If delegates to this year’s TUC Congress in Brighton back a new motion on climate change, they will help bring the TUC’s 2017 Campaign Plan much closer to the Labour Party’s vision http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/Labour%20Manifesto%202017.pdf
of a green industrial and energy policy. As it stands, the TUC Campaign Plan 2017–18 makes no mention of climate change, energy policy, energy democracy, carbon emissions or the Paris Agreement!
In contrast, Labour’s manifesto says ‘We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change… The first mission set by a Labour government will be to ensure that 60 per cent of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030.’
The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) climate change motion (Motion 10), https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Final_Agenda.pdf
to be debated on Tuesday 12 September, calls on the TUC to:
- Work with the Labour Party for an end to the UK’s rigged energy system to bring it back into public ownership and democratic control.
- Back a mass programme of retrofit and insulation of Britain’s homes and public buildings.
- Lobby to demand rights for workplace environmental reps.
- Demand a Just Transition strategy and practical steps needed to achieve it as integral to industrial strategy.
The motion will be boosted by a CWU amendment that, if adopted, calls for a cross-sector industrial strategy that works towards delivering internationally agreed carbon emission reduction targets. The CWU wants to see a “just transition” programme for those workers affected by the industrial changes necessary to develop a more environmentally sustainable future for all.
These demands will surely redirect the focus of the TUC’s industrial and energy policy.
Consider where climate breakdown has led us this summer. Hurricane Harvey flattened Houston.
Seasonal monsoon rains have swept north western India, Nepal and Bangladesh this year. The UN OCHA are reporting that 41 million have been affected by the floods, with over 900 killed https://www.campaigncc.org/blog. Super Hurricane Irma is heading towards Florida as we write, having wrecked much of the Caribbean.
There’s much to welcome in the TUC Campaign Plan 2017–18. It attacks the political upheaval of the past year when living standards have continued to fall. It derides the harmful impact that unconstrained globalisation and years of deregulation, austerity and underinvestment have had on poorer and middle-income communities. It calls for an “economy that works for working people – now, and into the future… We need companies interested in long-term greener growth that benefits everybody, not short-term shareholder returns.
The TUC calls for ‘an industrial strategy that delivers sustainable jobs with decent pay, in all parts of the country.’
But it seems oddly out of touch with the awful realities impacting the globe. It’s strangely silent on the UK’s national and global commitments to tackle our climate breakdown. Where is the desire to boost renewable energy, realise deep cuts in carbon emissions, and a belief in the UK’s international leadership on the Paris Agreement. And without this stuff, What does the TUC mean by ‘sustainable’ jobs?
We think that the BFAWU motion will get the TUC back on course for an industrial and energy policy much closer to Labour’s vision, one that genuinely addresses the tough issues of a just transition. And in so doing, further isolates the Tory Party and its bonfire of green energy and low carbon industrial policies.
Time to get angry about air pollution
The Greener Jobs Alliance gives a response to the Government Air Pollution Plan published in July 2017 and identifies how union and community activists can respond.
No one can say that the Government hasn’t been given a chance to get this right. We’ve had 3 court cases since 2011 all pointing out that the UK is in breach of its legal duty. In May 2017 a consultation document where the overwhelming response was that more needs to be done. Finally, on July 26th, we got the publication of ‘The UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide emissions’.
Not surprisingly the ‘plan’ has been panned for failing to tackle this public health emergency. By not adequately addressing what should be done now, rather than in 23 years time, the Government has condemned thousands of people to a premature death. Advocating a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 is all well and good, but we needed a clear framework for the urgent implementation of clean air zones before 2020. Other shortcomings are highlighted in articles published following the launch of the report.
We agree with Client Earth’s James Thornton’s observation that “it is little more than a shabby rewrite of the previous draft plans and is underwhelming and lacking in urgency. Having promised to make air quality a top priority, Michael Gove appears to have fallen at the first hurdle.”
