STUC 2023 – Publicly owned energy and climate change

The STUC will campaign for democratic public ownership and an integrated industrial strategy to tackle climate change and the energy crisis.

It set out steps to protect workers, young people and communities in a green energy revolution, including a wholesale reconfiguration of the energy system and an economy based on need not profit.

Supporting a wide ranging composite that included UNISON’s motion, Convener, Lilian Macer pointed to the devastation caused by climate change, with countless lives lost, homes destroyed, more frequent storms, extreme temperatures, melting ice caps, floods and wildfires, with major impacts on food systems.

“All these climate impacts are interlinked with the cost of living and energy crisis,” warned Lilian, calling for a wholesale reconfiguration of energy systems worldwide, and “an economy that puts people and planet before profits.

“The future has to be renewables – a green energy revolution. But we won’t win the just energy transition that is urgently necessary if it’s left to the private sector.

“That would continue with ordinary people paying the price for crises not of their making while the big energy companies and the world’s top 1% keep raking in the dosh as the planet burns.”

Lilian called for a massive expansion of public and community owned energy generation and distribution. And a rapid decarbonisation of public services as recommended in UNISON’s Cop 26 report.

She called for the Scottish Government to establish a publicly owned energy company. “It was wrong to abandon the idea and this should now happen as recommended by the first Just Transition Commission “at pace, with a broad remit”, demanded Lilian, as delegates backed a green, integrated industrial strategy with public ownership at its core.

…. Yet backs nuclear expansion

It was all the more ironic then, when soon after, on a card vote, Congress voted narrowly to support a call from GMB for an expansion of new nuclear as part of an industrial strategy for energy.

UNISON had rejected this call and Depute Convener, Stephen Smellie told congress that it was based on a false premise that the cost of living crisis can be addressed by new nuclear power, with a possible subtext that nuclear power can be an answer to climate change.

“Both are wrong,” said Stephen, pointing out that the cost of living crisis is largely the result of soaring costs of fossil fuels and is here and now, whilst nuclear power is 10 – 15 years away, maybe more, “which means it is not going to solve the climate crisis either.”

He called for action to reduce fossil fuels now, not in 20 years time and that means it has to be renewables, urged Stephen. The billions of pounds it would cost to commit to nuclear needs to be redirected towards investment in renewables and in  reducing demands through retrofitting.

He slammed nuclear as a dirty power source.

“Dirty in its extraction of raw material from the earth, destroying the environment. Dirty in its energy intense construction and dirty in its production of a waste material that won’t just be left for our children to clean up but for our great, great, great to the power of 1000 grandchildren to clean up.

“Nuclear power is an inter-generational environment and security injustice that we must not bequeath to future generations.”

Congress rejected his pleas and supported nuclear as part of an energy mix.