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Hemispheric Congress of Unions in São Paulo Urges Governments to Stop Fracking

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, April 28, 2016

More than 500 delegates representing unions in the Americas today adopted a ‘base document’ that included a call for governments in the hemisphere to issue a moratorium on fracking. Via the TUED-initiated Unions Against Fracking, five trade union centers in the Americas had earlier supported the call for a moratorium, namely CTA Argentina, CSN Quebec, the Canadian Labour Congress, CUT Brazil, and CUT Peru. A growing number of individual unions are also on board. The TUCA-CSA Congress document also declared, “We fight against the extractive model imposed by the business logic of large oil production and mining transnational corporations that do not foster development.”

Convened once every four years, the 3rd Congress of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americasis meeting at a time when unions in Brazil and across the region believe that a coup against president Dilma Rousseff is imminent. A right-wing government replacing the governing Workers Party is expected to push forward with an aggressive privatization agenda and a full-force attack on collective bargaining.

At a pre-Congress international seminar on April 26th titled “Democracy & Development in the Americas: Trade Union Strategy for the 2016-2020 period,” João Felício, current ITUC president and former leader of the main Brazilian union federation, CUT, underscored the seriousness of the situation. Referring to Dilma's period of incarceration during the 1964-1985 dictatorship, Felício said, “The torturers of Dilma, our democratically elected president, are poised to seize power. This is a coup. The CUT will never sit across the table with murderers and thieves.”

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow told the main session of Congress today, “This is about greed and corruption — corporate greed. We say, ‘No to coups, no to corruption.’ Dilma is the one person not charged for any personal corruption. Dilma is being tortured today in a different way.”

On climate change and the need for a ‘just transition,’ Burrow delivered a strong message: “Workers in fossil fuels should not be simply cast aside in the shift to a new economy. But there are no jobs on a dead planet. After the Paris Agreement, we need to act on the commitments made.”  Thanking Sharan for her work, TUCA president Hassan Yussuff acknowledged the ITUC's role at COP 21 in Paris. "Temperatures can not be allowed to rise above 2 degrees," he said, "We must ensure that unions are at the front of this fight." 

Representing TUED at the Congress, coordinator Sean Sweeney said, “Oil and gas multinationals have set their sights on Latin America in particular, and those supporting their agenda are playing their part in the attack on democracy in Brazil and across the continent. Unions at this Congress have seen with their own eyes what happens when mining and drilling companies move into their countries. They don't just go after fossil fuel deposits and water supplies, they also target democratic institutions and worker and human rights."

Our Climate is a Public Trust

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 20, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Can an ancient legal principle with roots in Roman law serve as a tool for the climate protection movement?

On October 23, Alec Johnson, aka “Climate Hawk,” is scheduled to go on trial for locking himself to a construction excavator in Tushka, Oklahoma as part of the Tar Sands Blockade campaign to block the route of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He intends to argue that resisting the pipeline was necessary in order to protect the public trust – the common property right of the people to essential natural resources. Johnson will be the first defendant anywhere to make a necessity defense based on the duty of government to protect the climate under the public trust doctrine.

In a speech in Nacogdoches, TX on the day of the 2014 Peoples Climate March, Johnson said, “When it comes to our commons, to our public property, we the people have rights in a public trust.” The public trust doctrine means “we have rights when it comes to how our public commons are administered.” He will argue that his blockade of Keystone XL pipeline construction was necessary because the pipeline threatens our atmospheric public trust and state and national governments are failing to protect us against that threat.

Meanwhile, last week a petition was filed with the US Supreme Court by five youth plaintiffs seeking a decision that the Federal government is obligated to protect public trust assets like the atmosphere and the climate that under the public trust doctrine belong to the people. Behind this case lies a unique organizing effort by the group Our Children’s Trust, which has brought together young people and their legal supporters to file suits and petitions not only in Federal court but in every state in the US and several other countries. Then-sixteen-year-old Alec Loorz, founder of Kids v. Global Warming and lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, explained its public trust claim: “The government has a legal responsibility to protect the future for our children. So we are demanding that they recognize the atmosphere as a commons that needs to be preserved, and commit to a plan to reduce emissions to a safe level.”

And at a Climate Justice Tribunal across the street from the UN climate summit last month a judicial panel, after hearing evidence of devastating impacts of climate change around the world, declared that governments have a duty under the public trust doctrine to halt climate destruction. Organized by the Climate Justice Alliance and inspired in part by the International War Crimes Tribunal organized during the Vietnam War by renowned philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, the Tribunal’s judicial panel found that “Based on the evidence we have heard here today, the nations of our world are in violation of their most fundamental legal and constitutional obligations.” It called on governments to honor their duty to protect the atmosphere, which belongs in common to the world’s people, and halt their contribution to climate destruction.