What happened to the ‘polluter pays principle’?
The Greener Jobs Alliance called for specific duties to be placed on businesses. In our submission to the consultation, we pointed out that ‘There should be a legal duty on large businesses to carry out an emissions assessment. For example, a single employer may be responsible for generating thousands of vehicle movements every day by their staff and suppliers. They need to provide evidence that they have a transport policy in place to bring their emissions down within clear time limits’. It is part of a system that fails to make oil, gas and coal companies face up to the wider social costs inflicted by their products. In fact, they end up getting massive subsidies. For example, earlier this year files were leaked showing £4.9 billion provided to fossil fuel firms in export finance by the government since 2010. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/fossil-fuel-firms-billion-pound-uk-state-subsidies-oil-gas-firms-leak-climate-change-environment-a7690966.html
Far from setting out any obligations on employers, the Government plan advocates the exact opposite. We are told in Para 47 that ‘The UK government is clear that any action to improve air quality must not be done at the expense of local businesses’. So much for the principle of the polluter pays. Most air pollution is generated by work-related activities and yet the individual and the state pick up the bill. The need for a focus on employer’s responsibilities makes it even more important that trades unions start to get serious about air pollution. This is a workplace issue and must be treated as such.
Mandatory Clean Air Zones needed
Defra’s own evidence makes it clear that charge zones are the most effective way to tackle pollution. Yet local authorities don’t have to produce plans until December 2018. Implementation could take much longer and cash strapped councils will find it hard to comply. A campaign is needed urgently to turn CAZs that charge or ban dirty vehicles from a last resort to a first resort measure. They must be coordinated and funded by central government. This is a national public health crisis and requires a national response. Who should pay for this? Large businesses that fail to show effective measures for reducing their distribution/supply and travel emissions.
What should trade unions do?
Currently, the UCU is the only union with national policy on tackling air pollution. Every union needs to draw up plans for involving their safety reps in making this an occupational health priority. Indoor and outdoor pollution are often linked. Toxic air kills whether a worker is exposed inside or outside a building. It is also an area that lends itself to cross union engagement through trades union councils linking up at a city and regional level with community activists. Unions also need to get involved in consultations over the introduction and implementation of Clean Air Zones. In addition to London, there are 28 other local authorities in England that are required to take local action in ’the shortest possible time’. These are referenced on Page 31 of the report. Unions need to check this list and prioritise how they will respond.
Resources to raise awareness
Help is at hand. In June, 2017 the GJA launched an on line course aimed at trade union and community activists.
It has had a positive feedback and endorsement – see below.
‘UCU is deeply concerned about the impact of poor air quality on people’s health, and we fully support the call for a Clean Air Act to tackle the air pollution health emergency in the UK. We’re also encouraging branches to raise awareness about the harmful impact of air pollution, using the helpful online resources from the Greener Jobs Alliance launched at UCU’s annual congress earlier this year.’
Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary
“Thousands of students are studying, working, and living in areas with high levels of air pollution. They need to know the extent of the risk and what can be done about it. The Greener Jobs Alliance has just launched a set of on line modules to help answer those questions. NUS is a GJA supporter and we encourage students to check the web site to find out more.”
Robbie Young, NUS Vice President Society and Citizenship
In our August newsletter, we will be providing information about training opportunities for union and community activists
Air Quality Action Day
June 15th has been designated as Air Quality Action Day. It coincides with the end of the Government Consultation period on their proposals for complying with EU Regulations. If you remember they tried to block publication due to the calling of an election. However, the court judgement went against them and they ended up producing a document that completely failed to address the scale of the problem. Mind you post-election one wonders with the climate change deniers of the DUP and Michael Gove as Environment Secretary in charge whether we would have got something even worse.
Finally, if you need resources for Air Quality Action Day look no further than our new online course launched a couple of weeks ago. Click here.
