Congress 2012: Change must mean green industry strategy
Adressing this year’s TUC Congress, Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s General Secretary-Designate, underlined the low carbon economy in her acceptance speech: “Change must mean a green industrial strategy that puts Britain back to work…Because no one has a greater interest in the future success of the workplace than those whose livelihoods depend on it.” This week, too, the Business Secretary Vince Cable – our conference guest speaker at Green is good for growth – has signalled he understands that to generate growth and drive up living standards there is a lot more that government can do than simply getting out of the way. Congress motions on energy and climate change set the direction of TUC campaigns in the year ahead: on the Energy Bill, clean coal and CCS, and building green reps’ networks in every region.
Coal is vital to the energy mix
Chris Kitchen, National Secretary, NUM, moved the energy motion, arguing that coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) was vital not just for our energy security, with massive coal reserves still available, but to develop the clean coal technology for the rest of the world. The government should recognise clean coal in the energy mix, and protect the workforce and skills in the deep mines we have left.
Pat Carragher of the collier managers (BACM-TEAM) argued that the motion was fundamentally about investing in green jobs in low carbon energy for the long term. Terry Fox (NACODS) feared another “dash for gas”, but the electricity supply sector had to be virtually carbon free by 2030. And the RMT argued that the UK could lead the world in clean coal technology.
The motion backed the Road Map for Coal from the Clean Coal Task Group, and called on the TUC to campaign for key changes to the Energy Bill to deliver “certainty and stability” for a clean energy future.
Greenwash and the sustainable production of energy
The motion called for the creation of Green Reps networks in every region. It set out the grounds to oppose shale gas extraction (fracking) “unless proven harmless for people and the environment.” And it opposed waste incineration methods of generating energy: “Incineration emits more CO2 than gas plants, and potentially creates new types of pollution. Waste incineration may divert from reducing waste and recycling and is therefore not sustainable,” the motion argued.
The UCU delegate spoke of the government apparently wanting to squeeze the last drop of oil and gas out the ground, calling for real investment in real green jobs, and “green reps in every workplace.” PCS and bakers union (BFAWU) argued the motion well reflected the urgency of dealing with these issues. The government should use this opportunity to invest in a clean integrated rail network, and rebuild our manufacturing base by driving investment in green energy.
Explaining the General Council’s position, on behalf of the GC Paul Noon, Prospect GS, welcomed the additional support for green reps proposed by the Trades Councils’ motion. Congress policy supports a balanced, sustainable, low carbon energy mix for the UK, including support for the gas industry. The TUC would therefore want to be satisfied that campaigns on the issues of waste incineration or fracking “did not put employment or livelihoods at risk.”