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5.7-Million-Member TUC Supports Labour Party’s Manifesto Commitments on Public Ownership of Energy and Climate Change

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 25, 2017

The annual congress of the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) has passed a historic composite resolution (also below) on climate change that supports the energy sector being returned to public ownership and democratic control.

The resolution—carried unanimously by hundreds of delegates—calls upon the national center to work with the Labour Party to achieve this goal, as well as to: implement a mass program for energy conservation and efficiency; lobby for the establishment of a “just transition” strategy for affected workers; and, investigate the long-term risks to pension funds from investments in fossil fuels.

The Labour Party’s 2017 election manifesto, For the Many, Not the Few,pointed to the failures of electricity privatization, energy poverty, the need the honor the UK’s climate commitments, and to put the UK on course for 60% of its energy to be met by zero carbon or renewable sources by 2030.

The Manifesto also committed to “take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.” It calls for the creation of “publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers.”

Moved by Sarah Woolley, Organising Regional Secretary for the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the resolution refers to the “irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment,” as well as the risks to meeting the climate challenge posed by Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and by the chaotic approach to both Brexit and broader policy by the current Conservative government.

The resolution affirmed that combating climate change and moving towards a low-carbon economy cannot be left to markets, but requires a strong role for the public sector in driving the transition. In supporting the resolution, several speakers referred to the devastation unleashed across the Caribbean over the previous several days by Hurricane Irma—the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in recorded history—and across southern Texas only days before that by Hurricane Harvey.

A year of resistance against coal extraction: support the Ffos-y-fran 5!

By Mitch - Reclaim the Power, September 22, 2017

Reclaim the Power’s 2016 camp focussed on the issue of coal with a mass trespass against Ffos-y-frân coal mine closing it for the day. But that was far from the end of the story…

Ffos-y-frân is the UK’s largest opencast coal mine, it is very close to Merthyr Tydfil and is operated by Miller Argent. The main consumer of the coal for most of its existence has been Aberthaw power station near Barry in South Wales.

In December 2016 Reclaim the Power, Coal Action Network, Bristol Rising Tide and United Valley’s Action Group began a series of actions to close Aberthaw power station.

The first action against Aberthaw was a short and creative blockade of the only access road. Check it out in this short film which shows what happened and explains why we are targeting Aberthaw.

Aberthaw power station was the dirtiest power station in terms of nitrogen oxides in the UK, with the UK government allowing it to breach European Union air quality standards. The levels of toxins were more than double those from other power stations because Aberthaw burnt Welsh coal which is less flammable but supported Welsh mining jobs. In 2016 environmental lawyers, Client Earth, brought a case to the European Court of Justice which ruled against the UK government for allowing Aberthaw to kill 400 people a year through poisonous emissions.

Within two weeks of the opening action activists were back at Aberthaw, this time with a more serious blockade of the power station’s only access road. This time for four hours, entirely blocking the road with two tripods, causing a large tail back of lorries, before campaigners left with no arrests. It was unclear whether the power station was actually asking the police to remove the blockade as its workers and bosses were absent.

Aberthaw is run by the utility company RWE nPower whose head offices in Swindon were visited within a month of the previous action. There was a visual presence at the enormous offices which resulted in a security shut down (although one person still managed to get inside). The protest raised awareness of the opposition to the power station amongst employees and in thelocal media.

The next action in part organised by Reclaim the Power involved many more people; 150 made it to a stony south Wales beach in January to show their opposition to the power station. Marianne Owens from the PCS union said, “It’s working class people who suffer from this dirty energy,” as she addressed the crowd from the sea wall. At the demonstration demands were made for a Just Transition for coal workers to sustainable jobs.

Backing Corbyn, UK Unions Call for Energy to be Returned to Public Ownership and Democratic Control

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 12, 2017

5.7-Million-Member TUC Supports Labour Party’s Manifesto Commitments on Climate Change and Energy Transition

When addressing climate change, “public ownership of energy under democratic control is crucial” – Iain Dalton, USDAW

September 12, 2017, Brighton, U.K.

The annual congress of the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) has passed a historic composite resolution on climate change that supports the energy sector being returned to public ownership and democratic control.

The resolution—carried unanimously—calls upon the 5.7-million-member national federation to work with the Labour Party to achieve this goal, as well as to: implement a mass program for energy conservation and efficiency; lobby for the establishment of a “just transition” strategy for affected workers; and, investigate the long-term risks to pension funds from investments in fossil fuels.

