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Germany: War, gas price protests and solidarity with Ukraine: An ecosocialist perspective

By Federico Fuentes and Christian Zeller - Green Left, October 19, 2022

Across Europe, protests have been growing over rising gas prices, with Germany no exception. Politicians have sought to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine — or, alternatively, sanctions imposed by Europe — for the situation.

But is this the case? How should ecosocialists approach the interrelated issues of climate, war, gas prices and international solidarity?

Green Left’s Federico Fuentes discussed these issues with Christian Zeller, a professor of economic geography and editorial board member of the German-language journal, emancipation — Journal for Ecosocialist Strategy. Zeller is also the author of Climate Revolution: Why we need an ecosocialist alternative (available in German).

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy Bulletin 124

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 22, 2022

Towards a Public Pathway Approach to a Just Energy Transition for the Global South

Leaders from trade unions, three Global Union Federations, and allied organizations representing 27 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia Pacific will gather in Nairobi, Kenya, in mid-October to launch a new trade union initiative to promote a “public pathway” approach to a just energy transition in the Global South. The goal of the gathering is to lay the foundations for a South-led trade union platform that will focus on how to strengthen the trade union response to the kind of “green structural adjustment” proposals that are today being pushed by the rich countries, the IMF, and the World Bank.

The 3-day, 70-person, meeting in Nairobi comes at a time when there is growing support for a public pathway approach to energy transition and climate protection that can address the failures of the current ineffective and regressive profit-focused policies. This growing support is reflected in the Trade Union Program for a Public Low-Carbon Energy Future (TUP) that was announced at COP26 in Glasgow last November. 

Workers demand labor protections at Austin Energy base rate rally

By Kali Bramble - Austin Monitor, September 27, 2022

It was an unusually lively morning outside Austin Energy Headquarters last Saturday, as a coalition of workers, environmentalists and community leaders gathered to air their grievances with the publicly owned utility.

With a potential increase to residential rates on the horizon, the Texas Climate Jobs Action Fund led the diverse group of unions and civic organizations in a demand to prioritize affordability, safe working conditions and clean energy practices. Speakers from Electrical Workers Local 520, Texas AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, PODER and the Sunrise Movement all shared the podium, with Council members Ann Kitchen and Kathie Tovo also making appearances.

“’A better future isn’t possible for working people, it’ll cut into our profits …. We can’t build a greener, more sustainable future with workers that are well compensated, well trained, have health care, who are treated with respect and can return home safely to a thriving family.’ That’s what they’re saying at Austin Energy,” Local 520 member Ryan Pollock said, to a chorus of jeers. “We’re all here today because we know that a better future is possible, that we deserve that better future, and that we’re here to fight for it.”

With plans to update its base rates for 2023, Austin Energy has come under fire for a rate proposal critics say would unfairly impact low-income consumers and run counterproductive to the city’s environmental goals. Chief concerns include a 150 percent increase to the fixed residential service fee from $10 to $25 per month, as well as a restructuring of pricing tiers that would move away from charging steeper premiums for the highest-percentile energy users.

Compounding frustrations is Austin Energy’s recent announcement of a $20 increase in pass-through rates to take effect in November.

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Climate politics racism and refugees

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.

The Case Against Nuclear Power: A Primer

By Joshua Frank - CounterPunch, September 9, 2022

A version of the following was presented at Socialism 2022, sponsored by Haymarket Books, which just published Joshua Frank’s Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America.

Thanks everyone for showing up for this talk. I think it’s a vitally important topic, but I’ll admit, it’s a bit disheartening that it’s now a subject of debate on the Left.

I’ve long believed that we ought to build on the successes that came before us, not tear them down. Sadly, with the wrath of climate change impacting every corner of the earth, that is exactly what some are attempting to do. Last week a friend sent me an NPR story, “When Even Environmentalists Support Nuclear Power.” I read it, it’s awful propaganda that distorts the reality of how many of us view nuclear power and will continue to fight against it.

For a Transnational Fall of Struggle: Strike the Climate Crisis!

By TSS PLATFORM - Transnational Strike, September 5, 2022

Six months have passed since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the war’s social effects haven’t stopped at the Ukrainian border and are now affecting millions of people throughout Europe and beyond. In recent days, the price of gas skyrocketed to new record heights, granting huge profits to the fossil fuel majors, and condemning millions to a reality of growing poverty, inflation, and unemployment. Governments’ attempts to secure energy supplies for the winter (such as the European Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan) ensure those market sectors that cannot work without gas, while dumping these choices’ costs on people’s consumption and individual responsibility and sacrifices. This is part of the Third world war scenario we all live in and struggle against. In fact, as energy and ‘green’ policies are now deeply embedded into the war, the struggles against their material effects of impoverishment are part of our transnational politics of peace. In the last few days, the #DontPayUK campaign has been confronting both governments and the big companies that want to discharge the price of their profits and power on people’s shoulders. Committing to strike on energy bills, thousands of people are already refusing the deadly choice between “eating” or “heating,” between racking up debts or facing fuel poverty and freezing winter. We are confronted with the necessity to articulate our transnational politics of peace inside this growing international competition by fighting in the conflict between those who pay the price of the war and those who profit from it.