Reasons to be fearful – 1, 2, 3
In the final days before the election the GJA is sending out a stark warning for climate change and the environment about the consequences of a Conservative victory. Their manifesto ‘’Forward Together’ makes some startling claims, as well as failing to address the key challenges facing the UK. https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto
This has now been compounded on the international stage with the pathetic response to Trump’s decision on the Paris Agreement
- Global leader? – The Tories state in their manifesto that ‘We will continue to lead international action against climate change’ (p.38). What attempts are made to justify this claim? This leadership role is apparently demonstrated by the UK ratification of the Paris Agreement! (p.40). In fact, we were one of the last of the countries to ratify. Hardly leadership. Another bizarre claim is trying to take credit for the introduction of the Climate Change Act. The Act was introduced by a Labour Government in 2008. In a desperate attempt to get some reflected glory we are told that the Conservatives ‘helped to frame it’ (p.40)
- Defending the Paris Agreement – Now that Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Agreement how has May shown her leadership? A phone call from the prime minister supposedly expressing ‘our disappointment’. Real leadership would have been to sign the protest letter making it clear that the agreement cannot be re-negotiated and condemning the decision. Theresa May’s subservience to the US has led to a failure to provide strong leadership yet again.
- UK domestic policy -Air Quality is the biggest public and occupational health risk and is covered in one sentence (p.25). ‘Action’ is promised with no indication what that will be. If their proposals in the consultation paper released just before the manifesto are anything to go by then we know it will be very limited. A new Clean Air Act as proposed by the Green Party and Labour Party is not included as an option even though a clear national direction is essential. Energy policy is framed in a strange assertion that it ‘should be focused on outcomes rather than the means by which we reach our objectives. So, after we have left the European Union, we will form our energy policy based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire – reliable and affordable energy, seizing the industrial opportunity that new technology presents and meeting our global commitments on climate change’ (p.23). The manifesto then contradicts itself by focusing on fracking as a way of generating energy even though the reality suggests that it will not be consistent with any of the 3 ends identified.
Air quality and climate change finally surfaced as an election issue at the leaders debate on May 31st. Between now and June 8th we must keep exposing both the Government record and their ‘vision’. We need a strong and stable environment and we’re not going to get that from the Tories.
BWTUC slam Government’s new Clean Air Strategy for not removing dangerous pollutants from the Wandsworth air, leaving people to get ill or die prematurely
The Government’s Air Quality Action Plan is so flawed it is no wonder they wanted to bury this until after the election says BWTUC
Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Council (BWTUC) slammed the Government newly published plans to improve air quality as being totally ineffective and that they will utterly fail to remove dangerous pollutants from the air in Wandsworth.
The Government were forced to produce an Air Quality plan for consultation by the courts this month.¹ They had tried to use the election as a reason to delay publication but this was rejected by the Court.
Graham Petersen, spokesperson for BWTUC, said,
“If this document represents their vision of how the public will be protected from air pollution it is no surprise they wanted to keep it under wraps.
If this is how you respond to the Number 0ne public health hazard then the Conservative Party have lost all credibility on this important issue. Instead of providing clear leadership from central government, control measures have largely been delegated to local authorities. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t the same government that have stripped local government finances to the bone. A public health emergency that claims the lives of around 40,000 people every year requires a clear national direction.”
People in Wandsworth are in the front-line of toxic air. We have the most polluted street in Europe – Putney High St. Levels in some parts of the borough show over 2 twice the legal limit of 40ug/m³ for nitrogen dioxide. ² In April, the Wandsworth Guardian quoted a report that showed 29 schools in the borough located in areas exceeding the safe legal limit. Wandsworth Council’s own Air Quality Action Plan identified the importance of a campaign ‘to national government towards a non-diesel economy’ as a priority action. If they are serious about this then the Council should join us in condemning these inadequate proposals.
