Trade Unionists and Climate Activists Conference report 8 June

David Howard attended the National Conference for Trade Unionists and
Climate Activists on our behalf on Saturday 8th June 2013.

Some links for the event :-


David Howard’s report:

I attended the conference today. There were about 200 people present and we had a packed agenda which over run the time table. 11.00am start to 5.00pm finish with one break only of 20 minutes for lunch. We voted to waive the lunch break to ensure we finished on time.

The day was organised by the Union movement and there were speakers from the TUC, Unite, Fire Brigade Union, CWU, TSSA, PCS, University and Colleges Union and various union based green and fuel poverty pressure groups, The Green Party, FOE. By SKYPE on a big screen from New York Dr Lara Skinner (Trade Unions for energy democracy in USA)

Key note speakers included Prof Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change/ Manchester University, Andreas Ytterstad (Chair of Concerned scientists in Norway) and Joan Walley MP chair of the House of commons Environment scrutiny committee

There were also representatives on the fringe from the Socialist Workers Party and a Marxist group.

The strap line for the conference was :-

One Million Climate jobs now
carbon cuts not Job cuts

and their website is
their address is Top Floor, 5, Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX tel 020
7833 9311. Email

The conference spent much time with anti coalition government statements and strong anti capitalist speeches from the floor but nevertheless there were many useful and positive suggestions for future action.

I have listed them out, not in order of speakers or priority:

There are two major crises.
The economic recession with over 2.6million people unemployed and one in five young people unable to find jobs.
The other big crisis is environmental, the terrible prospect of catastrophic climate change caused by the unrestricted burning of fossil fuels. For years experts have said that the tipping point for crisis is 350ppm of CO2. It has just been announced that the world
has reached 400ppm and it is rising at a more rapid rate. The projected 2 degree C temperature rise is now on track for a long term temperature rise of 4 degree (650 ppm CO2) and possibly the previously unthinkable 6 degree rise by 2100. This will have
devastating consequences for the whole planet, land livestock and humans.

4 degrees incompatible with organised global community. increase in
number of hot days. 40% reduction in maize and rice crops

6 degrees will put the world beyond adaption. People will fight and
die. Devastating for the eco systems. Possibility of world going
beyond the tipping point so must be avoided at all costs

The world bank and other international respected authorities such as
the IEA agree with this projection
The solution to both these crises is set out in the One million climate jobs report produced by the campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group. The newly created jobs would deal directly with the introduction of clean sources of renewable energy and greater energy efficiency in our buildings and transport systems. This would be achieved by expanding cheap public transport, insulating and other retrofitting measures to existing homes and other buildings, Building new zero carbon homes and training people in green skills including gardening and food production. Many of these jobs are semi skilled with low training needs but these could be developed with experience.

Local jobs would be created using local suppliers so money would be recycled in the local community and communities could become more self reliant with enhanced community spirit.

There is much good will at all levels of society waiting to be harnessed. Society is not hostile to the climate message and want to know more at a level they can relate to. They are generally supportive of climate jobs leading to lower fuel bills so all benefit. Young
people are especially receptive.

However governemts are in denial and are fudging the figures and projections

There is a need for a new mindset. We are still in the 20th century and must move into the 21st century and think about the next century. It must be based on equity. Fair shares for all (live more simply that others may simply live). It must embrace technology and develop new low carbon technologies. It must recognises that growth will continue in developing countries but that doesn’t mean that the West has to continue to grow to maintain differentials. We must recognise that it is a consumption problem not a population problem. 80% of consumption is by 20% of the population. That means that 40 -60% of
the consumption is actually by less than 5% of the population so target these people for change first.

Who are they?

Climate scientists
Journalists and media people
OECD officials and academics
Anyone who gets on a plane and especially frequent flyers
Anybody being paid more than £30,000 pa

Mitigation should be by the few for the many not by the many.

This will be difficult. We are asking the foxes to draw up a specification for safeguarding the chicken shed

Action is needed now as 80% of the buildings that will around in 2050 are built now. New buildings will last for 50 – 100 years, or more, Ships and planes last for 40 – 70 years.

