Share this page

The shift to a low carbon economy means the almost complete “decarbonisation” of our energy supply by around 2030. The Committee on Climate Change, in its Fourth Assessment Report [PDF], identified decarbonising electricity as the a pathway to a low carbon future. At present, most of our energy is generated from fossil fuels: gas, coal, oil and petrol. Just over a fifth of our electricity is generated by a combination of nuclear power and renewable energy.

Much of the TUC’s work on energy policy is taken forward through the Clean Coal Task Group.

But a low carbon economy also means huge challenges for our energy intensive industries, like steel, cement, brick, glass, ceramics, paper and chemicals. Even though we make some of the most energy efficient steel in the world, industry can’t stand still: we need to invest in low carbon technologies to help secure their future in a low carbon economy. As our joint reports with the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG) show, if we get our climate change policies right, in terms of technology investment and carbon costs fairly shared, huge employment and skills opportunities lie ahead. But it’s vital that we plan ahead for the changes involved, to ensure a just transition to a low carbon future. 

The TUC, with the EIUG commissioned two studies -

  • The Cumulative Impact of Climate Change Policies on UK Energy Intensive Industries - Are Policies Effectively Focussed? (2010) argued that, as tax structures stand, energy intensive industries are carrying the greatest burden of polices to tackle climate change and reduce energy use. In future, the report concluded that the impact will become even more disproportionate and intense. The report called on government to consult with industry and unions to develop a policy framework that would avoid the loss of jobs and investment to overseas competitors who have weaker climate change policies, or none at all. It found that the fundamental threat is “carbon leakage”, not only the loss of jobs, but also control over carbon emissions.
  • Technology Innovation for Energy Intensive Industry in the UK (July 2011): argued that there is a compelling rationale for government to develop an industrial low carbon manufacturing policy, in particular for the energy intensive sector. It showed that energy costs and lack of available capital are key barriers to innovation and called on government to develop a technology innovation strategy that includes new low carbon processes in various industries and where possible support shared solutions, such as carbon capture and storage demonstration for industries such as steel and cement making.
  • Building our low-carbon industries (July 2012) - The benefits of securing the energy-intensive industries in the UK. In recent years UK EIIs have significantly improved their energy efficiency and are much greener than many of their global competitors. But the high cost of energy and the technology needed for them to move across to a low carbon economy means that further green progress is at risk without a proper government industrial strategy.

The TUC supports a “balanced” energy policy:

  • Renewable energy - wind, wave and tidal power, domestic solar power, biomass and other systems supported by effective policies such as the feed-in tariff.
  • Investment in clean coal and gas power through new technologies like carbon capture and storage.
  • New build nuclear power stations.

Perhaps our greatest challenge is to transform our energy supply, to get more from less by improving energy efficiency. This is why the TUC strongly supports greenworkplace projects, involving unions, their members and employers in shifting to sustainable production of goods & services.

Commenting on the government’s decision to delay a final decision on the construction of Hinkley Point nuclear power station, despite EDF’s decision in favour of construction, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
29 July 2016
The TUC is today (Friday) publishing a new report outlining how the UK can undergo a clean energy transition to create high-quality jobs and secure a major share of the future clean energy industry, which is estimated to be worth $500bn globally.
22 July 2016
This report will explore the recent history of sustainable industrial policies. There was not one single moment when the threat of global warming stopped being the concern of a committed minority and became widely accepted. However, milestones – such as the success of the Green Party in the UK in...
22 July 2016
Yorkshire & the Humber Regional TUC welcomes the Danish energy giant's commitment to build the world’s largest offshore windfarm off Yorkshire and the possibility that DONG Energy’s investment will bring thousands of "green" jobs to the Humber....
16 February 2016
Commenting on the government’s announcement today (Wednesday) of cuts to support for rooftop solar energy – on the same day as the Met Office says 2016 will be the hottest on record – TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It beggars belief that the government is cutting support for a...
17 December 2015
As David Cameron prepares to meet global leaders for climate talks in Paris today (Monday), the TUC has called on the Prime Minister to protect vital funding for low-carbon projects in the UK.
30 November 2015
Responding to a speech today (Wednesday) by the Environment Secretary Amber Rudd on the future of energy production, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Phasing out unabated coal is the right thing to do, but government cuts to support for renewables will blow the UK’s chance of having a clean...
18 November 2015
This new joint report from the TUC and Greenpeace argues that acting on climate change will create jobs and a new world of opportunities - if the transition is well managed and supported. The “green economy” already supports a million jobs and is worth over £122bn a year. Yet it...
19 October 2015
Download Strategies for a low carbon industrial future in Yorkshire and the Humber report [PDF] A new TUC report demonstrates the potential for the UK region of Yorkshire and Humber to become the leading low-carbon industrial zone in Europe. However, government policy reversals on support for renewable energy and low...
02 October 2015
Commenting on the news today (Monday) that the SSI steel plant in Redcar is to close, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
28 September 2015