The third world war and specifically the energy crisis have led to a return to fossil fuels, postponing the conversion from coal to alternative energy sources. However, even before the war, we saw the European green transition neither as a way to solve the climate crisis, nor to deliver a better environment, but as an attempt to open new opportunities for capital accumulation through the exploitation, reproduction, and widening of differences and hierarchies within the European space and beyond. Now the war unmasks the European transition policies’ actual scope. Promoting new Partnership Agreements with its member states, the European Commission is fostering its “just” – digital and green – transition to face the upcoming freezing winter struggling to coordinate industrial and energy policies for years to come at the European level. This is not the climate justice that was powerfully reclaimed by the global environmental movement in the last years. As States are engaged in a run to grab as many resources as possible, gas, nuclear, and coal sectors will keep exploiting the work of thousands of people in some places, while in other countries the closure of coal-powered plants in the name of the green transition results in the loss of many jobs. In Bulgaria, such a national decision recently found the response of hundreds of workers striking not to be caught in the middle between the government’s green policies and the bosses’ profits. Their struggle is a practical contestation of the green transition in wartimes, which is part of our attempt to turn the green transition into a transnational terrain of struggle.

As workers, activists, migrants, women, and men, we refuse to suffer either the consequences of climate change, the consequences of Putin’s war, or the unsustainable costs of the capitalist green transition. Strikes and movements such as those in Bulgaria and the UK are making clear the need to foster transnational political connections that aim to overcome the artificially fabricated distinction between workers’ and climate activists’ interests. On September 23 a new climate strike is announced, which aims to reactivate the global movement for climate justice by radically opposing the logics of profit and exploitation, and the overall relations of domination, which affects our ecological, social and political environment. The meeting in Sofia organized by the TSS Platform and LevFem on 8th-11th September will be the occasion to tackle and develop these issues. Transforming the green transition into a terrain of struggle is an essential part of our effort to escape the blackmail of the climate, social, and war catastrophe that reproduces violence, exploitation, and environmental degradation. The climate, energy, and social crises won’t wait until winter comes: they are already hitting, and we need to turn this fall into a season of collective struggles.

What nationalising energy companies would cost; and how to do it

By Andrew Fisher - Open Democracy, August 17, 2022

When 62% of Conservative voters want energy run in the public sector, it’s fair to say the left has won the argument (75% of Labour voters agree, 68% of Lib Dems).

Yet public ownership is opposed passionately by the Conservative government, while the leader of the opposition has said he is “not in favour” of it – despite his election on a platform that committed to “bring rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership to end the great privatisation rip-off and save you money on your fares and bills”.

Public ownership is on the media’s radar, too. When Labour leader Keir Starmer announced his policy to freeze bills this week, he was asked why he wouldn’t also nationalise energy, replying that: “In a national emergency where people are struggling to pay their bills … the right choice is for every single penny to go to reducing those bills.”

But so long as energy remains privatised, every single penny won’t. Billions of pennies will keep going to shareholders instead.

The energy market was fractured under the mass privatisations of the Thatcher governments in the 1980s. It contains three sectors: producers or suppliers (those that produce energy), retailers (those that sell you energy), and distribution or transmission (the infrastructure that transports energy to your home).

It is important to bear this in mind when we’re talking about taking energy into public ownership. We need to be clear about what we want in public ownership and why.

Russian socialist dissident: ‘Putin’s regime will collapse — and probably sooner rather than later’

By Federico Fuentes and Boris Kagarlitsky - Green Left, August 1, 2022

Boris Kagarlitsky is a Moscow-based sociologist and editor of the socialist website Rabkor (Worker Correspondent), whose writings regularly appear in English on Russian Dissent.

In this interview with Green Left’s Federico Fuentes, Kagarlitsky discusses the domestic factors behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and the role of the left in anti-war organising.

Discussions in the West regarding Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine largely focus on NATO expansionism, the Kremlin’s imperialist ambitions or Putin’s mental health. But you argue these were not the key driving force behind the invasion. Why?

When a huge event occurs, such as the war on Ukraine, there are generally various factors at play. But you have to put these factors into the context of real political and social processes.

In that sense, all these factors, along with the long-term conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the conflict within Ukraine and between Ukrainian elites, were all present. But, these factors do not explain much; they're very superficial.

The real question is: why did this war erupt now, despite these factors existing for many years.

A fairer energy system for families and the climate

By staff - Trades Union Congress, July 25, 2022

Executive summary

Publicly-owned energy retail companies can deliver fairer bills for households, accelerate the rollout of household retrofits and reduce energy use.

Soaring energy bills are causing untold suffering for low-income households and workers across the UK. The “typical” bill was increased by 54% with Ofgem’s April increase in the energy price cap.[1] Many households have already seen bills go up by over a thousand pounds. Ofgem is expected to increase the electricity and gas price cap again in August by a further 51%, so that average bills pass £3,200.[2]

But allocating the burden of the gas price crisis to domestic households at this scale is not inevitable. Other European countries have demonstrated that it is possible to insulate many or all households from the fallout of the invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s gas politics and global volatility in terms of energy bills. Our analysis shows that this is because governments in those countries have more levers to intervene in energy pricing – and are more prepared to use the levers that they have. Part of this comes down to questions of who owns and controls our energy system, and whom it serves.

There is widespread recognition that the UK’s energy system is broken.

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