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decarbonization

TUC Congress votes to endorse a ‘just transition’ to a UK free from carbon emissions

By Chris Jarvis - Left Foot Forward, October 18, 2022

The TUC (held) its annual Congress is meeting in Brighton from 18-20 October. On the first day of the Congress, delegates voted for a motion that called for a ‘just transition’ to a UK free from carbon emissions.

In backing the motion, the TUC has agreed to support “a move to net zero that offers a fair deal for workers”, “where green jobs are secure, sustainable, good jobs delivered through collective bargaining and where those workers and communities whose industries are threatened by the changes to develop a low-carbon world have jobs protected, through decarbonisation of existing industries in consultation with workers in those industries and their skills fully utilised in the sustainable industries of the future.”

According to the motion passed by the TUC, there is a need for “state intervention, investment and support to protect jobs, incomes, skills and communities.”

The motion went on to argue for decarbonisation – with protections for jobs – in a number of key industries, including steel and the transport sector. The motion argued, “A just transition in transportation requires ambitious objectives from government to support the upskilling and reskilling of workers, as well as sustainable employment opportunities that supports the transport sector transitioning to a zero-carbon future.”

Alongside this, the motion acknowledged concerns concerns about what a different path towards net zero could mean for trade unions and workers’ jobs. The motion read, “The UK government is promising up to 480,000 skilled green jobs by 2030 and Congress welcomes the TUC’s involvement in the green jobs delivery group. However, there is not nearly enough detail about what those jobs are.

“Congress is also concerned that some companies are using the transition into green industries to discard national agreements and remove collective bargaining.”

In light of this, the motion called for the TUC General Council to ensure that any just transition strategy endorsed by the trade union movement must set out: “realistic estimates” for numbers of green jobs; “the skills, education and training” required for new green jobs, and guarantees for health and safety practices.

In proposing the motion, Gail Cartmail, from Unite, said the it would see the trade union movement working to “ensure a future built on secure, well paid green jobs”, adding, “we must demand a comprehensive climate strategy – from retrofitting of homes to take energy back into public hands, properly funding services and building a green manufacturing sector”.

WANTED: a debate on climate policy in the Trade Union movement

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, October 16, 2022

On 8th October, our colleagues in Campaign Against Climate Change held a day’s conference titled ‘Urgent action, long term solutions: cost of living, climate and industrial action’. One of the sessions, for which I was Chair, had the title ‘Winning climate arguments in trade unions’ and included excellent contributions from Sam Mason (PCS and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy), Mel Mullings (RMT) and Suzanne Jeffery (Chair, CACCTU).

There was also a great contribution from Pablo John, a GMB worker and a member of GMB for a Green New Deal, and Pablo has written a follow-up piece that appears alongside this article as part of the debate thread we hope to initiate around trade union policy and climate.

At such a critical moment for the country we desperately need a sensible, well-thought-out debate about how trade unions deal with the climate crisis and serve the long-term interest of their members. That means recognising first that what many GJA supporters will see as a worrying trend towards regressive policies (support for fracking, oil and gas drilling, more nuclear) is a response to the fact that we have a government that is promoting those very industries and therefore that’s where the jobs would be.

My own counter to that would be that, as climate catastrophe approaches, those industries become increasingly untenable and our energy strategy will have to change and change more abruptly and dramatically the longer we leave it. But it is difficult to sustain that argument when union leaders only have to look around to see that their members’ current jobs are ‘real’ while the point I’ve just made is ‘notional’. The ask of those trade unions would be, even while supporting ‘regressive’ policies, at least come to the table to talk about the future, and what the workforce will look like, or else when the catastrophe strikes, as everyone knows it will, the change will be done to you not by you.

GMB needs to embrace the Green New Deal

By Pablo John, GMB for a Green New Deal - Greener Jobs Alliance, October 16, 2022

Recently, the GMB’s General Secretary caused outcry by declaring support for fracking and calling Green New Deal activists bourgeois. For those outside of GMB this statement may seem surprising but to understand where such statements come from you need to look at GMB’s history.

