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The Climate Contradictions of Gary Smith

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, September 21, 2023

In agreeing to be interviewed by the Spectator under the title the folly of Net Zero GMB General Secretary Gary Smith lets his members down; not least because remarks like these from a leading trade unionist help give Rishi Sunak encouragement to accelerate his retreat from the government’s already inadequate climate targets.

The phrase “the folly of Net Zero” makes as much sense as “the folly of getting into the lifeboats when the ship is sinking”

Difficulties in making a transition to sustainability does not mean that making it isn’t essential, and the faster we move the less damage is done. We can see that damage all around us even now. 

Gary doesn’t seem to get this, any more than Rishi Sunak does, and he latches on to some of the same lines as the PM does, albeit with a more pungent turn of phrase. To go through these point by point, quotes are either directly from Gary Smith or the Spectator.

Aviation Democracy: The case for public ownership of the aviation sector to protect jobs and protect the planet

By Tahir Latif, et. al. - Public and Commercial Services Union, July 2023

PCS has always argued that protecting the long term job security of our members in aviation means recognising the impact of flying on the environment, and vice versa.

Technical fixes – new fuels, better engines, more efficient aircraft – will help but not solve the challenge of climate change. To meet the UK’s climate targets will involve managing down.

As a trade union we want to ensure a reduction in flying does not lead to an accompanying loss of jobs but to a planned transition of workers to the jobs required in a greener aviation industry that is part of a broader integrated transport system, owned by and run for the public, and that meets its climate commitments.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Climate and Ecology Bill: Uniting Solutions

By Tina Rothery - Greeener Jobs Alliance, May 21, 2023

The first page of the Greener Jobs Alliance website makes clear what’s needed to face the challenges posed by ever increasing harm to the climate – uniting campaigns and bringing together the solutions.

I work with the campaign group, Zero Hour, on the Climate & Ecology Bill, and as highlighted on our website, we make clear we think the same:

“Zero Hour has been working hard to build a broad and representative alliance of support for the CE Bill, including 165 MPs and Peers, 230 local authorities, 144 leading scientists, 465 organisations—including The Co-operative Bank, Women’s Institutes, National Education Union, and University College—alongside 30,000 members of the public.”

Bringing together a diverse range of groups and organisations to create and support solutions that are essential to a just transition just makes sense—and the power of ‘unions’ has never been clearer. This article asks that the GJA, and its supporters, consider joining Zero Hour in this union – and supporting the CE Bill as one of the solutions.

New TUC video: plan for heatwaves, cut energy bills, and take climate action!

By Anna Markova - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 29, 2023

The weather’s turning warmer – have you got a heatwave plan at work?

The new TUC video and leaflet shows how union reps and activists can plan for heatwaves and cold snaps, save their workplace money on energy bills, and take climate action at work. 

Watch the video here.

  • 2023 is predicted to beat heat records again – if workers struggled with hot temperatures last year where you work, this year will likely be worse. 
  • Employers will be worried about the cost of keeping the workplace warm in the winter and cool in the summer – energy bills went up two- to three-fold last year and are expected to stay high.

You can protect workers from extreme heat, save energy and mobilise union members by taking climate action.

Read the guide here.

Did you try doing this and want to share your experience? Would you like some more support with future-proofing the building you work in?

Why the Climate Struggle is a Class Struggle

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 23, 2023

This excerpt from GJA Newsletter editor Paul Atkin’s speech at the Trade Union Hub of the XR Big One protest on Saturday has been put around by XR Trade Unionists.

The relevant part of the full speech is here.

Why organise in the trade unions? Because the climate struggle is a class struggle.

Most analyses of carbon impacts totalise emissions or investment by country. This is vital because its states that have to take the actions we need.

Private companies won’t do it. Only 4% of the biggest UK companies match the “gold standard” for transition plans set by the government. And that’s this government.

It’s therefore important to be very clear about who’s doing what.

The economist Adam Tooze makes the point that the world needs to invest $4 trillion a year for a viable, sustainable green transition. In 2022 the total invested was just over $1 Trillion. So, a quarter of the way there. And of that, 49.7% was China on its own. 70% more than the USA and EU combined. That’s not the image we normally have, so it’s worth mulling over.

