Protecting our Environment and maintaining our energy supplies

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Conference
2006 National Delegate Conference
Date
28 February 2006
Decision
Carried as Amended

Conference notes with concern that the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion and research is that global warming and climate change represent one of the greatest risks to life on our planet.

Conference notes with regret and deep concern that the steps taken by the United Kingdom (UK) Government and the devolved administrations since 1997 to promote sustainable development and protect the environment have failed to meet the limited targets set by the United Nations Protocol let alone address the growing crisis. Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, admitted in March 2006 that measures to reduce emissions are now projected to cut UK carbon dioxide pollution by 15 per cent-18 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010. The government had pledged to reduce it by 20 per cent.

Conference notes that, following the Energy White Paper in 2003, the development of a low carbon economy by greater use of renewable sources of energy and more energy efficiency/conservation was among the key measures advocated to achieve Kyoto targets. Conference further notes that, despite intensive lobbying by the supporters of nuclear power, the White Paper did not identify the need for new nuclear capacity to replace older power stations as they close.

Conference acknowledges that the pace of development in the energy supply field is rapid and notes with concern continuing major increases in the price of gas and electricity. Such increases will not only undermine the competitive position of UK companies and jobs but will also lead to a significant increase in the number of domestic consumers in fuel poverty. Conference regrets that privatisation and liberalisation in the energy sector have undermined the country’s ability to adapt to global pressures and that the UK will become dependent on imported gas for much of its future electricity generation.

In view of such factors and the widespread concern that current policy initiatives will not enable the UK Government to reach its carbon reduction targets, Conference accepts that the government is prudent to review its UK Energy Policy.

However Conference regrets that the impression is being given that the outcome of the review will be the immediate ordering of new nuclear power stations.

Conference does not accept that any case has been made for new nuclear capacity in terms of UK energy needs, especially in the continuing absence of an agreed strategy for the long- term, safe disposal and management of nuclear waste. Nor has any case been made to warrant the further use of public funds for a nuclear power programme.

Conference instructs the National Executive Council to campaign for a UK Energy Policy which achieves our obligations on carbon reduction under the Kyoto Protocol and other international treaties and which is based on the principles of sustainable development, equity and social inclusion.

In particular we need an Energy Policy which:

1)promotes a low carbon economy by increased use of renewable energy sources, carbon sequestration and clean coal technologies, carbon trading, combined heat and power and bio-fuels;

2)improves the energy efficiency of public buildings and the domestic housing stock;

3)encourages public and private bodies and individual consumers to reduce their energy consumption by a combination of better information about appropriate measures and financial help through grants, loans or tax incentives;

4)assists domestic consumers in fuel poverty;

5)brings the large energy companies (PLCs) back under state ownership and control;

6)achieves an agreed UK consensus on a system for the safe and secure management of current and future nuclear waste irrespective of whether new nuclear capacity is commissioned.

In addition the UK Government should introduce an environmental tax on aviation fuel as a matter of urgency and with the devolved administrations adopt more aggressive strategies for promoting the use of public transport.

Conference believes that mass action is required to ensure that the government and the multi-nationals take action to stop climate change. We resolve to:

a)approach the Trade Unions Congress to initiate a workplace-based campaign to expose and reduce energy waste and carbon emissions of each and every employer in the UK;

b)call on every UNISON branch to support and encourage members to attend the national demonstration calling for action against climate change taking place in November;

c)affiliate to and actively support the initiatives of the Campaign Against Climate Change;

d)ask the UNISON International Relations Committee to initiate and coordinate a programme of activities in support of carbon emission reductions and membership education about global warming and the threat of climate change.