GMB has been around for a long time and it has seen every form of de-industrialisation and modernisation under the sun. For a lot of GMB members “modernisation” means a loss of work, a loss of conditions and anti-union policy. So naturally, the union is suspicious of change when it is couched in these terms.

Its roots in the legacy fossil fuel industry run deep. So for a lot of people in GMB, the promises of good quality jobs in renewables seem too good to be true; they’ve been promised similar things before.

So what can we do in the climate movement to win over GMB members? Well, there are two prongs: reassurance of current GMB members and recruitment of new, young renewables workers into GMB.

For workers, the benefits of the green new deal are massive. A full transition from fossil fuels to fully renewable energy sources could create more than three times as many jobs in these sectors than in oil and gas. By current estimates, the growth of jobs in wind energy exceeds the number of oil jobs affected by a transition to renewables. 

There is also a division of age, as a 23-year-old who works in renewables, most GMB members don’t look like me. Whilst a lot of legacy energy jobs are in fossil fuels, most new energy jobs are in renewables. This means many of my friends in the renewable industry aren’t unionised, because they don’t feel GMB represents us.

A lot of these new renewable start-ups are not union-friendly and it will take a lot of work to get inside these sites. But if we don’t we’ll be replacing one set of BP and Shell billionaires with another set of renewables billionaires. We need rapid transit away from fossil fuels in the next 10 years, we need to make that change or it will be done to us for the benefit of the billionaires.

So climate activists need to meet trade unionists where they are, but above all, we need to ensure any transition is worker-led. We can’t have a top-down transition of giant companies sacking workers and rehiring non-unionised workers in their wind farms. It needs to be a bottom-up movement, with politicians, workers and the climate movement hand in hand.

My union, GMB, needs to follow the examples of the TSSA and FBU in wholeheartedly supporting a Green New Deal. While everyone has a stake in the transition to renewables, who better than the workers of GMB to design, implement and power the green new deal?

Living Wages on a Living Planet!

By staff - Just Transition Partnership, October 6, 2022

JUST TRANSITION PARTNERSHIP STATEMENT ON CLIMATE JUSTICE, THE COST OF LIVING AND INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES

Soaring inflation has workers facing a real terms pay cut on top of years of stagnating wages. After a summer of heatwaves and drought, we are heading into a winter where millions won’t be able to afford to heat their homes.

Yet, as poverty and climate breakdown impact upon millions of people, the energy companies driving both crises are raking in massive profits. Workers are striking to defend wages and services while climate campaigners are stepping up their actions against profiteering companies. Both confront government policies which disregard the concerns of climate, environment and workers.

The solutions to these crises are the same:

We need a just transition that includes massive sustainable investment in renewable energy and provides secure work, affordable publicly-owned energy and protection from the volatility of energy markets – with plans to plough profits into renewables and high quality services using both taxation and legal duties on private companies; all delivered by well-paid, skilled and secure workforce.

These things won’t happen without workers in their trade unions organising to defend their wages, their jobs, their future and their rights through the power of collective bargaining. The workers’ movement and the climate justice movement need to build our collective power if we are to defend our future. That is why climate justice solidarity with workers on strike is growing and trade unions are backing urgent action for a Just Transition.

We’re Fighting for Our Future:

• living wages based on cost of living pay rises now

• cheap, accessible and clean energy

• green jobs

• a safe planet to live on

Coal industry workers in Australia are taking their destiny into their own hands

By Léo Roussel - Equal Times, September 30, 2022

The coal industry is to Australia what the Second Amendment of the US Constitution (granting citizens the right to bear arms) is to the United States: it would be hard to imagine the country without it. With fossil fuels still accounting for 92 per cent of Australia’s energy mix, including 29 per cent for coal in 2021, the industry is still vigorously defended by lobbies, even in parliamentary circles and the corridors of ministries.

Australia’s conservative former prime minister Scott Morrison famously held up a piece of coal in Parliament in 2017, when he was finance minister, admonishing his colleagues not to be afraid of it. When he became prime minister, he also directly surrounded himself with lobbyists like John Kunkel, former vice-chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia, who he appointed chief of staff in 2018.