Some courts are already starting to apply the public trust doctrine to protecting the atmospheric commons. Last December the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a law that prevented local communities from blocking fracking. The plurality opinion held that public natural resources are owned in common by the people, including future generations. Because the state is the trustee of these resources, it has a fiduciary duty to “conserve and maintain” them. The state has “a duty to refrain from permitting or encouraging the degradation, diminution, or depletion of public natural resources.”

Will courts force governments to fulfill that duty? So far several state courts have accepted important parts of the youth plaintiffs’ argument, but none have ordered a government to act. But in the meantime, thousands of people are sitting-in and blockading to halt climate-destroying activities. The judicial panel of the Climate Justice Tribunal declared that “those who blockade coal-fired power plants or block tar sands oil pipelines are committing no crime.” Rather, they are exercising their right and responsibility to protect the atmospheric commons they own along with all of present and future humankind. They are acting to prevent a far greater harm — indeed, “a harm that by virtue of the public trust doctrine is itself a violation of law on a historic scale.”

Alec Johnson says that “we the people” are “armed” by the public trust doctrine to demand that governments “recognize their responsibilities as trustees and exercise their fiduciary responsibility to act with the highest duty of care” to sustain the resources necessary for society to endure. “Enforcing our children’s rights to climate justice is no crime.”

Jeremy Brecher is a historian of social movements, a founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and author of Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival (Paradigm Publishers, January 2015).

Just cuts for fossil fuels? Supply-side carbon constraints and energy transition

By Philippe Le Billon and Berit Kristoffersen - Economy and Space, November 2018

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has generally been approached through demand-side initiatives, yet there are increasing calls for supply-side interventions to curtail fossil fuel production. Pursuing energy transition through supply-side constraints would have major geopolitical and economic consequences. Depending on the criteria and instruments applied, supply cuts for fossil fuels could drastically reduce and reorient major financial flows and reshape the spatiality of energy production and consumption. Building on debates about just transitions and supply constraints, we provide a survey of emerging interventions targeting the supply of, rather than the demand for, fossil fuels. We articulate four theories of justice and selection criteria to prioritize cuts among fossil fuel producers, including with regard to carbon-intensity, production costs, affordability, developmental efficiency, and support for climate change action. We then examine seven major supply-constraint instruments, their effectiveness, and possible pathways to supply cuts in the coal, oil and gas sectors. We suggest that supply cuts both reflects and offers purposeful political spaces of interventions towards a 'just' transition away from fossil fuel production.

Read the text (PDF).

Trade union leaders stand with imprisoned fracking campaigners

By various - Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group, October 10, 2018

Update: the sentences of all three men have been quashed on appeal as 'manifestly excessive'

As trade unionists, we the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the four non-violent anti-fracking activists who have been convicted of 'causing a public nuisance', three of whom are now serving custodial sentences.  We strongly condemn this judgement and the dangerous precedent it sets for the right to protest and take non-violent direct action against threats to the climate and the environment.

These are by far the longest prison sentences imposed on activists defending the environment since those jailed for the Mass Trespass in 1932. It can only be seen as politically motivated in support of a government that has shown it is prepared to ride roughshod over the democratic rights of citizens to achieve an end for which it has no popular support.

This is a clear example of the state acting in the interests of big business in the face of opposition to fracking by the community at Preston New Road, and across the UK more widely.  It is important to recall the concerns raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly in his report in 2016 regarding the "collusion between law enforcement authorities and private companies" in relation to fracking protests.

At the TUC Congress in 2018, the trade union movement called for a moratorium on fracking in England which has already been stopped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Many of us believe it should be banned in full.  There is no safe fracking. It is not safe for the environment, water supplies, citizens or workers, or in addressing climate change concerns.

Trade unionists have long seen their legitimate rights oppressed with the use of force, and are proud to support of our sisters and brothers taking a stand against injustice.  The treatment of striking miners at the so called 'Battle of Orgreave' remains a potent symbol of the underhand tactics of the state against the working class for which justice is still being sought over thirty years later.

We need investment in a publicly owned and democratically controlled energy system, which can oversee the transition to renewable energy.  A transition that is just by providing social protections for workers, and creates unionised sustainable jobs across all sectors as we develop a new zero carbon economy.