The UK would only match EU levels of investment if an incoming Labour Government stuck with its pledge to invest $28 billion a year – and that will be a battle with the likes of Ed Balls and Peter Mandelson who are arguing that this is “unaffordable”; and we need that fight whether we are in an affiliated union or not.

IPCC Report AR6: Some Afterthoughts

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 18, 2023

When we at GJA decided to produce our recent three-part summary of the latest IPCC report, the purpose was to break down an extremely lengthy and often impenetrable text into points that could be used for making arguments.  As the world’s biggest assessment of its kind, broader in scope and coverage than any other, and especially given its oft-quoted nature, getting at what it actually says seemed fundamental to the continuing debate.

But during the writing it became apparent that just saying what the report says, albeit in simplified language, can come across as whole-hearted endorsement of the report. And that’s not what we had in mind. Our summaries were intended as a tool, not advertising. In truth, opinion in GJA about the report is as diverse as anywhere else, and the following is the author’s opinion, not a collective one held by GJA.

Some critique was touched on in our summaries, but it’s worth dwelling a little more on the pros and cons.

The biggest pro is the starkness of the picture the report paints, of where we are, of the sheer scale of the task ahead of us, and of how poor our progress has been thus far. As was said in our summaries, very little will come as any surprise to climate activists, but to have it laid out on a planetary canvas is immensely useful – time is running out, things are getting worse faster than before, the global south is the most vulnerable, inequalities within societies are critical, all the building blocks upon which our own activities rest. Equally, the solutions dwell on the words we cherish the most – transformation, transition, redistribution, restoration, equality, justice.

Where the report falls short is in its ambiguous use of language, such that, for all the aforementioned words, precisely how the solutions work out in practice is not clear, and probably deliberately so, in deference to the prevailing political winds. In particular, the assumption that the work that needs to be done can happen through ‘markets’ appears wildly naïve, if not misleading. Even more dubious is the idea that a market-based approach can ever generate the level of collaboration and cooperation on a global scale that is required when such an approach is antithetical to the very precepts of capitalism, and indeed threatens them.

In response to this idea of threat, the report focuses strongly on green technology and the financing required to roll it out, which itself places emphasis on the role of the developed world to manage the climate response in a benign fashion. The conclusions arrived at also, at best, betray the inherent bias of modelling carried out by the developed world with all its assumptions about the world order and, at worst, reproduces or even exacerbates a neo-colonial status quo, with solutions imposed on the developing world by the developed. Kevin Anderson’s piece in Brave New Europe lays this out far more eloquently than we ever could.

Of course, IPCC is not directly saying ‘we must do this through capitalism’ and it may be that the dependence on markets refers only to the early stages where we have to deal with ‘things as they are’, before we can move on to build a more sustainable model. It’s possible that the authors know perfectly well that the actions needed can’t be accommodated within the existing paradigm and are aware that that point will play itself out. Again, it’s not entirely clear – the report aims to be all things to all people, remaining consistent on the urgency of the situation while ensuring it’s not overly offensive to those who hold social and onomic power

But I’d temper criticism with a consideration of scale. If we look at the Labour Party, at some Trade Unions, and other organisations, as you go up the hierarchy compromise and dilution tend to take over. At the global level, as we’ve seen with recent COPs, wording gets watered down in deference to certain nations’ insistence and action is stalled. For a report on this scale to say as much as it does is quite remarkable compared with the insipid nature of most government statements, even if the criticisms of it are perfectly valid.

Ultimately, it comes to what we make out of the report, and that brings us back to the original purpose of our summaries, to provide some bedrock for mobilising our arguments, to convey the urgency of the situation to the layperson, and to challenge inadequate solutions even where the report itself appears ambivalent. In that regard, having the case made in this report, whatever its shortcomings, is an essential component in our struggle towards a better future.

A Brief Guide to the IPCC Synthesis Report, Part C

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 11, 2023

This piece provides a summary of the latest IPCC synthesis report based on their sixth Assessment Report (AR6), part C, which deals with the ‘Urgency of Near-Term Integrated Action’. In other words, what we need to do by 2030 to have any chance of meeting the 1.5° or 2° targets.

