Transition to a green economy

You don’t have to be a an energy geek to see one of the real global dangers of our time.

The climate change deniers have extended their power and influence into the highest of places. Both Trump and May within days of taking up office showed clearly what side they were on. The White House climate change website disappeared and the US Enviromental Protection Agency was banned from publishing studies or data.

Meanwhile over here, Theresa May, on becoming PM removed the Climate Change Dept from BIS and appointed Andrea Leadsom as Secretary of State for the Environment. Leadsom is the co-author of a publication “Is climate change real?”, supported privatisation of forests and fox hunting.

The new additional danger for us is that Brexit brings loss of UK compliance with European environmental legislation, regulation and climate change targets.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress believes that sustainability is not something to be put in a separate box marked “green”. It is a core trade union and workplace issue with a direct impact on jobs are in numbers, types, skills and locations. The employment and training implications of the transition to a low carbon economy are profound, as is the need to manage the changed fairly through “just transition”.

The STUC position is an amalgamated view of affiliated unions industrial, politics, and social-economic interests of our collective  members, and therefore inevitably includes the nuclear option. My own union and other affiliates take an anti-nuclear stand. Together though we are all actively engaged in monitoring the Scottish Government climate change plan.

Scotland is maintaining good growth through renewable energy. However we urgently need a change to the transition costs regime. High transmission costs act as a disincentive to investment in renewable energy generation in Scotland. We generate 12% of energy but pay 40% of transition costs.

Transforming other parts of our economy have been slow. Skilled climate change jobs don’t just come from new sources of energy generation but also from decarbonising transport and heating. We need more transport jobs, we need warm homes. We need to maintain through public ownership the Green Investment Bank and be prepared to invest in our future.

Why have we not made more progress? Climate change targets alone can be a disincentive to do more than the minimum – not to do today what can wait til tomorrow. Reliance on private sector investment slows progress as market needs will always be placed over public good. Most importantly there has been a failure of government at all levels to intervene, invest and taking into public ownership the necessary levers.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress, PCS, CWU, UCS, Unison and Unite are singed up to the Friends of the Earth joint statement for s Just Transition. We make clear that the Scottish Government climate change plans and a just transition must include: a commitment to maintaining livelihoods; funding for training and re-training; measures to tackle disadvantage in the labour market; options for public a community ownership; employment and social benefits for Scotland and in particular communities most affected by industrial change; creation of local supply chains, community benefit clauses and local ownership.

The Scottish climate change bill shows that a devolved nation can lead the rest of the U.K. in a more ambitious commitment to reduce emissions. However the contradiction of policies such as air passenger duty are wrong for the environment. Even without this Incentive, Scottish airports are increasing the volume of passengers substantially.

Taking more money for squeezed public services to subsidise greater air travel is clearly the wrong direction. Particularly as lost revenue could be used to invest I. green jobs like public transport and home energy efficiency jobs.

Whilst recognising that the offshore sector has a clear future, the number of skilled jobs in decommissioning. We must ensure that these revenues are used to create and sustain quality jobs in Scotland and that investment in decommissioning facilities allows this is to take place.

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