Research suggest £290Billion needed to retrofit existing buildings which many say can not be funded. However £350billion has been found for QE to bail out the banks. It is a question of priorities

Retrofitting buildings will reduce energy usage which will reduce fuel poverty and reduce emissions
It will provide employment
It will provide resilience against future climate change

Low carbon transport will reduce air pollution and carbon emissions
Reduce congestion reduce accidents

Local renewable energy will provide employment
It will reduce losses in production and transmission
It will preserve fossil fuels

All of this will require action at all levels of the country. –
Vision, strong leadership, courage and for all a change in life style.
The last and current Government talk green but are not showing signs of delivering it. The Green Deal is unlikely to deliver what has been promised.

Weird weather

We heard from the Fire Brigade union about the reduction in the number of building fires over the past 25 years. However they are seeing a big increase in heath and woodland fires during dry spells and also a huge increase in flooding right across the country and as with last year all at the same time There is no statutory requirement for them to carry out rescue work so no funding and limited funding on a case by case basis.

We heard that there has always been changes in weather patterns since the beginning of time . Weather records around the world showed significant changes over the past 100 years. There was no proof that it was caused by CO2 and human activity but it could not be ruled out.There appeared to be pattern of higher temperatures that was likely to continue. It should be noted that extreme weather conditions all over the world were being reported as they happened and could be seen on smart phones and I pads as well as on TV as they happen We could expect to experience higher temperatures which or may not be dry heat associated with more sunshine. It could be hot humid monsoon type weather. There was a greater likelihood of frequent intense rainfall but there could also be periods of drought as well. There may not be defined boundaries for the various types of weather as it all depended on the Jet stream and how far north or south it was positioned.
Whatever the causes there appeared to be a new normal pattern for the weather which was different and building designs and lifestyle would have to adapt to cope with it.

The Fire brigade rep said that the number of fires they attended was dropping year on year despite increased population. However they were attending more heath and forest fires of greater intensity. They were also being called out more frequently to rescue more people from floods across the country. There is a statutory responsibility to fight fires but no statutory duty to respond to floods therefore no funding. Local authorities paid up front and tried to recover costs from central government. Future funding very uncertain. Government cutting back on flood defences while need for them increasing due to sea levels rising. Association of British Insurers threatening to withdraw flood insurance cover from hundreds of thousands of homes in high risk areas (30%approx of all homes). In the meantime thousands of new homes are being built on flood plains and areas at risk.

Andreas Ytterstad Chair of the union of Concerned Scientists in Norway, said that the Norwegian Trade Unions had started a campaign to reduce dependence of oil although they still had local reserves and were promoting 100,000 new green jobs in the energy saving and renewable sector. The Churches in Norway and committed themselves wholeheartedly to the cause and were joint leaders of a new movement to change attitudes in Norway. Trades unions, pressure groups now totalling 70 organisations plus the media were on board in just over a year. The church was becoming the major influence for change in the
country. This was putting them head to head with the major source of power in Norway, the oil companies. Watch this space.

We heard that similar movements were taking off in South Africa where the coal and other mining companies were being challenged to go green Ditto in the USA the trade union movement taking the lead.

Concern was expressed that biomass is being promoted as a green fuel when analysis of the production of the material in foreign lands, often at the expense of forests or agriculture through to its transport then burning and emissions at the flues or tailpipe shows little if any savings in carbon. Felling trees in America and pulping them to burn at Drax is not sustainable but harmful green wash We heard how difficult it is to influence the Government. The major oil companies and six utility companies are very powerful and have the ear of government at all levels. Nobody really knows the extent of their lobbying. There were the mixed messages of the Greenest Government ever which on taking power abolished the sustainable development commission and as recently as last week had refused to insert carbon reducing targets in the latest energy bill while at the same time promoting Fracking. The essential leadership and support for change is missing..

The TUC rep suggested that pension funds and trust funds could be persuaded to invest some of their very large funds in greening the country’s buildings in the absence of any realistic and viable green initiative. (all agreed the Green Deal won’t deliver). In additional
take the £3billion raised by the Carbon tax and invest in new jobs and energy saving packages( CESP or CERT type programmes)

All agreed that government’s climate change agenda was controlled by the fossil fuel lobbyists.