BWTUC believes that new statutory duties are required under a Clean Air Act that provides a national plan covering low emission zones, clean energy public transport provision, and duties on manufacturers and employers.
Currently businesses pay a fraction of what it costs the NHS to treat victims of toxic air. Yet it is employers that are the root cause of diesel emissions from their transport fleet as well as the individual work journeys to and from work made by their staff.
That is why BWTUC believe that air quality is a workplace issue. It is also why we provide funding for awareness raising initiatives like the Greener Jobs Alliance training modules on Air Quality which will be launched at the end of the month.³
It is clearly now a political issue in this election. The Government have shown they have no effective strategy. This is not strong leadership, it is passing the buck, and relying on a voluntary approach that will not deliver on the scale required.
Contact details: Graham Petersen email: email@example.com / Tel 07879492339
Notes to editors
¹ ‘Improving air quality in the UK: tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities’. May 2017. Consultation closes June 15th, 2017. BWTUC will be responding to this consultation. https://consult.defra.gov.uk/airquality/air-quality-plan-for-tackling-nitrogen-dioxide/supporting_documents/Draft%20Revised%20AQ%20Plan.pdf
² Nitrogen Dioxide levels exceed the legal limits in large parts of Wandsworth according to data from Kings College London. REF BWTUC press release http://www.greenerjobsalliance.co.uk/?page_id=642
³ The Greener Jobs Alliance is funded by BWTUC and provides regular updates on air pollution and other environmental issues. On May 27th it will be launching, here on this website, a new set of Air Quality training modules at the University and College Union Annual Congress in Brighton.
The GJA Steering Group meeting on May 3rd drew up these demands for political parties to address in the lead-up to the election on June 8th. We think that action on climate change should be central to party manifestos. We hope that GJA supporters can use it when having discussions about the kind of economy and society we want to live in. Good luck with your campaign work and as always any feedback on these demands is very welcome.
Top 10 Election Demands
- Keep the Climate Change Act 2008. Stick to the UK’s legally binding commitments to cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 as a minimum. Ensure that UK energy and industrial policy is effectively aligned with the Committee on Climate Change projections and carbon budgets.
- Trust the people with a massive boost to energy democracy. Support a new wave of community based solar and onshore wind projects with ambitious feed-in tariffs wherever there is local support Lift the ban on onshore wind projects. Support for local authorities to set up municipal energy supply companies.
- Ban fracking and respect local democracy wherever fracking applications are opposed by local communities.
- Cut energy bills and carbon emissions with a nationwide home insulation programme. ‘Retrofit’ poorly insulated homes and build new, low energy social housing, using as far as possible direct labour, and supported by high quality vocational education and training. Make ‘Energy efficiency’ a national infrastructure priority to create decent jobs, reduce fuel poverty and reduce fuel bills
- Make education for sustainable development a core priority across the education system. Prioritise research funding that will promote the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
- Create a million skilled climate jobs: invest in all forms of renewable energy, low carbon jobs and skills, including electric vehicle manufacture, rail investment, and build a full supply chain to make and supply renewable energy technologies in the UK.
- Create a new Green Investment Bank in public ownership and with full accountability. Use the green bank to support Regional Development Board investment in green energy and transport infrastructure projects.
- Create a National Climate Service to oversee the transition to a low carbon economy This to include a. Ministry for Climate Jobs, Skills and Social Protection’ to equip the UK to a transformation of the world of work working across all Government departments and industrial sectors.
- Introduce an Environment Protection Act to incorporate vital European directives into UK law. Commit the UK to retain membership of the European Court of Justice to ensure that our citizens have the same environmental protection rights as all EU citizens, wherever environmental standards are at risk.
- Introduce a Clean Air Act to tackle air pollution once and for all. Place a clear legal responsibility on employers and businesses to address air quality and develop a network of low emission zones in pollution hot spots.
