TUC motions mixed news on climate
A motion passed at Trades Union Congress carries the risk of moving backwards from last year's progress on climate policy (2017 climate motion).
The Campaign against Climate Change is deeply concerned about elements of the GMB motion on 'Just transition and energy workers' voice'.
Climate change is first and foremost a social justice issue. It will have consequences for every one of us, and hits the poorest first and hardest. The TUC therefore has the responsibility to reflect the voices of all its members in forming energy and climate policies. Future jobs in solar, wind and energy efficiency are crucial to our economy and these sectors have been badly affected by government cuts. The TUC must be a voice for them too, and call for urgent investment in climate jobs, not locking us into white elephant infrastructure such as new gas power stations. Energy unions of course have an important perspective but the suggestion that their views should be 'paramount and central' in determining TUC policy risks undermining strong climate action.
Also passed by TUC was the BFAWU motion against fracking. We are pleased to see the TUC making a timely statement of the risks of fracking to climate and health. The government is currently consulting on centralising decision-making on fracking applications, taking away local communities' democratic rights in the planning process. We regret that the amendment brought by UNISON means that the motion is weaker than originally drafted, calling for a temporary moratorium rather than a ban.
Motion: Just transition and energy workers’ voice (GMB, amended by Prospect)
Congress recognises our country’s legally binding targets for a lower-carbon economy as part of international efforts to tackle climate change.
Congress notes that over 80 per cent of homes currently use gas, and that alongside the objectives of achieving lower and zero-carbon energy sources, governments must also ensure security of supply, meet requirements of industry, transport and infrastructure as well as ensure affordability for the public.
Congress believes a balanced energy mix is essential to meeting these targets and objectives and that such a mix must include investment in renewables, alongside new nuclear and lower-carbon gas underpinned by an expanded programme of energy R&D.
Congress notes that ‘just transition’ is a much-used but often ambiguous term and there is no shortage of voices who believe they are qualified to say what energy workers and communities want and need.
Congress wholeheartedly believes that trade unions are the best democratic vehicle for working people to collectively make their voices heard in public life and to defend their jobs. Trade unions are the only bodies with the expertise and experience to deliver fair change for workers.
Congress congratulates GMB, Prospect, UNISON and Unite for calling a just transition conference to ask members employed in energy precisely what they, their communities and industries want and need from an energy sector of the future and supports the continuation of this important programme of work.
Congress believes that the views of the workers affected, as expressed through these trade unions, should be paramount and central to development of all TUC policies on energy, industrial strategy and climate change, and that the TUC should develop a political and lobbying strategy led by the voices and experiences of energy unions and their members.
BFAWU motion on fracking, UNISON amendments below
Congress notes that Ireland, Scotland and Wales have effectively banned fracking. England remains an exception. The Labour Party has said it will ban fracking.
Congress acknowledges that decarbonisation of heat remains a huge challenge given the UK’s high reliance on gas, and that imports have increased. However, pursuit of fracking is not the answer to this challenge.
Evidence of a changing climate is clearer than ever in both the UK and globally. Pursuing fracking will lock in fossil fuel infrastructure for decades to come, and detracts from pursuing real alternatives to wholly decarbonise our economy.
Fracking also poses health risks to workers and communities, and the long-term viability of our water resources on which other sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing depend. The Environment Agency reports that current levels of abstraction leave “little room for increases in demand”.
Congress recognises and supports the rights of affiliates to protect their members’ interests in the sectors they represent. However, the threat of climate change to all workers requires that we work in solidarity to repurpose and create new jobs that will wholly decarbonise the economy by 2050.
Congress calls on the General Council to work with unions to consult affiliates on energy and decarbonisation policy, and to develop strategies to support workers in the transition to a zero-carbon economy and industrial strategy.
Congress further calls on the General Council to lobby the government to immediately ban fracking, and provide public investment in the skills and jobs needed to achieve the above aim.
› In the second sentence of paragraph 3, replace “will” with “could”, and at the end of the sentence, after “decarbonise our economy”, add “without programmes to decarbonise gas.”
› In the last paragraph, after “lobby the government to”, delete the remaining text and replace with: “independently evaluate the risks fracking might cause local communities versus the benefits of developing indigenous supply; support a moratorium whilst evaluation is concluded and commit government to a clean gas strategy, decarbonising gas fully using hydrogen/bio gas, ensuring affordable warmth is available to all.”