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New Labor Forum Highlights: October 22nd, 2018

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

As progressive organizing surges within and around the Democratic Party, activists looking toward “the left wing of the possible” increasingly turn their gaze across the Atlantic to The Remarkable Rise of Jeremy Corbyn. In the current issue of New Labor Forum, Hilary Wainwright suggests that it is Corbyn’s bold challenge to neo-liberal policies that has won him the support of the youth and a rank-and-file battered by rising student debt, skyrocketing housing costs, increasing precarity, and declining public services.

Reclaiming the value and efficacy of public ownership and economic democracy is among the most audacious aspects of the new Labour Party “Manifesto.” Addressing the Labour Party annual conference in Liverpool in early September, Shadow Chancellor John McDonald announced “We are extending economic democracy even further by bringing water, energy, Royal Mail and rail into public ownership.”

Labour’s plan for public ownership of energy also undergirds it commitment to reach zero emissions by 2050. New Labor Forum columnist and the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy global coordinator Sean Sweeney, under the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, is currently working with UK unions in helping with the development of this plan, recently elaborated at the Labour Party Conference by Rebecca Long Bailey, Labour Party Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  She told the conference, “This is not the time for piecemeal measures. We do not have to settle for whatever the market can deliver, and sleep walk into catastrophe. We need a plan of action.” Long Bailey recently addressed a TUED conference in Sheffield where unions debated how the energy system should be taken back into public ownership.

Table of Contents: 

1. The Remarkable Rise of Jeremy Corbyn/ Hilary Wainwright, New Labor Forum
2. Labour wants green energy to power most UK homes by 2030/ Adam Vaughan, The Guardian
3. Rebecca Long Bailey speaking at Labour Party Conference today/ UK Labour Party 

TUED International Conference on Just Transition

By John Treat for TUED

On May 29, 2018, trade union representatives and close allies from more than a dozen countries met in New York City for TUED’s international conference, Towards a Just Transition: International Labor Perspectives on Energy, Climate and Economy.

The conference brought together more than fifty participants, from both the global North and the global South, representing 31 unions as well as 15 environmental, community-based, research and policy allies. Participants came to New York from Australia, Canada, Brazil, India, Italy, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Vietnam. Many of the international participants also joined TUED’s two-day strategic retreat, which took place immediately following the conference. Continue reading TUED International Conference on Just Transition

TRADE UNIONS AND JUST TRANSITION: TUED WORKING PAPER #11

By Sean Sweeney and John Treat

The concept of “Just Transition” has become increasingly in vogue in recent years in international political circles. While commonly ascribed to be “transformative” in potential, like any fashionable term it runs the risk of being emptied of content and coopted by arbiters of the status quo. So what really is Just Transition, and why is it potentially so transformative? This is the question the authors set out to answer in this eleventh working paper published under the auspices of our Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) project.

In one of its most thorough treatments to date, Sean Sweeney and John Treat, both of the Murphy Institute, not only define the concept of Just Transition but take us through its history and the various polemics that surround it. Starting with its roots in the U.S. labor movement, the authors trace the development of the concept, from being one focused almost exclusively on workers impacted by environmental policies, to becoming much broader in its call for socioecological transformation at the point of not only consumption but also production. Continue reading TRADE UNIONS AND JUST TRANSITION: TUED WORKING PAPER #11

Preparing a Public Pathway to Renewable Energy: TUED Working Paper #10

Why a profit-based approach to renewable energy is failing to deliver the energy transition, and why we urgently need to pursue public alternatives.

By Sean Sweeney and John Treat

Why, in a world awash with “idle capital” and in desperate need for a just energy transition to a renewables-based system, are global investment levels in renewable energy so out of sync with climate targets?

In the previous TUED Working Paper #9, Energy Transition: Are We Winning?, we raised in passing the serious investment deficit in renewable energy, in the context of a broader examination of overall trends with the global energy system and greenhouse gas emissions. In this paper, we have taken on the investment question directly and in detail. Continue reading Preparing a Public Pathway to Renewable Energy: TUED Working Paper #10

TUED Bulletin: UK Election & Our Energy Future

UK Elections: Labour Party Commits to Public Ownership of Energy Utilities, 60% Renewables by 2030

Compiled by Michael O’Neil for TUED

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn have released their 2017 manifesto for the June 8th General Election, entitled “For the Many, Not the Few.” The manifesto outlines policies of interest those dedicated to the movements for energy democracy and a just transition away from fossil fuels.

“CREATING AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL”In the section Upgrading Our Economy: Labour’s Industrial Strategy, it states that a Labour Government would ensure that “60 per cent of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030.”

Read more…

TUED unions in UK urge Labour Party to Reclaim Energy and Ensure a Just Transition

This statement was delivered by TUED unions to the Labour Party energy shadow minister Alan Whitehead in the days following the announcement of the general election:

With the announcement of a general election for 8th June, UK trade unions participating in Trade Unions for Energy Democracy  are calling on the Labour Party to include a manifesto commitment to extend public ownership and democratic control to UK energy.

UK TUED unions welcome initial Labour Party proposals for energy transition and a vision for energy democracy based on new forms of public and community ownership, putting climate change and social justice at the heart of industrial strategy. This now needs to form part of a clear manifesto commitment to reclaim energy back to the public sphere. Labour should set out an ambition for new affordable, low carbon energy system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, always emphasising the massive opportunities to create secure, skilled unionised jobs for communities across the UK.

Featured photo by Chatham House via flickr (CC-BY)

Is the World Really Moving Away from Fossil Fuels?

From Trade Unions for Energy Democracy:

During 2015 and 2016, a number of significant public and political figures have made statements suggesting that the world is “moving away from fossil fuels,” and that the battle against greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and climate change is therefore being won. Such statements are frequently accompanied by assurances that the transition to renewable energy and a low-carbon economy is both “inevitable” and already well underway, and that economic growth will soon be “decoupled” from dangerously high annual emissions levels. This optimism has also been accepted by a section of the environmental movement, and even by some unions.

Renewables and Reality 

If the “green growth” optimists are correct, the political implications for trade unions and social movements are profound. For unions, it would mean focusing aggressively on the need to protect the livelihoods of the tens of millions of workers around the world who currently work in fossil fuels and rallying around the principle of “just transition” encoded in the preface to the Paris Agreement. But it would also mean that the need to wage a determined and protracted political struggle against fossil fuel expansion and “extractivism” would immediately become less urgent. In this scenario, trade union efforts would rightly focus on working to shape the next energy system as it rises from the ashes of the old. Continue reading Is the World Really Moving Away from Fossil Fuels?