Climate and the Election
Will Climate Change figure as an election issue? The planned speech quoted in the Independent recently highlights the Conservative’s vision of how the economy will be run. The alternative to Government policies on climate and environmental pollution can be a vote winner. Don’t let the ideology exposed in the quote below win the day.
Tim Hitchens, the director general of economic and consular affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), will say in a speech later this month that the UK must change its focus to carry out Prime Minister Theresa May’s vision of the country as a “great, global trading nation”.
“You have a crucial role to play in posts in implementing our new approach to prosperity against the huge changes stemming from last year’s Brexit vote,” the notes seen by The Sunday Times read.
“Trade and growth are now priorities for all posts – you will all need to prioritise developing capability in this area. Some economic security-related work like climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down.”
Air quality continues to grab the headlines
An article in The Times today (15.04.17) reveals new evidence that air pollution is becoming the number one public health issue. It reinforces the need to produce the GJA on-line course due for release next month. This will identify why this is a workplace issue as well as a community one.
Watch this space.BWTUC Press release
BWTUC LAUNCH WANDSWORTH AIR QUALITY CAMPAIGN AS POLLUTION LEVELS CONTINUE TO EXCEED LEGAL LIMITS IN THE BOROUGH
“Air pollution is a public health emergency and this is the time for action and clear commitments.” says Graham Petersen from Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Council.
BWTUC, the South West London arm of the national TUC, has agreed to launch a major campaign for clean air in Wandsworth as figures for Nitrogen Dioxide emissions in Putney shows that the annual average for 2016 is three times the legal limit of 40ug/m3.
BWTUC will seek to work with political and other civic bodies in the borough, to galvanise support for action by government and others to reduce emissions of pollution harmful to human health and restore clean air in all parts of the borough. In particular, BWTUC will work with affiliated trades unions to get action from employers to help cut emissions.
Graham Petersen, a Tooting resident and union activist heading up the campaign for BWTUC, said “in last week’s local Guardian newspaper, Council leaders claimed that Putney ‘pollution levels have actually fallen in recent years.’¹ “
BWTUC assessment of the statistics indicates that this statement fails to provide the full picture. There has been an improvement in pollution levels since 2011 but this appears to have stalled for some measurements. The figures from Kings College London for Nitrogen Dioxide show that the improvement has levelled out since 2014. For the last 3 years there has been no improvement in the mean average. The annual average for 2016 remained at over 3x the 40 ug/m3 limit.²The clean bus zone may finally start to make a difference this year but it needs to be rolled out rapidly to other parts of the borough.
Air quality is a major public health issue. We will support positive actions proposed by the Council but we will not hesitate to challenge the policies and actions when they fail to recognise the scale of the problem.
This applies to our approach towards the Greater London Authority and the Government. For example, it is our view that the Mayor’s proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone is very welcome but does not extend far enough. Large parts of the borough, like Tooting, that have serious air pollution would not be covered.
As for the Government, there has been a complete lack of leadership. ‘The Government’s failure to get to grips with the challenge of air pollution is evident to all of us’. This is an editorial statement from the Evening Standard (20/3/17) and one we would endorse.
Another group that needs to up its game is employers. Most of the toxic air we breathe is a product of work or workers travelling to work. Yet employers are often ignored when it comes to demands for action and should be doing far more to reduce their direct and indirect emissions.
BWTUC will support workers who want to act on pollution as a workplace issue. We are assisting local unions to carry out monitoring of pollution levels where they work. We will also be producing on line training modules to raise awareness this summer.
Contact details: Graham Petersen email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel 07879492339
Notes to editors
¹ Statement in the Wandsworth Guardian (Page 4, 16/3/17).http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&pubid=47c1cbbd-4d2d-409e-8458-8703ef40dcda
² Between 2013-16 the annual mean average remained constant at around 124ug/m3. http://www.londonair.org.uk/LondonAir/Data-Visualisations/objectiveVStime.aspx
In 2016 Putney High St had the dubious distinction of being the most polluted road in the whole of Europe. By law hourly levels of Nitrogen Dioxide must not exceed 200 micrograms per cubic metre more than 18 times in one year. In fact, the hourly limit was exceeded over 1,200 times in 2016. In January 2017 the standard was breached 11 times in one day.