The Labour Party’s 2017 election manifesto, For the Many, Not the Few, pointed to the failures of electricity privatization, energy poverty, the need the honor the UK’s climate commitments, and to put the UK on course for 60% of its energy to be met by zero carbon or renewable sources by 2030.

The Manifesto also committed to “take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.” It calls for the creation of “publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers.”

Moved by Sarah Woolley, Organising Regional Secretary for the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the resolution refers to the “irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment,” as well as the risks to meeting the climate challenge posed by Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and by the chaotic approach to both Brexit and broader policy by the current Conservative government.

TUC Resolution on Public Ownership of Energy and Climate Change

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 11, 2017

Composite Resolution 4, on climate change and public ownership of energy, adopted unanimously by TUC, September 12th, 2017, Brighton, UK.

At right: Sarah Woolley, moving the resolution on behalf of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

Swiss Company Ineos Face Serious Challenger To ‘Draconian’, ‘Anti-Democratic’ High Court Injunction ‘Engineered To Buy The British Law To Force Through Fracking’

By Joe Corre - Talk Fracking, September 7, 2017

Petrochemicals giant Ineos face a serious  challenge  at their High Court injunction hearing at 10:00 am on Tuesday, 12th September 2017 at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, WC2A 2LL.

Joe Corré, the environmental activist and son of Dame Vivienne Westwood, is stepping forward. Corré is no stranger to standing up against the fracking industry. With Talk Fracking he has been campaigning against fracking for six years to inform people about the true dangers and risk of fracking.

An interim injunction was granted to Ineos by Mr Justice Morgan on 31st July 2017 in a secret hearing with no other party present to the full and true picture and to oppose the making of this oppressive injunction against any unknown person campaigning against  fracking  or helping others who are  campaigning  and protesting.

Ineos boasts that their injunction is the most wide-ranging injunction of its kind secured by the shale industry and the first issued pre-emptively before a company had planning permission to start drilling where there was  in fact no campaigning  activity at any of their sites.

The injunction covers 28 exploration and development licences across 1.2 million acres, including two proposed shale gas sites in Derbyshire and Rotherham but also their entire supply chain.

Corré has made submissions to Ineos lawyers, Fieldfisher, via legal firm Bhatt Murphy to object and oppose the continuation of this  unprecedented and oppressive order.

“Someone has to stand up against these disgusting bully boy tactics, they are trying to poison us and buy the British law,” he says.

The announcement in January of Ineos’s plans for Marsh Lane in Derbyshire met with dismay by local people and others  as the site is near a school and less than 400m from several homes.

What the closure of a small Suffolk factory says about the future of the automotive industry

By Joseph Dutton - The Ecologist, August 30, 2017

The American automotive firm Delphi announced the closure of its factory in the rural market town of Sudbury in Suffolk earlier this month, but the news received little coverage beyond regional media outlets reporting on the loss of 520 jobs at the site by 2020.

Having grown up in the town, I am aware of what the closure of one of its largest employers means for the local community. But the closure is significant at a national level, too. It highlights the wider state of the UK car industry, possibly stalling at the crossroads.

Investment in the sector is falling. This is in part due to the uncertainty that is effecting the whole business community as we approach Brexit. But it is also because the leading manufacturers are now all too aware that the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) poses a threat to their traditional business model.

Moving the trade unions past fossil fuels

Samantha Mason interviewed by Gabriel Levy - People and Nature, August 9, 2017

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has launched a pamphlet, Just Transition and Energy Democracy: a civil service trade union perspective, urging trade union support for the transition away from fossil fuels and restructuring the energy system under public ownership. In this interview SAMANTHA MASON, PCS policy officer and main author of the pamphlet, published in May, talks about combating the pro-fossil-fuel lobby in the unions and the Labour Party, and how to unite social and environmental movements.

Gabriel Levy (GL). Could you describe the PCS’s long engagement with energy and climate policy, which has culminated in the Just Transition pamphlet?

Samantha Mason (SM). We have been engaged with climate change issues, and increasingly with the whole energy debate, for about ten years. This has in large part been due to motions coming to conference from the grassroots membership, and an assistant general secretary, Chris Baugh, leading on this, which has enabled us to develop our policy and campaigning agenda.We participate in meetings with other industrial and energy unions, mainly through the Trade Unions Sustainable Development Advisory Committee. [Note. This committee was set up as a joint government-union forum after the 1997 Kyoto climate talks, but government participation dried up under the Tories. It is now a meeting place for union policy officers, and latterly, industrial officers.]

