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,

  3. 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,

  1. FOE and the document,
  2. LFF
  3. NEF
  4., the site warrants checking out.

A just transition

The trade unions have developed a manifesto for fairness in transition.

  1. 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

  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  2. IPCC report on measuring Greenhouse Gases
  3. The Kyoto treasty by investopedia


Momentum’s Motion on Climate Change

Labour for a Green New Deal

Conference notes:

  • To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we must keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C.
  • Over 1°C of warming has taken place, causing floods, droughts, heatwaves, pollution, and hundreds of thousands of deaths. The poorest – particularly in the Global South – suffer most. Tackling climate change is thus indivisible from social, racial and economic justice.
  • Just 100 companies are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions; and the Conservative government is deregulating the fossil fuel industry and cutting support for renewables.
  • Labour has supported the youth strikes for climate and Extinction Rebellion, pushing the climate emergency up the national agenda. A Green New Deal is now a demand we must make.

Conference therefore calls on the Labour Party to include a Green New Deal in the manifesto: a state-led programme of investment and regulation for the decarbonisation and transformation of our economy that reduces inequality and pursues efforts to keep global average temperature rises below 1.5°C.

This will include:  

  • Commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2030;
  • Rapidly phasing out all fossil fuels;
  • Large-scale investment in renewables;
  • A just transition to well-paid, unionised, green jobs available for all;
  • A green industrial revolution expanding public, democratic ownership as far as necessary for the transformation;
  • Green public integrated transport that connects Britain;
  • Supporting developing countries’ climate transitions by increasing transfers of finance, technology and capacity;
  • Assuring everyone’s basic rights through the provision of universal services;
  • Welcoming climate refugees while taking measures against the displacement of peoples from their homes.


GMB 2019 Motions

M208 A Just Transition

refers to, also see above.

Composite 17


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.

Autumn 2020

More on the GMB and the Gas industry,we seem to investing in the science

  1. Labour’s drive to retrofit homes must not rely on heat pumps
  2. Tory’s plan to ban gas boilers ‘ridiculous’
  3. 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.


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