Unions from 12 Countries Call for a Global Moratorium on Fracking

By Bruno Dobrusin and Sean Sweeney - Unions Against Fracking, November 9, 2015

Thirty trade union bodies representing tens of millions of workers have issued a statement calling for a “global moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas, coal seam gas, and shale oil.”  Among the thirty first-signers are national trade union centers from Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Nepal, Peru and the Philippines; two Global Union Federations representing education and public service workers, and key unions in health care, energy and water utilities.

Unions are also among more than 1,000 organizations that have signed the Global Frackdown for Paris.

“In Argentina we have witnessed the heroic resistance to fracking being led by the Mapuche people in Neuquén province,” said Adolfo “Fito” Aguirre of Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina. “The YPF-Chevron agreement to frack for shale gas and oil has led to heavy police repression of activists, and homes of Mapuche residents have been burned to the ground. The prospect of high-volume fracking in Argentina will lead to even more resistance–we need a global response.”

  • If you or your union would like more information about this initiative, please contact UAF here.
  • Local, national and international level unions are all invited to sign on.
  • Resources for unions on fracking here.

The Statement:

We Call for a Global Moratorium on Fracking

We are national trade union centers, global union federations, and individual unions representing millions of workers in the global North and South.

We call for a global moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas, coal seam gas, and shale oil.

Fracking is happening or is being proposed in a growing number of countries. In Argentina and Canada indigenous people have led the resistance, and in Bulgaria and Romania farmers have engaged in direct action against the gas companies.

Fracking has led to attacks on land rights, and the large amounts of water used in fracking also threatens to increase water scarcity in areas where water supply and access pose real problems for people, particularly those in poor rural communities.

In almost every country or region where fracking is either proposed or already happening it has met determined opposition from a wide array of people and organizations.

The experience of fracking in the United States since 2002 has shown that the process threatens the health and quality of life of communities situated near drilling sites.

There are tens of thousands of shale gas wells in the U.S. alone – and water contamination is a known result of drilling. The high-volume use of carcinogenic chemicals such as silica also poses a threat to health, particularly to workers on drilling sites and who handle the wastewater from fracking. In the U.S. companies are not even required by law to disclose the chemicals used in the process.

We are also concerned about the impact of fugitive methane from drilling sites on global warming. Recent drill-site and atmospheric studies show high levels of methane leakage — suggesting that shale gas is worse than coal in terms of its impact on the atmosphere.

In calling for global a moratorium on fracking, our unions stand in solidarity with all communities, municipalities, regions and nations who have already introduced moratoriums or are attempting to do so.

President Obama: Keystone XL Pipeline “Would Not Serve National Interest”

By Staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, November 6, 2015

National Nurses United rally against Keystone X-L, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, 2013

President Obama has announced his support for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s rejection of the long-proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project, which would have brought Canadian tar sands oil to the Texas south coast for shipping overseas. Supporters of real action to address climate change and energy democracy are celebrating the announcement.

US Trade Union Opposition to Keystone XL:

Research has shown the pipeline posed serious threats to the environment, safety and economies of communities along its route, while promises that the project would be a major creator of jobs were unfounded. For more on these issues, please see:

Capitalism Is Killing the Earth: An Anarchist Guide to Ecology

By JohnWarwick, et. al. - Anarchist Federation, 2018

We are in a period of crisis that we in MEDCs cannot yet see. The signs are there if you look hard enough but at the moment the water is still flowing, the crops are still reliable the ski lifts are still running. The first wave of climate refugees are trying to make their way into Europe but they are being dismissed as "economic migrants" or those displaced by war. In all likelihood, MEDCs will not feel the effects of climate change for some time; our relative wealth will push the impacts onto those who haven't the means to adapt or whose local climates were less temperate to begin with. The longer we wait to act, however, the bigger the coming crunch will be.

Collectively, MEDCs are responsible for the overwhelming majority of cumulative carbon emissions and will have to radically change their energy and transport systems if an ecological disaster is to be avoided. Who will bear the brunt of the costs and who will get rich from this process is sadly predictable. The working class in MEDCs and most people in LEDCs will pay for the fossil fuel addiction and growth-at-all-costs model of the capitalist system. We have already begun to see this happen in the black, working-class communities devastated by natural disasters in the USA and flooding killing thousands in Bangladesh.

Capitalism relies on constantly increasing accumulation of profits. This has been achieved historically by appropriations (a polite term for thefts) both internal and external to the nation state. Internally, in Europe from the fifteenth century onwards, this has followed the model of stealing common land from the people to create a proletarian class dependent on wage labour to support itself. Externally, this expansion was tied to a move outside Europe's borders to exploit natural resources and labour in other locations. Thus colonialism and capitalism were, from the beginning, linked to processes of resource extraction and accumulation.