As with the previous summaries, nothing here is likely to be too surprising to climate activists – the value is in seeing the situation laid out so systematically in the report, but also in the shortcomings that even this otherwise hard-hitting report exhibits, and which are touched on in the critique section.

General themes

Most starkly, ‘the choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years’. The level of urgency has increased since AR5.

Climate resilient development integrates adaptation and mitigation and requires international co-operation, but there is a ‘rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.’

The report warns that past development constrains future paths, as does every increment of warming. Existing constraints include:

  • Poverty, inequity and injustice,
  • Siloed responses,
  • Barriers to finance and technology,
  • Trade-offs with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

‘Deep, rapid and sustained mitigation’ together with ‘accelerated implementation of adaptation actions’ this decade would reduce losses and damages and improve air quality and health. By contrast, delaying would lock in high emissions infrastructure, risk stranded assets, and increase costs, losses and damages, while lowering the chances of success.

High upfront investment is needed, with ‘significant distributional consequences within and between countries’, along with potentially disruptive changes in lifestyle. The cost Vs benefit equation tips in favour of benefits the more rapidly investment is undertaken. Significantly, however, the investment required during 2020-2030 to limit warming to 2° or 1.5°are a factor of three to six greater than current levels.

Sustainable development requires just transition principles in employment. Eradicating extreme poverty and providing sustainable development in low-emitting countries ‘can be achieved without significant global emissions growth.’ Finance and technology development is required to leapfrog or transition to low emissions.

Vulnerability is exacerbated by inequity and marginalisation linked to gender, ethnicity, disability, age, income level and historic and ongoing patterns of colonialism. By contrast, ‘individuals with high socio-economic status contribute disproportionately to emissions.’ Reducing emissions-intensive consumption is strongly associated with societal well-being

A Brief Guide to the IPCC Synthesis Report, Part B

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 3, 2023

Summarising Part A of the report was straightforward as it comprised a factual assessment of where we are now.

By contrast, Part B covers Long Term responses and uses sophisticated modelling to project future scenarios based on different sets of assumed developments. While nothing undermines the basic conclusion that radical action is required very quickly, we do enter more subjective territory in terms of the scenarios chosen and the assumptions underpinning them.

A Brief Guide to the IPCC Synthesis Report, Part A

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, March 27, 2023

This piece provides a summary of the latest IPCC synthesis report based on their sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

Given that even the relatively short ‘summary for policy makers’ is not an easy read, here we attempt to draw out the basic information about where we currently are. None of these points will surprise anyone but having them to hand in this way will we hope be useful. Note that this piece deals only with section A of the report, covering the current state of the climate. A further blog will cover parts B and C, which are about modelling to project likely scenarios for the long and short-term respectively.

ULEZ and Just Transition Debate

By staff - Greener Jobs Alliance, March 8, 2023

This Blog contains a number of statements and briefings on the Ultra Low Emissions Zone extension.

  • Editor’s view (pers cap)
  • Health impacts of Polluted Air in Outer London – Imperial College
  • Mum’s for Lungs view
  • Trade Union Clean Air Network (TUCAN) statement
  • Friends of the Earth Briefing
  • The truth about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – Possible

Making Positive Demands to clean up our air and cut car dependence

Anyone who watched the London Mayor’s Question Time from Ealing last week will not have missed the atmosphere of fear and loathing that make this issue almost as toxic as the air we breathe.

There are four overlapping imperatives when dealing with transport in cities.

That greenhouse gas emissions from transport are a quarter of the UK’s total and have not declined for ten years because, while car engines have become more efficient, more people are driving them, and the models they are driving are heavier. This has to be cut hard and fast to allow us to survive as a society.

People have to get around and, overall, cars are becoming more of a problem than a solution. If the 40% of people in London who don’t have cars did, no one would be able to get anywhere; because the streets would be gridlocked. The individual “aspiration” to own a car becomes socially dystopian if universally realised. For freer flowing, quieter, safer streets, we need fewer cars and fewer car journeys. We will have less of a need to travel inconvenient distances if we enrich our immediate neighbourhoods. 

We need cleaner air for our health and life expectancy. 90% of people want it. Some people drive. Everybody breathes. 

Some people are locked into car use, because they can’t afford to live near work and need concrete affordable alternatives as they are understandably anxious about how they are going to cope.


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