Trade unions push for involvement in low carbon transition

19th October 2015


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  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation ,
  • Fossil fuels

Author

Samantha Timbrell

Unions should be at the heart of a strategy to boost the green economy, a report from the Trades Union Congress recommended today.

The report, which was written jointly with Greenpeace, outlines key parts of the UK economy that need to be transformed, including energy generation and efficiency, energy-intensive industries, aviation and transport, and sets out ways in which unions and environmental organisations share the same aspirations.

Its recommendations include: the creation of an energy security and competitiveness plan, which makes improving energy efficiency an infrastructure priority; a commitment to make the UK a world centre for low-carbon manufacturing, including steel production; greater opportunities for cities and regions to design, fund and implement their own energy and transport infrastructure; action to support a range of funding sources for low-carbon projects; and a clean technology strand of national apprenticeship programmes.

The report warns that the government's cuts to renewable energy subsidies and its abandonment of policies such as the zero carbon homes target is undermining progress, however.

Three solar companies have gone into administration in the past fortnight, all citing government cuts to subsidies and uncertain policy as reasons. Last week, Southern Solar, which was run by a former chair of the Solar Trade Association, announced that it was closing with the loss of over 1,000 jobs. The news followed the closures of the Mark Group and Climate Energy, and the announcement by US solar firm Zep Solar that it is to pull out of the UK.

Instead of slashing support for the low-carbon economy, the UK should follow the example of countries like Germany, which has created 380,000 jobs through investment in renewable energy, the TUC report says.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The UK has the potential to be a world leader in low-carbon manufacturing. Ministers should be learning from the likes of Germany, and getting behind the green economy. This is the way to create the high-quality jobs and apprenticeships we need to boost productivity."

Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace, said: "The government cannot pretend cuts to subsidies for the nascent solar industry are necessary to save families money while throwing much more money at well-established technologies.

"There are dynamic, fast-growing industries in the green economy which could have global reach that are being stifled by lack of support. The Treasury needs to get out of its 20th-century mindset and recognise that other industries like unabated coal are part of the past, and ensure that those workers who need to make the transition to new industry are given the support and retraining they need" he said.

Meanwhile, the UN's chief environment scientist Jacquie McGlade joined the chorus of high-profile people criticising the government's cuts ahead of the Paris climate change negotiations.

She said that the UK appeared to have abandoned its leadership on climate change, while 150 other nations were making unprecedented pledges to shift towards clean energy.

She told BBC News: "What's disappointing is when we see countries, such as the UK, that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going, subsidies [are] being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry enhanced."

The latest round of UN climate negotiations begin today in Bonn, Germany.

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