29 March is Hackney Council’s Divestment D-Day
Divest Hackney https://en-gb.facebook.com/divesthackney/
is calling on Hackney Council’s Pension Fund committee to Decide to Divest 100% of its £42m in fossil fuel shares at its crunch meeting on 29 March at Hackney Town Hall. It’s peak campaign time for Divest Hackney, with a petition https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-hackney-council-from-fossil-fuels (please sign!), lobbying councillors in their advice surgeries and technical briefings on why selling all the fossil shares is the most prudent option, for the planet and the Council’s pensioners.
As things stand, Hackney Council’s Pensions Committee is proposing at its Town Hall meeting on 29 March to sell just half its £42m shareholding in the next six years – and then review the situation.
The 50% target has been set arbitrarily and does not coincide with the UN’s target to limit the increase in global warming to below 1.5 degrees or less. Such a target requires immediate and significant cuts in carbon emissions and polluting industries to avoid dangerous climate change.
Hackney Council’s Pension Fund investments in fossil shares
This is where the money goes…examples
Petrobas, the Financial Times reported a “scandal that is engulfing Brazil …corrupt Petrobas directors collaborated with Petrobras’ contractors, including some of Brazil’s largest construction companies, to line their own pockets.”
Glencore Xstrata, BBC Panorama said the company faced charges that its copper refinery in Katanga province, Congo, was dumping raw acid in a nearby river. In the face of determined community opposition, in the Philippines (see photo) the company is investing $5.9 billion the Tampakan copper and gold project in South Cotabato on the island of Mindanao.
EOG Resources, a major shale gas driller in the United States.
Marathon Oil, acquired several interests in the Alberta (Canada) oil sands projects in 2007.
Exxon Mobil, still funding Climate Science Denial groups.
Best returns vs the environment?
What the council calls a “radical move” to sell off half its polluting shares follows a review which claimed to look at the financial risks posed to the pension fund’s fossil fuel investments in light of the Paris Agreement. “The fund expects to move away from fossil fuel investment in the longer term….We have to ensure that the pension fund receives the best returns possible…” the council concludes.
The committee also says that it is putting money into greener investments, including £20m into a ‘Low Carbon Workplace’ fund, which transforms office buildings into energy efficient, low emission workplaces. Obviously, this is a welcome move. But any beneficial investment in ‘low carbon workplaces’ is going to be more than cancelled out by the council’s own high carbon investments.
Hackney Council can really do better than this.
STUDENT activists at King’s College London celebrated victory yesterday after the university announced that it would divest from all fossil fuel companies within the next five years.
An eight-week campaign by King’s College Climate Emergency (KCCE), which consisted of a number of direct actions culminating in a 14-day hunger strike by PhD student Roger Hallam and a 24-hour occupation of the university’s buildings, has prompted what has been hailed as “a significant change of policy” by one of Britain’s most prestigious universities.
The 7 point agreement is set out in a letter to staff from Chris Mottershead, Senior Vice President at KCL
Fundraising for the GJA update
What do the GJA and Glastonbury have in common?
Apart from a commitment to sustainability the GJA, is in fact, a product of Glastonbury. Back in 2010, the BWTUC met with Michael Eavis to discuss supporting a trade union focused alliance on climate change. The GJA arose out of that meeting. Funding from our Glastonbury work was used in 2011 and again in 2017 to continue this work. The GJA will be sending server teams to Glastonbury and Latitude music festivals in 2017 to raise more money to keep our work going. If you are interested in getting involved with our work at these festivals then please contact
Michael Eavis (2nd from right) with members of the GJA at Glastonbury, 2016