What can we all do?

Talk to whoever we can, wherever we can and as often as we can. Friends, family, churches, workplace, clubs, pubs, schools, youth organisations, professional bodies, trades unions, political parties, pressure groups. Social media eg facebook and twitter, local papers, radio and TV, national papers, radio and TV,

Promote insulating programmes, energy saving controls and installations, integrated public transport, life style changes (put on a jumper, walk, cycle)

And do it again and again. 

There is hope, A lot has happened over the past ten years. Change is underway albeit too little too late. The initial inertia and apathy has been overcome Change is still going on despite the Government. Keep up the pressure,. Have courage. Show leadership and set example. Keep hoping (and praying although not mention once yesterday).

David Howard



Author: | Date: 14 June, 2013 | Category: Reports | Comments: 1

Comments on "Trade Unionists and Climate Activists Conference report 8 June"

Phil Kingston:

June 18, 2013

On 17 June 2013 16:51, Phil Kingston wrote: Hi David, Thank you David for your clear and comprehensive report from an inspiring and stimulating conference. I encourage colleagues to read your report. I want to offer a different conclusion which you give (or perhaps quote from one of the speakers?) when you say that the solution to the two crises of economic recession and the prospect of catastrophic climate change is 'set out in the One million climate change jobs report produced by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group'. The keynote speaker, Prof Kevin Anderson, was very challenging in regarding the limiting of C02 emissions to maintain a temperature increase within 2 degrees C, as not possible within the current growth economy. So whilst the one million jobs, if they can be provided, will help to reduce the current trajectory whereby the UK overshoots its emissions targets, this development will not be sufficient to stop it. Prof Anderson didn't have time to develop his reasoning but if people click on the first link in Jo's email, that will bring up other links in this TU Conference. Click on Kevin Anderson/Tyndall Centre/Journal Papers then type in Anderson, K in 'Search Journal Papers' and the article headed Anderson, K and A Bows 'Beyond 'Dangerous' Climate Change: Emissions scenarios for a new world' should come up. Their conclusion is that '2 degrees C represents a threshold, not between acceptable and dangerous, but between dangerous and very dangerous climate change.' They go on to say that 'the logic of (the studies quoted) suggests extremely dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily, for a period of planned austerity within (the OECD) countries.' 'Green' jobs within a 'non-green' economic system will offer temporary reforms to it but will be still be used by the overall system for its own purposes. The concept of a Steady State Economy (one that is a subsidiary of the Earth, not the other way around as at present) didn't, as far as I am aware, feature in this conference. (See ) I submitted a written question about the apparent contradiction between economic growth and a finite Earth for the final Q and A session but it wasn't chosen. Economic growth is still the only game in town - in Christian terms an idol. PhilDavid responded as follows:From: To: Subject: RE: [celink] Report from David Howard re TU Climate Change Conf on 8th June Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2013 21:02:38 +0000Thank you Phil.The conclusion to the crises was that of the speakers not my opinion. There was no consideration of steady state economy nor of living within ones means. No suggestions on one planet living. No discussion about living within our physical or financial means. The conference was predicated on creating “One million climate jobs now Carbon cuts not job cuts”. While that is not sufficient to save our planet it would achieve a lot more to slow down decline than any of the current Government initiatives.The only bit I added that was not said at the conference was the suggestion that in addition to hoping for improvements in the future we should add “praying” to the text. Regards. davidDavid HowardNew BarnetPhil responded as follows:Thank you for clarifying this. I agree with your observation of what was included in the conference and what wasn't; and the great value of the attempt to produce these jobs. I don't know the brief which we are given by CEL if we report on a conference etc but I would like to express a personal opinion which is that I value both the factual account which you provided and also the comments of the person who writes it if he/she wishes to give those. I imagine that often, the person who takes on that job is knowledgeable about the content and is therefore in a position to help others learn a little more about the context etc. Good wishes PhilFrom: [] On Behalf Of Phil Kingston Sent: 12 June 2013 18:28 To: CEL GENERAL LINK Subject: [celink] Report from David Howard re TU Climate Change Conf on 8th June

Add your own comment to "Trade Unionists and Climate Activists Conference report 8 June"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.