Bill Esterson (left) and Steve Rotherham (right), fielding questions from delegates
UNISON’s energy conference was opened this morning in Liverpool by the region’s metro mayor, Steve Rotherham.
He spoke to delegates about the region’s efforts toward decarbonisation and greening of its economy.
He said: “Since I was elected as metro mayor we have been working together for a better, fairer greener future for the people who call this place home.
“In 2019 our area was the first to declare a climate emergency and set our carbon neutral target to 2040 a full decade ahead of wider targets.
“But let’s be clear – overcoming climate change is not something that can be accomplished by any one region, by the UK or even by Europe. It’s an existential threat on a global scale like nothing we’ve seen before.”
Mr Rotherham then spoke of a number of projects being undertaken in the region around carbon capture, tidal power, the creation of a carbon neutral London-style public transport system including hydrogen-powered buses and battery-powered trains, and the retro-fitting of domestic properties to increase the energy efficiency of thousands of homes.
These measures, he argued could “make our region a worldwide centre of excellence.” But added that it was vital that these measures can’t be privatised and must be true public services.
After Mr Rotherham spoke, Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton, told delegates: “Labour is fully committed to decarbonising our economy – to making the most of the opportunities right across the low carbon energy mix, right across the decarbonisation of industry and those opportunities of reducing customer’s bills in insulation,” noting Labour’s plans to spend billions of pounds a year to insulate homes.
He continued, outlining Labour’s commitment to end the ban on onshore wind farms, to “double onshore wind, triple solar and quadruple offshore wind.”
He also emphasised that within this transition toward a green economy: “Good well-paid union jobs are a critical part of the way forward.”
Finishing his speech, he asked delegates: “Someone has to lead the world on hydrogen and green energy – why not Britain?”
After the speeches, conference debated a number of motions on topics including: managing difficult customers and nuclear power’s contribution to the security of UK energy supply and net zero.
The first of the three noted that over the past year, during the cost of living crisis, many energy customers have been placed in difficult circumstances and it is making them more stressed, anxious, and at times, angry.
Tracy Wainwright of the energy service group executive, speaking for the motion, said: “Speaking from personal experience as a call centre worker, I know the impact of having to deal with verbally abusive and emotionally manipulative customers.
“It can be shouting, screaming, swearing or customers crying or threatening suicide on the line. Staff also have to deal with racial abuse, homophobia and sexual harassment.
She noted that, as a result, rates of staff reporting declining mental health have increased.
Conference also passed a motion on the contribution of nuclear to the security of the UK energy supply and efforts to hit net zero.
After outlining the history of UNISON’s nuclear policy positions, it argued that the energy service group now needs to take a lead on this important source of electricity generation that is carbon-free and called on the SGE to draft a pro-nuclear energy policy as part of a balanced zero carbon electricity generation system fit for the future.
One speaker said: “Transforming the UK’s economy over the next three decades to reach net zero will be a journey of unprecedented change and we still need to go further and faster in the next 30 years.
“But, conference we can no longer ignore the fact that without nuclear we cannot reach net zero by 2050. And we must change our stance on nuclear if we wish to have a seat at the table in that future.”