Energy, Climate Change and Just Transition
I need to consider the politics of energy and climate change. I shall be looking at the politics inside the labour party but I should look at what the UK Government is saying. This was originally written when I returned from GMB 2019, augmented with GMB items in 2020 and then some links and comments made about Boris Johnson’s Green New Deal. One issue I still can’t get to grips with is, what does the science say about the future of gas as a source of energy in the home? Anyway, here are my notes,
In the Autumn of 2020, Boris Johnson stealing the Left’s “Green New Deal” label made an announcement on the UK Govt’s programme to combat climate change. This was reported,
- and the NAO response described its goals as a colossal challenge, reported by the BBC
The Guardian writes on the plan, the detail, and the gaps and criticism. The Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group also critiques the plan, in a post, “‘Green Industrial Revolution’? Not with this plan”.
Let’s start with some current posts, I found these first by googling around various keywords,
- FOE https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/net-zero-emissions and the document, https://cdn.friendsoftheearth.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/Pathway-net-zero-greenhouse-gas-emissions-UK.pdf
- LFF https://leftfootforward.org/2019/05/momentum-says-labour-should-be-more-ambitious-on-climate-change/
- NEF https://neweconomics.org/2019/04/a-green-new-deal
- https://www.carbonbrief.org/whats-the-difference-between-natural-gas-liquid-natural-gas-shale-gas-shale-oil-and-methane-an-oil-and-gas-glossary, the site warrants checking out.
A just transition
The trade unions have developed a manifesto for fairness in transition.
- Just Transition, at Wikipedia; this includes a number of references, including a 2011 FoE report, and a 2014 Greenpeace Report. I have just edited this page.
The United Nations and global governance
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- IPCC report on measuring Greenhouse Gases
- The Kyoto treasty by investopedia
Momentum’s Motion on Climate Change
To see Momentum’s 2019 motion, press the button below.
GMB 2019 Motions
M208 A Just Transition
refers to https://www.gmb.org.uk/news/how-secure-200000-energy-jobs, also see above.
382 KEEP THE GAS INDUSTRY OPEN (LO)
383 RESIST CLOSING THE GAS INDUSTRY (SO)
384 GAS INDUSTRY (NO)
The Gas Industry
This Congress is alarmed that the Government is taking a very hands off approach to our gas industry and the potential threat to thousands of GMB members and their families. Congress notes that the UK climate causes invariably a heating crisis each winter, with uncertain supply of gas as a vital UK energy resource.
Congress believes that the UK’s gas storage requirement is woefully inadequate and not fit for purpose, which by itself could cost jobs with the very real possibility that industrial users will be required to limit their usage of gas on an ongoing basis.
In the light of recent announcements over previous months that some companies are shelving energy storage projects, Congress believes the Government must now step in to defend our national interest to make sure consumers and industrial users are protected from volatile prices which insufficient storage brings.
Congress notes that in August 2018 Friends of the Earth produced a report on home heating agitating for gas to be replaced for home heating in the UK.
This Congress strongly opposes the call by Friends of the Earth for the UK to close down the gas industry and instead use electricity and other systems for heating of homes in the UK. The report called for closing down the gas industry with the loss of tens of thousands of gas workers jobs. It also called for every household to rip out existing heating systems. Friends of the Earth estimate that it would cost up to £10,000 per household for new systems when existing boilers and radiators and pipes are scrapped. Energy bills for heating would treble. Massive new energy sources would be needed to supply probably four times more electricity than we currently consume in the UK.
In addition to these cost per household are the costs of installing the huge expansion in energy sources that would be needed to generate and distribute electricity to heat homes. Estimates vary but it is likely that electricity consumption on home heating, even with maximum insulation, to replace gas would expand by capacity by more than 400% .
Friends of the Earth don’t like nuclear power stations. The power, they say, would come from intermittent sources like wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, to generate electricity to heat homes at three times the
current price for gas. When the wind is not blowing, then is the plan to switch off power to factories and homes and to import power from other countries and use not yet developed sources?
This is not a plan GMB members or the electorate are likely to support. Congress considers this to be a grossly irresponsible and hugely expensive plan for the UK energy mix. Across the world, nuclear power stations, renewables and gas as a transition fuel are seen as the way to reduce carbon emissions as the global economy moves to low and zero carbon energy sources.
Internationally gas is seen as a stepping stone fuel to reduce carbon emissions as the global economy transitions to low carbon energy sources. In this international energy mix are renewable energy sources, nuclear power stations and gas for space heating. Global warming is a global matter that only action on a global scale can deal with it. The UK should be part of the global policy response to the global problem of global warming. Attempts by organizations like Friends of the Earth for the UK to unilaterally get ahead of the international movement as a gesture to “show leadership” should be resisted as expensive and futile. Congress rejects any unilateral action by the UK to show leadership by closing the gas industry as a very expensive and futile gesture.