Capitalism is now in crisis; with so few areas beyond its reach, there are no easy sources of growth to appropriate, and the ability of the earth's ecosystems to accommodate further growth is being seriously questioned. How then to continue growth and profit? In MEDCs, we are seeing a fresh attack on workers? rights, with more precarious jobs, lower pay and poorer social care. In LEDCs, the neoliberal development model is pushed with privatisation and financial deregulation extracting the most profit for the capitalists.

We write this pamphlet to discuss the environmental problems that capitalism has created, with a focus on climate change and the false solutions offered up to us. There has been wider understanding of environmental issues since mainstream publications such as Silent Spring, Gaia and An Inconvenient Truth; however, an anti-capitalist critique has been lacking.

Read the report (PDF).

Winds of Change: Public Opinion on Energy Politics in Saskatchewan

By Andrea Olive, Emily Eaton, and Randy Besco - Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - April 2018

Energy politics are controversial in Canada. Debates over pipelines, from the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion to TransCanada’s Keystone XL, are often splashed across newspaper headlines. In Saskatchewan, however, the Saskatchewan Party government and the official NDP opposition have rarely disagreed about the importance of defending the province’s oil industry from anti-pipeline activists and federal climate change policies. Most recently, the interim leader of the NDP sided with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in the dispute between Alberta and British Colombia over Kinder Morgan.1 Although Saskatchewan produces no bitumen itself, the NDP joined Premier Notley in condemning BC Premier Horgan’s announcement that British Colombia will place restrictions on the shipment of bitumen through its territory.

Given the seeming political consensus that defending the oil industry is consistent with defending the province’s interests, one might assume that Saskatchewan people are relatively united in their support for fossil fuel extraction. In this report we present some surprising results of public opinion polling that we conducted on issues of oil extraction, environment, and climate change in the province. Our results show that people living in Saskatchewan support a transition away from fossil fuels and agree that the government should invest more in solar and wind power while strengthening environmental regulations.

Read the report (PDF).

Alberta is Losing Out on Millions in Natural Gas Revenue. Here's Why

By James Wilt - DeSmog Canada, January 25, 2018

Alberta oil and gas companies are wasting so much natural gas each year that Albertans are losing out on up to $21 million a year in provincial natural gas royalties.

Oil and gas companies let an estimated $253 million worth of natural gas escape through undetected leaks and the practice of venting annually.

According to Progress Alberta, a progressive advocacy group, the lost royalties could pay for five new schools, 84 new playgrounds or 36 new nurses.

This is a valuable resource that Albertans own and it’s money that should be going to things Albertans want and need that’s just being lost to the atmosphere forever,” said Duncan Kinney, executive director of Progress Alberta, in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

In addition to the lost royalties, the potent greenhouse house is leaked into the atmosphere without paying the province’s $30/tonne carbon levy, which results in a further loss of up to $1.4 billion in revenue, according to a new analysis by the Pembina Institute. When that carbon price increases to $50/tonne, as Premier Rachel Notley has indicated it will, those lost revenues rocket to $2.25 billion.

So why is this valuable resource disappearing into thin air?

Alberta underestimating methane leakage by 25 to 50 per cent

Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is considered to be one of the easiest ways to quickly reduce emissions. Methane has 34 times the “global warming potential” as carbon dioxide over a century.

And Alberta’s oil and sector emits a lot of it, with 31.4 megatonnes of methane entering the atmosphere in 2014 — although a recent study by Carleton University suggestedthe province is underestimating pollution by between 25 and 50 per cent, meaning annual emissions are more likely around the 45 megatonnes per year mark (which is about how much we thought all of Canada was emitting in 2016).

Fouty-five megatonnes a year is the greenhouse gas equivalent to 240,899 vehicles on the road.

Oil and gas companies have resisted changes that would require them to limit the leaking and venting of natural gas, arguing that it would result in job losses.

However, the federal government has committed to reducing methane emissions by 45 per cent below 2012 levels by 2025. Those reductions can be achieved through things like limiting the intentional “venting” of methane, using optical gas imaging cameras to detect unintentional leaks and installing flares to combust methane into carbon dioxide.

Federal draft regulations were released in May 2017, and proposed delaying full implementation of new rules by three years to 2023, instead of 2020. It was expected that Alberta would release its own version of regulations in November.

Industry  won a major concession from government in not having to pay any carbon tax on fuel used in the production of conventional oil and gas until 2023, including vented and flared gas.

The delay of action on reducing methane emissions ultimately impacts the entire country.

What Alberta does will really make or break the ability to meet that [methane] target at the end of the day,” said Andrew Read, senior analyst with the Pembina Institute and report author.

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