Some of the unions there represent workers in the fossil fuel and nuclear sectors, so while we’re supposed to look at sustainable development issues, they have been more concerned with pushing fracking [that is, hydraulic fracturing, a mining technique that has been used to raise natural gas production in the US, and some people think might do so in the UK] as part of the TUC’s so called “balance energy policy” – supporting nuclear, natural gas, Carbon Capture and Storage, and the Heathrow third runway. [Note. See for example the TUC Powering Ahead document.]

We have real problems with this, as PCS is opposed to almost everything in the policy, on the basis of our national conference decisions. We have had a divide opening up between these pro-fracking unions on one side, and the PCS, and other unions who want to develop a policy for both social change and environmental change, on the other. The TUC says their policy is a result of Congress decisions. But they do little or nothing to take the debate forward.

#Flint to #GrenfellTower: The Elite Only Want to ‘Manage the Disaster’

By staff - It's Going Down, June 22, 2017

Last Friday, thousands of people flooded into the streets of London to protest government cause and response to the recent fire which engulfed the Grenfell Tower, home to hundreds of working-class residents in an upscale part of the city. Angry crowds marched on Kensington Hall, where council officials barricaded themselves inside the building and attempted to keep residents locked out. Even Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to remain inside a church and then was chased away while the angry crowd chanted, “Shame on you!” Between 100 to 150 residents are estimated to have perished in the fire, all in one of the richest neighborhoods in one of the most wealthy cities in the world.

What has happened in London is disgusting, and it is caused by a system of neoliberalism which has sought to cut costs at every corner for the sake of transferring wealth away from workers and the poor and into the hands of the super-rich. Moreover, the over 100 people that died most horrifically in the fire could have been saved if basic precautions would have been implemented and complaints from residents for repairs would have been listened too. Instead, the Conservative Council and the property management firm that ran Grenfell, refused to listen to requests from people who referred to the tower as a literal “death trap.”

The same horrorshow repeats itself across the Atlantic Ocean, where in the United States poverty and the wealth gap grows, living standards are attacked, and despite presenting itself as a force against ‘globalism,’ the Trump administration attacks workers, the poor, and the environment in order to make America great again for the billionaire class which it serves. Just today, the Republicans released their newly updated version of a health care plan that calls for the slashing of medicaid and basic safety nets and programs. 

In Flint, Michigan, which has been gutted, abandoned, and left behind by large corporations, thousands of residents face potential home foreclosure and still have to rely on bottled water, as elected officials which created the current water crisis are only now starting to face legal reprimand.

Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minnesota, a police officer is let free without any charges after murdering Philando Castile, a young African-American man who was pulled over in a traffic stop because the officer thought his nose resembled that of a possible robbery suspect. During the stop, Castile told the officer he was legally licensed to carry a concealed weapon and as he was reaching into his pockets, police officer Yanez shot him 7 times as Castile’s girlfriend recorded the entire incident. Before his death, Castile worked as a nutrition supervisor at a local school, and was reportedly pulled over by police 52 times.

Ecologist Special Report: Divesting from investment in fossil fuels gains momentum in the UK

By Remo Bebié, Finance Dialogue - Ecologist, May 15, 2017

Bill McKibben, Author and co-founder of 350.org is categoric that one of the key ways to tackle climate change is through financial channels: "There is no question we are currently in a state of emergency on climate change. Day in day out people are dying from the effects of climate change. There are many ways to confront this emergency and divestment allows us to get in the way of the money financing the fossil fuel projects behind this crisis.

"The fact that the fossil fuel divestment movement has grown exponentially in the last few years is the best news ever. From the Pacific Islands to South Africa, from the United States to Germany, people are standing up and challenging the power of the fossil fuel industry."

And in the UK too, the divestment movement is now gathering momentum.

Only last week, 50 MPs announced their backing of a campaign calling on parliament's £612m pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.

Faith groups too are also increasingly moving out of fossil fuel investments. Earlier this month, more than a quarter of Britain's Quaker meetings pledged to divest and the Catholic Church is also taking stand ("the Catholic fossil fuel divestment movement has gained further momentum as nine more institutions pull out of fossil fuels, citing a "political impasse" around US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement." )

In late January, the Irish Parliament voted in favour of a law requiring the country's £6.8 billion Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to divest from all fossil fuels over the next five years. The story went viral on social media.

Three weeks ago, Norway's largest private pension fund, Storebrand, launched two new fossil free funds, bringing their fossil free fund portfolio to $1.2 billion. Storebrand also warned that the Norwegian government is overly exposed to fossil fuels through its $900 billion sovereign wealth fund, even though it has already taken significant steps to reduce exposure in the past.

