC BY SA 4.0

Bring the flare to SEPA

Earlier in the year we held an online public meeting with speakers from the Mossmorran Action Group. Prior to Covid19 Climate Camp Scotland were planning their summer action around Mossmorran. Limitations on social contact have made the original plans impossible but Climate Camp are continuing to campaign for action on Mossmorran. On Sunday at Midday there will be protests at SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) offices around Scotland. The action will continue via social media on Monday; for more details go to the Facebook event or read the action briefing document.

Flaring at Mossmorran

Scot.E3’s July organising meeting

We held our latest organising meeting on 23rd July. It was a chance to catch up and share ideas. You can find the full list of actions here and if there are particular actions that you would like to get involved with please do email us.

Part of the discussion focussed on the impact of Covid19 on the Scottish economy. We will soon be publishing an extended article on the importance of the education sector in the transition to a zero carbon economy – in light of this it’s very important to support education workers who are fighting to keep their jobs. Edinburgh Napier University is the first to announce that it is looking for compulsory redundancies. Do sign and share the petition in support of Napier staff.

In Glasgow jobs at First Bus are under threat – Get Glasgow Moving are looking for support for their campaign to take Glasgow bus services into public ownership. You can sign their petition here.

We are planning two public meetings, one on Ineos and one on a Worker Led Just Transition – watch this space for dates and further details.