Committee for Climate Change report and its impact on energy workers

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2019 Energy Service Group Conference
5 June 2019

This conference notes that on 2nd May the Committee on Climate Change set out how the UK could achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This landmark report by a government body has provoked a massive national debate in the last month and promises of immediate government action. Conference believes that UNISON energy workers must be ready to respond immediately to this fast changing situation.

While welcoming the acknowledgment that we need to achieve net zero emissions, energy workers in UNISON will be concerned about the impacts necessary changes will have on them, their families and communities. They will rightly want to have a significant say in how the UK energy industry achieves these difficult but possible outcomes and will determine that any transition which is ‘just’ will secure workers jobs and livelihoods through the process of change.

Conference further notes that; the committee recommended that the UK should legislate as soon as possible to reach net zero emissions by 2050 which means a 100% reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels across all sectors of the economy including energy. The committee acknowledge that particular challenges exist in specific sectors like energy but that these targets must be met domestically without exporting pollution or emissions to other countries as greenhouse gases know no borders.

The committee looked at the possibility of reaching net zero earlier but concluded that this was not credible although they acknowledged it could be possible in the production of electricity by 2045 but that this required a massive investment in renewable and low carbon generation including new nuclear.

Then committee found that switching homes to low carbon heating remain a major challenge and calculates that the transition to green heat technologies will cost in excess of £15 billion per annum up to and beyond 2050. Development in Hydrogen technology will be essential to secure the necessary move to net zero.

The committee also recommended that HM Treasury should undertake a review of how any transition to net zero be funded and how we ensure a ‘Just Transition’ for workers and businesses in high carbon sectors.

Conference therefore calls on the Energy SGE to:

1)Support fully the commitments to achieve net zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

2)Recognise the huge challenge the UK faces in getting to net zero by 2050 and that this is a specific challenge to energy workers and members.

3)Support the view that while achieving net zero is a wider citizenship issue for all to consider, how we achieve net zero and the impacts on energy member is very much an industrial issue best determined by those who work in it.

4)Work with all stakeholders to push policies that support a net zero strategy including a significant increase in employment growth in energy alongside new skills and training packages for new energy workers, all of which will be required to achieve net zero.

5)Agree that financial support for decarbonisation is achieved through direct government taxation as opposed to levies on bills that often protect the wealthiest consumers.

6)Welcome the recognition that both hydrogen gas and carbon capture and storage are key tools in achieving net zero in greenhouse gas emissions and support highly skilled jobs in these areas.

7)Call on more government investment in developing hydrogen technology in home heating as, it is the quickest, most efficient and cheapest way to hit the required target and utilises members already in work.

8)Recognise and celebrate that UNISON is the largest staff union in the gas industry and is at the forefront of pushing clean gas technology.

9)Continue to push the findings of the UNISON warm homes report as a most critical and immediate step forward in achieving Net Zero and look to update this work carried out in 2013.

10)Recognise that public ownership in all parts of the energy system presents the most efficient way to deliver decarbonisation while protecting workers and consumers alike.