From the TUC

#COP21: Cameron divests from our future

01 Dec 2015, by in Environment

Here in Paris there is a sense of disbelief that David Cameron has scrapped a £1 billion green infrastructure investment in the shape of the UK’s programme for carbon capture and storage (CCS). Projects at White Rose, Yorkshire, and Peterhead, Scotland, were set to be the star turn at a major event here at the UN climate change conference. Instead, keynote speaker Luke Warren, CEO of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association, withdrew, and we heard instead from the International Energy Agency that “the rest of the world is proceeding with large scale projects”.

With the Sask Power project now under way, backed by $1.25 billion from state and provincial funds, Canada’s new premier, Justin Trudeau, has pledged Canada to be a world leader in this technology. In addition:

  • Norway has a CCS pilot for the cement industry
  • Abu Dhabi is testing CCS for steel manufacture
  • Texas is working on industrial CCS
  • The US government offers extensive CCS grants
  • Four small-scale CCS schemes are being developed in France, The Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

As Luke Warren blogged this week, CCS could create 15,000-30,000 jobs in the UK by 2030, delivering a market worth up to £35 billion. Working with industry and the CCSA, the TUC has argued that 160,000 direct jobs in energy intensive industries would be safeguarded.

As Luke said, “the one argument which should make the Government sit up and listen – CCS could shave £82 off the cost of the average household energy bill per year by 2030”.

CCS technology is recognised by the UN and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a key, cost effective “decarbonisation wedge” for reaching the goal of keeping global temperature increases to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

It’s now firmly established in the UK that CCS is the only viable option to decarbonise the production of steel, cement and chemicals that will be irreplaceable for economic growth, including for deploying renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles. CCS is a cost effective and affordable way to help secure, low carbon energy supplies. The cost of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will be dramatically higher without CCS, up to 70% higher internationally.

To return to the question David Cameron put to the UN yesterday: If we failed to act on climate change, “just imagine for a moment what we would have to say to our grandchildren?” He has provided an answer.

Yesterday, too, trade unions thought we were edging closer to the inclusion of a commitment to just transition and decent work in the international treaty. The TUC is joining trade unions, employers and NGOs from across the globe to defend the following line:

Article 2, paragraph 2: This agreement shall be implemented (…) while ensuring (…) a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities.

But last night Norway introduced proposals intended to “simplify” Article 2, which would remove reference to ensuring the treaty respected labour and human rights, gender rights, the rights of indigenous peoples and much more. These are general principles that all of civic society here see as absolutely essential for any political agreement which may come out from the COP 21.

Sharan Burrow, for the ITUC, was shocked by the proposals: “It’s workers and their communities who will implement the transition to a zero carbon, zero poverty world.”

The European TUC contacted the EU delegation to “express our deepest concern about the fact that the EU negotiators, by not asking to keep these key principles in the core of the Paris agreement, seem to not pay attention to the political mandate they got from the EU ministers”.