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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.

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
Damaging low carbon investment: the TUC's submission to the Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry, Promoting sustainable development (August 2015), said that the government has announced 11 Treasury-led green policy reversals that drew widespread criticism from industry - motor manufacture, construction, energy project developers, the renewable energy sector, energy efficiency installers -...
22 September 2015
Industrial regions and climate change: towards an industrial strategy for Yorkshire and the Humber, one day conference to be held in Leeds
11 June 2015
At the very time when manufacturing should be expanding its share of UK GDP, its contribution is now lower than in 2010. Evidence suggests that our ‘foundation industries’, the industrial heartland of UK manufacturing, are facing a steeper decline than manufacturing as a whole. Our ‘foundation industries’ - iron and...
28 April 2015
Responding to today’s (Thursday) announcement on the future of the UK Coal mines, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Immediate help for UK Coal workers and their families is welcome, but this announcement doesn’t resolve the long-term problems facing the UK coal industry, in terms of both job and energy...
26 March 2015
The mythical “march of the makers”: In his 2011 Budget speech, George Osborne said he wanted “a Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers.” However, a new TUC analysis shows that manufacturing’s proportion of GDP has flatlined at 10.1% of GDP for the past six years. Our foundation...
18 March 2015
Touchstone Extras #14 | Download Money to Burn? Driving energy efficiency in the commercial sector [PDF] Although there are many examples of businesses seriously improving their building’s ‘footprint’, this often happens despite, rather than because of, help from good government schemes. This Touchstone Extra sets out the need to improve...
13 February 2015