In the Hunter Valley, a region north of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, the local economy is still dominated by coal. From the mines to the cargo ships departing from the port of Newcastle, the industry directly and indirectly employs more than 17,000 people. “Newcastle is the world’s largest coal port,” says Dr Liam Phelan, a researcher at the University of Newcastle (Australia) specialising in the uncertainties and risks of climate change. “Coal mining has been a part of life here since white people arrived in Australia.”

For many years, mining projects were still supported and approved, not least by the Morrison government, which was widely condemned in Australia and around the world for its inaction on climate change. But the tides have begun to turn. In May 2022, voters ousted ‘ScoMo’ and returned Labor to power. The new prime minister Anthony Albanese has promised to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower” and to reduce the country’s CO₂ emissions by 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 – a target that the scientists of the Climate Change Authority nonetheless still consider to be insufficient.

Leaving energy transition aside, the Australian coal industry has already seen its exports slow in recent years, partly as a result of the trade war with China since 2020, while domestic demand has shifted to cleaner energy sources which are gaining ground. According to Clean Energy Council’s 2022 energy report: “The Australian renewable energy industry accounted for 32.5 per cent of Australia’s total electricity generation in 2021, which represented an increase of almost 5 percentage points compared to 2020.”

The Socialist Green New Deal

By Green Left - London Green Left Blog , September 26, 2022

In this document, we trace the development of a Green Socialist New Deal (GSND) from its origins in the ‘New Deal’ of the 1930s, to the more recent Green New Deal.

We believe that the latter can only be effective in tackling the multiple crises of finance, climate change, environmental degradation, social and global justice and peace through an eco-socialist alliance of workers and trade unions that challenges the current capitalist order.

We outline a set of interim policies in our GSND, concluding that these medium-term changes would reduce climate change and also enhance our democracy and human welfare.

Labour and the Global Climate Strike: An interview with Nigel Barriffe

By Spencer Bridgman and Nigel Barriffe - Spring, September 20, 2022

For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island have cared for and protected the land and water we all rely on. This is especially true in settler-colonial Canada, where Indigenous Peoples have always been at the forefront of the climate justice movement. Two recent examples of this is the work of the Wet’suwet’en People and the Keepers of the Water. Their calls for climate justice have been amplified in recent years through the blossoming of Fridays for Future: a youth-led, international movement demanding immediate action to address the climate crisis. Under this banner, student strikes have been held across the globe, from Tokyo to Tehran to Toronto. 

This year, a Global Climate Strike is taking place on September 23 and Fridays for Future TO is leading the Toronto action. A number of groups are joining the strike in solidarity, including a Labour and Allies Contingent, who are meeting at Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St. at 12:30pm and will unite with the main march at Queen’s Park at 2pm. 

Spring Magazine spoke to labour organizer and elementary school teacher Nigel Barriffe about the climate strike and the many intersections between the labour and climate justice movements. Nigel is active in a number of roles including as Vice President of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, President at the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and a board member at the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and Good Jobs For All

Global Climate Jobs Conference: How to Cut Emissions

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Strategic Orientation

GreenReads: IEA World Energy Employment Report - Energy transition or energy descent?

By staff - European Trade Union Institute, September 15, 2022

On 8 September, the International Energy Agency published its first comprehensive report on jobs in the global energy sectors. The World Energy Employment Report provides data on energy jobs ‘by sector, region, and value chain segment’ and will be published annually.

The global energy sector (including energy end uses) employed over 65 million people in 2019, equivalent to around 2% of global employment.

The main messages of the report are:

  • Employment is growing in the global energy sector, especially in clean energy;
  • Around a third of workers are in energy fuel supply (coal, oil, gas and bioenergy), a third in the power sector (generation, transmission, distribution and storage), and a third in key energy end uses (vehicle manufacturing and energy efficiency);
  • More than half of energy jobs are in the Asia-Pacific region;
  • Women are strongly under-represented in the energy sector. Despite making up 39% of global employment, women account for only 16% in traditional energy sectors. They are even more under-represented in management functions.

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