Congress welcomes the Just Transition statement by the four energy unions including GMB.
Congress calls on the Central Executive Council to strongly and sternly resist the imposition and the attempts to levy these charges on hard pressed GMB members’ households and to resist all attempts to close the gas industry and to oppose closure of the gas industry on energy and environmental grounds.
Congress endorses previous GMB energy policy priorities for reliable, reasonable prices and low carbon energy sources with subsidies to be paid from general taxation.
GMB should campaign for a low carbon economy with four basic principles: reliable, reasonably priced , low and zero carbon energy sources with subsidies to be paid to investors funded from general taxpayers. GMB should now focus on “how” we move to this low carbon future in line with these principles.
These huge decisions on the exact energy mix and prices and who pays the subsidies should be determined by government and Parliament with households and taxpayers centre stage in these discussions. It is time to add actual substance to the call for a Just Transition.
Congress calls on both the Government and the Labour Party if in Government, to recognise that in the real world, gas is going to be needed to heat our homes as part of a diverse energy mix whilst we transition to a lower carbon economy.
GMB & Fracking
1. This Congress recognises that there are now over 300 community groups opposing fracking in their areas and are demanding a say on the decision on exploration and extraction. Whilst our union’s position on fracking was considered at Annual Congress held in Brighton in June 2018, since then a number of factors have changed or come to light of such significance and asks that Congress allows GMB members the opportunity to reconsider our position on fracking namely:
(a) New evidence in the form of a Government report from their own Air Quality Expert how fracking has negative impact on air quality published July 2018
(b) And the number of earthquakes since fracking began at Preston New Road in October 2018.
(c) New undemocratic planning proposals to bypass the democratic planning process of local authorities (“permitted development”), consulted on between July and October 2018
(d) The growing number of countries that have banned fracking including since Congress 2018, the Republic of Ireland
(e) An alternative to maintain and creating jobs now being offered by the Labour Party when in government in addition to further study and work by Just Transition movement.
2. The branch therefore calls on Congress to:
(a) Support local groups opposing fracking in their area
(b) Call for full democratic involvement of local authorities in granting permission for exploratory and substantive drilling
(c) Recognise that fracking is a threat to the change to a low carbon economy and support the Labour Party and the Just Transition movement in involvement of all stakeholders in the change to a low carbon economy that benefits our members and protects the environment
(d) Support a cessation of drilling immediately where adverse environmental effects occur, such as poor air quality and seismic action
(e) To recognise the change and further evidence now in the public domain to reconsider its position and change policy to be in line with the rest of the trade union movement, the Labour Party, other countries and call for a ban on fracking.
The previous policy is to support Fracking as part of a mixed energy sourcing strategy. This needs the CEC words supporting their recommendation.
More on the GMB and the Gas industry,we seem to investing in the science
- Labour’s drive to retrofit homes must not rely on heat pumps
- Tory’s plan to ban gas boilers ‘ridiculous’
- GMB response to National Grid future energy scenarios, particularly interesting as it looks at national energy strategy
And an article at Bloomberg on the changing economics of Gas in the USA and President-elect Biden’s response.
What is the science and politics behind the “hydrogen economy”.
- https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-launches-plan-for-a-world-leading-hydrogen-economy and a comment from Carbon Briefing.
- Carbon Briefing do a for& against review.
- On Hydrogen, I found this, Hydrogen Fuel; Energy on the fabulous wikipedia.
There is what is maybe a short-term energy crises in the UK, caused by Brexit and leaving the common energy market, I made some notes which includes a note on current primary energy sources. I describe the change in energy source supply in this diagram;
I also wrote a blog article on the coming energy price hike. The TUC passed this motion on Just Transition, which I summarise as more nukes now, move towards the Hydrogen economy , invest in green manufacturing i.e. the infrastructure and clean steel. The driver for this is jobs which would be good. I say, “the original driver for nationalisation in the 40’s and 50’s was apart from workers/public equity that the private sector won’t invest such vast sums of money for such long term gain; the profit horizons are too far away.” We have that problem today it would seem.
I need to add the Labour Party motions.
The question of nationalisation of the top 6 UK providers is a current debate with Labour’s front bench resisting this. While some of what we need can be done through reguilation,
Public money must buy [some form of] equity!
It seems we should talk of ‘reduced carbon‘ steel, not clean steel. These links were easily found,