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General Municipal Boilermakers (GMB)

Trade unions in the UK engagement with climate change

By Catherine Hookes - Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group, August 15, 2017

Despite being faced with many immediate battles to fight, it is to the credit of many trade unions that they are also addressing the long term wellbeing of their members, and of future generations, by introducing policies to tackle climate change. A new report providing the first ever overview of the climate change policies of 17 major UK trade unions could help raise wider awareness of this important work.

The author, Catherine Hookes, is studying for a masters degree at Lund University, Sweden, and her research drew on a comprehensive web review of policies in these unions, going into more depth for many of the unions, interviewing key figures and activists. The research was facilitated by the Campaign against Climate Change.

For anyone within the trade union movement concerned about climate change (or for campaigners wishing to engage with trade unions on these issues) this report is of practical use in understanding the context, the diversity of different trade unions' approaches, and the progress that has been made in the campaign for a just transition to a low carbon economy.

While every attempt was made to ensure the report is comprehensive, and accurately reflects union positions, there are clearly controversies and different viewpoints over issues such as fracking and aviation. Trade unions with members in carbon intensive industries will always have a challenging task in addressing climate change, but their engagement in this issue is vital. And, of course, this is a rapidly changing field. It is very encouraging that since the report was written, Unison has voted to campaign for pension fund divestment. This is an important step in making local authority pension funds secure from the risk (both financial and moral) of fossil fuel investment.

Anyone attending TUC congress this September is welcome to join us at our fringe meeting, 'Another world is possible: jobs and a safe climate', to take part in the ongoing discussion on the role of trade unions in tackling climate change.

Read the text (PDF).

GMB: as Hinkley C collapses, it's time to get over nuclear!

By David Elliott, Ian Fairlie, Jonathon Porritt et al - The Ecologist, July 15, 2015

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.

Dear Gary Smith (GMB National Secretary for Energy),

The undersigned are scientists, academics and energy policy analysts who read with concern your Press Release objecting to the Austrian Government's appeal against the UK Government's proposed subsidies to the planned Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear station. Your statement contains several misconceptions, unsupported assertions and inaccuracies.

Let's start with your view that HPC is "much needed". It isn't: UK electricity demand is steadily declining. In fact it has declined 14% since 2000, while GDP has increased 18% in the same period.

It's true that some coal-fired stations will be closing over the next few years, some of which may need replacing by quick-to-build gas-fired stations and an array of renewable sources. But there's no way new nuclear could make any contribution in the next decade.

Maybe you should seek another legal opinion?

Second, you allege the Austrian appeal is "almost certainly doomed to fail". The opposite is the case: the Austrian Government has retained a team of about a dozen European lawyers - experts in EC Competition Law.

They have been assessing this case since November last year and consider the appeal to be very robust and likely to succeed: the EC's decision flies in the face of several European Directives, Policy statements, and previous EC decisions. And it is not just Austria: Luxembourg will be joining shortly, and several European renewable energy utilities also launched their appeal today.

You state Austria's appeal is "more about playing to a domestic audience rather than a serious challenge to stop new nuclear in the UK." On the contrary, Austrian Government's press statement of July 6 is clearly serious in opposing nuclear - not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe.

As the Austrian Chancellor stated: "Nuclear power plants are dangerous, expensive, and compared with the technologies of the future like wind and solar energy, are neither economically nor ecologically competitive."

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