Congress 2012 - TUC Briefing
Motions supporting a Green industrial strategy
Congress 2012 included debates on two motions on energy and climate change, backing TUC campaigns in support of a low carbon energy strategy; the creation of Green Reps networks in every region; and opposing shale gas extraction (fracking) and the generation of energy from waste incineration.
In her acceptance speech, the TUC's General Secretary Designate, Frances O'Grady, acknowledged the importance of the shift to a low carbon economy: '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.'
Composite Motion 10: Coal is vital to the energy mix (Motions 44 and 45 and amendment)
Congress congratulates the TUC's Clean Coal Task Group (CCTG) for the sterling work that they have done in promoting clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage as a viable approach to both reducing the carbon emissions of the UK and maintaining an indigenous source of energy to ensure a secure source of supply and guard against profiteering by international energy companies and foreign governments should it be the case that this nation becomes totally dependent on imports for our energy needs.
Congress re-affirms its commitment to the CCTG and commits to publicising that the government and successive governments are shirking their responsibility to this nation by producing an energy policy which is biased against coal and indigenous coal, thereby hoping to complete the total destruction of coal mining, its communities and the NUM started by Thatcher in the 1980s.
Congress endorses the Road Map for Coal drawn up by the Clean Coal Task Group. The Road Map sets out a sensible approach for indigenous coal to continue to contribute substantially to a balanced energy policy. Coal is a versatile fuel that continues to contribute between 40 and 50 per cent of electricity peak demand in both winter and summer. The government is urged to accept the recommendations in the Road Map.
Congress welcomes the current competition for government-backed CCS projects. However, it is essential that a number of projects are agreed, with at least two testing the different CCS technologies for coal.
Other planks of the government's energy proposals set out in the Energy Bill need to be reviewed. In particular, the Emission Performance Standard (EPS) of 450 grams per tonne of CO2 will effectively block commercial CCS while allowing a new 'dash for gas' with no carbon abatement. Inevitably, this will lock in CO2 emissions until 2044 and hinder achieving the government's longer term targets for CO2 as well as undermining diversity of fuel supply for electricity generation.
In addition, the detail of any capacity payment regime needs to be clarified. Government must quickly provide answers on funding and pricing arrangements and specify the terms of secondary legislation that will determine operational arrangements.
Congress believes the imperative now is for decisions that provide certainty, stability and deliver investment. The TUC is instructed to campaign accordingly.
Mover: National Union of Mineworkers; Seconder: BACM-TEAM; Supporters: NACODS, RMT, Prospect
Motion 43: 'Greenwash' and the sustainable production of energy
Congress notes the worrying developments in the field of so-called alternative energies to fossil fuels. On 29 March 2012, the government won a Court of Appeal challenge against a quashed decision to grant permission for a new energy-from-waste incinerator at St Dennis in Cornwall, operated by company SITA , which will burn 240,000 tons of waste each year to produce electricity. And on 17 April 2012, an experts' report on shale gas extraction (fracking) commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change went out for a six-week consultation before regulations are issued. This report recognised that fracking caused small earthquakes in Blackpool area but should nevertheless continue.
As fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil are being exhausted, industries are turning to other types of energy production with so-called 'green' or 'environmentally friendly' energy sources being pushed forward. There is a danger that some alternatives are neither green, environmentally friendly
nor sustainable; this is 'greenwash'.
The principle of precaution should be applied when developing new energies and the health of people and the environment should be put before profit.
The alternative energies that should be pursued are real 'green' and 'environmentally friendly' energies, i.e. renewable, that do not rely on finite resources.
The fracking method of gas extraction should be condemned unless proven harmless for people and the environment. This type of energy production is not sustainable as it relies on a limited resource. Until now, there is evidence that it causes earthquakes and water pollution and further investigation should be carried out before any expansion.
The energy-from-waste method of energy production should be condemned in its incineration form as it encourages the consumption society, emits more CO2 than gas plants and potentially creates new types of pollution. Waste incineration may ivert from reducing waste and recycling and is therefore not sustainable.
Furthermore, Congress recommends that:
The TUC Joint Coordinating Committee encourages all Trades Union Councils to elect Green Officers.
The TUC JCC and Trades Union Councils respond to the fracking consultation document, support campaigns against fracking and incineration and link up with local campaigners.
Trades Union Councils seek to lobby their Regional TUC to encourage the creation of Green Reps networks and green conferences in the regions.
Proposer: UCU on behalf of the TUC Trades Union Councils' Conference
Seconder: PCS, BFAWU
On behalf of the General Council, Paul Noon welcomed the additional support for green reps proposed in 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.'