Momentum is gathering at such a speed in the UK it appears to be approaching a tipping point: Waltham Forest and Southwark, two local government pension schemes for boroughs in London, have pledged to fully divest from fossil fuels within the last year, while Hackney's pension fund committed to cut its exposure by 50 percent, as the FT reported recently. Among the UK's Local Government Pension Schemes, these three are on the smaller range, each managing assets between £0.74 and £1.26 billion.  

But examples also include the £2.73 billion Environment Agency's Pension Fund, which is currently ranked second in the Asset Owner Disclosure Project's 2017 ranking (first in 2016) among the world's 500 largest asset owners. The fund is widely considered a global leader in terms of aligning investment strategies with the goals called for in the Paris agreement and reducing financial risks associated with the energy transition.

UK workplace pension scheme NEST, already progressive in terms of integration of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, has recently added a specific climate tilted fund to it's portfolio. NEST cited "addressing risks and capturing opportunities associated with the move to fight climate change" as reasons for launching the fund. 

Private institutions are taking note too: Last fall, HSBC Bank UK Pension Scheme chose a new climate tilted fund as the equity default option for its £2.6 billion defined contribution (DC) scheme. The scheme's CIO, Mark Thompson, expects the move to deliver "better risk-adjusted return, protection against climate change risks, and a more powerful ESG engagement policy within a passive mandate".

Furthermore, by April 2018, most UK local government schemes are due to be integrated into eight pools, each managing between £12 and £36 billion of pooled assets (see here for a good pooling overview by IPE). Implementation of divestment pledges for individual schemes will depend on the pool structure. The schemes of the London boroughs are already being pooled through London CIV, which recently wrote that it is "focusing on investment strategies the pension fund authorities have shown most demand for, namely: global equity income; sustainable equities; emerging markets and value strategies." 

Many other pools are now in the process of hiring executives: Brunel, the pool which contains the Environment Agency's Pension Fund, and LGPS Central have named new chairs within the last month. The London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA) is currently "seeking to recruit additional Board Members with knowledge and experience of either: 1) Environmental Social and Corporate Governance issues in a pension fund, with a strong commitment to delivering divestment from fossil fuels; or 2) strategic and sustainable infrastructure investment by pension funds, with a breadth of experience across all forms of infrastructure investment." 

All this indicates that more activity may be expected from the UK's public and private institutional investors. And public pressure is rising as well as various UK local government pension schemes are engaged by campaigners as part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation (GDM) with calls for fossil fuel divestment (see here for complete list of LGPS engagements within the Mobilisation).

End Coal actions: from Wales to Westminster

By staff - Reclaim the Power, February 22, 2017

150 people gathered on the beach by Aberthaw power station to demand Green jobs now – Close Aberthaw, on Saturday 28th January. People gathered to demand that Aberthaw power station close and that jobs are found for the current highly skilled employees in the green economy. After a rousing rally with music and food on the beach, the gathered crowd walked to the main entrance of the power station.

RWE npower were expecting us, and as a result there were no works vehicle movements for at least 4 hours, at an entrance which normally has HGVs every few minutes. Gathering at the power station was effective in raising awareness of the issues as well as causing Aberthaw to cancelled all deliveries and the removal of coal ash.

Demo on the beach

Marianne Owens from the PCS union said, “It’s working class people who suffer from this dirty energy,” as she addressed the crowd from the sea wall. She demonstrated that moving to green energy would create more jobs than exist in the fossil fuel industry.

As Chris and Alyson Austin held hands and addressed the crowd, Alyson described how dust from Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine pervades her house. Communities living near opencast coal mines now experience similar illnesses to deep miners when underground mines operated.

Anne Harris from the Coal Action Network said, “Saturday’s demonstration at Aberhaw power station sent a clear signal to its operators RWE npower and the government, that the public demand that this power station is promptly closed. Children, working people, pensioners, Welsh people and those from as far away as Machylleth and London gathered on the beach.”

There were a number of angry local residents at the demonstration who feel like they’ve been sacrificed to this power station, as highlighted by this comment on the Coal Action Network’s web page about the protest local resident. Roy Shropshire said, “We have lived in Rhoose for almost 40 years, complained many times to the EPA/NRW [Environment Agency and National Resources Wales] of what we considered to be unacceptable levels of pollution… Clearly, there has been a failure to inform us of the known dangers and a disregard to our health and well being. Clearly, those responsible should now be made accountable.”

RWE’s Aberthaw power station kills 400 people a year, 67 of them in Wales, as it pumps out huge quantities of toxic nitrogen oxide. The government lost a case at the European Court of Justice for allowing the power station to poison so many people. UK government had given RWE npower an exemption to EU air quality rules, which should never have been granted.

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