Category Archives: Environment

“The savage rules of the almighty Market have created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.

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Paul Halas: “As we approach the 2020s there’s a growing awareness that we need change and we need change now. Running the country according to the savage rules of the almighty Market has created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.

In the Western Daily Press (26th April) Paul describes the Conservatives’ genius in persuading millions of long-suffering voters that the national economy operates like a household, so in order for the nation to “live within its means” we all have to tighten our belts.

But this concept – invented by Margaret Thatcher’s think tanks – was directed only at the 99% who always “suffer the destructive effects of austerity” as Halas points out.

The cuts to health, education, transport, disability benefits and other sectors go un-noticed by the I% who can afford to opt out of these systems – symbolised here by one of her ministers.

The household economics concept, Halas continues, ”echoed by every administration since . . . (is) easy to understand yet utterly meretricious”.

He refers us to sources such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, so the writer obediently found the latest report, which certainly did not confirm “the impression that everything in the garden is rosy”. Tax receipts have risen, but there is no indication that “lashings of money are flowing into the Treasury” as had been stated in the same column on 23rd April.

OBR: damned with faint praise?

  • The economy ended 2018 growing a little less strongly than we expected in October. In recent weeks survey indicators of current activity have weakened materially, in part reflecting heightened uncertainty related to Brexit.
  • The Government’s stated ‘fiscal objective’ is to balance the budget by 2025-26 and past forecast performance suggests that it now has a 40% chance of doing so by the end of our forecast in 2023-24.
  • One risk to the public finance metrics that we do expect to crystallise over the coming months is an improvement in the accounting treatment of student loans . . . we estimate that it could increase the structural budget deficit by around £12 billion or 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2020-21.
  • Net trade and private investment were markedly weaker than expected, weighed down by a slowing global economy and Brexit-related uncertainty. Business investment has fallen for four consecutive quarters – its longest continuous decline since the financial crisis.

Halas expands on tax issues and the misdirected quantitative easing adventure:

Although the prime function of tax is to regulate the economy and keep inflation under control, the failure of many of the richest individuals and corporations to pay their dues, thanks to absurdly flabby fiscal legislation, has helped fuel the UK’s runaway inequality and damaged society immeasurably.

It is estimated that 80% of new money created (by the government, via the banks) ends up into the coffers of the financial institutions and their clients, rather than funding investment and welfare as it should.

And ends: “The only sustainable way forward is to invest massively in greener forms of energy and greener transport, to create a greener infrastructure and a greener environment. This won’t be possible without a vast reduction in inequality, more public ownership, more localism, and a far more cooperative approach to economics – all policies the Labour Party is adopting. All those with vested interests will doubtless raise a billion objections, but the consequences of keeping our heads in the sand and trusting the Tories to come up with solutions would be catastrophic”.

 

 

 

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Britain is facing an ‘environment and climate emergency,’ Labour declares

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Richard House draws attention to this article which he says is, “no doubt strongly influenced by the excellent Alan Simpson and the excellent Extinction Rebellion”.
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On Thursday, CEREN SAGIR , (below right) wrote:
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LABOUR declared “a national environment and climate emergency” today.

Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman made the comments in the Commons as she asked the government whether it would join Labour in doing the same. She called on the government to meet with young climate strikers, who have previously had their meeting with Energy Minister Claire Perry cancelled.

Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) Friederike Lurken said it is “important” Labour is taking this step.

She said: “We are living through a climate emergency because governments and industry have not shown the necessary leadership and so far have not acted fast enough.

Fortunately thousands upon thousands of people are rising up with XR, and cultural institutions are joining with us. Dozens of local councils around Britain have already declared a climate emergency – both inspired by and through grassroots pressure from XR and the global School Strike For Climate.”

Labour’s intervention came as a major UN report warned today that the world is seeing record sea level rises and devastating floods, storms, heatwaves and wildfires as climate change impacts grow.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said “there is no longer any time for delay” on tackling climate change as the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) state of the climate 2018 report was published.

The physical signs of climate change and the impacts on people are accelerating as record greenhouse gas concentrations drive global temperatures to increasingly dangerous levels, the report said.

However provisional government figures show that Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3 per cent in 2018 as pollution from the energy sector continued to fall. Emissions of the gases which drive climate change have fallen for six years in a row, and are 44 per cent below the 1990 baseline for Britain.

In Scotland, Extinction Rebellion interrupted First Minister’s Questions at midday today to demand action in the face of the climate emergency.

A spokesperson from Extinction Rebellion Scotland said “Extinction Rebellion Scotland did not wish to undermine other concerns raised by MSPs, but to highlight the climate crisis as this is not sufficiently dealt with despite its pressing importance.”

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As Richard ends: “Onwards!

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Highlights from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Make UK (manufacturers) conference at the EEF

Full text here: Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Make UK conference (EEF Feb. 19)

 

Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, is the representative voice of UK manufacturing, with offices in London, Brussels, every English region and Wales

Edited extracts:

Manufacturing is the beating heart of our economy. For those employed in the sector, manufacturing doesn’t just offer a good job that pays well, it offers creative and satisfying work. But manufacturing needs the right environment to flourish: high quality infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and open and stable trading relationships.

A government prepared to invest in our economy and pursue an active industrial strategy could bring about a renaissance in manufacturing. The next Labour government will start with infrastructure. Our dilapidated transport, communications, and energy infrastructure is desperately in need of an upgrade.

Labour will unleash a massive programme of investment with a National Transformation Fund delivering £250 billion of direct capital expenditure on infrastructure and R&D, benefitting every region and nation of our country, not just London and the South East.

And we will establish a National Investment Bank to make available a further £250 billion over 10 years in the form of patient capital lent to small and medium-sized enterprises in line with the priorities of our industrial strategy, providing funding for green industries and the technologies of the future.

How can we mobilise industry to help avert the destruction of our climate?

Let me give you an example of the change we need. To avoid climate catastrophe we have to reduce our net emissions to zero by 2050 at the latest. That’s not going to happen by itself. It requires large-scale public investment into renewable energy and home insulation, which will in turn create new opportunities for private enterprise.

This is not a burden. It’s an opportunity to kick-start a Green Jobs Revolution.

Labour’s plans will create at least 400,000 skilled, unionised jobs and bring about a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, double onshore wind, and triple solar power. These new manufacturing and engineering jobs will bring skills and opportunity to parts of the country that have been held back by decades of neglect.

Technology and manufacturing don’t have to be a threat to the environment. Our responsibility is to develop the next generation of technology that will help us preserve our natural world.

Labour is committed to investing on a scale that will transform our economy. Those policies won huge public support at the general election 18 months ago. I’m disappointed that a small number of MPs yesterday decided to take a different path.

But university fees, the scrapping of grants, and cuts to training have made education less accessible just when we need a highly skilled workforce more than ever. So today I am proud to announce the appointment of our Commission on Lifelong Learning to help make the principle of lifelong learning a reality.

The Commission will bring together 14 experts from across education – top names in their fields – including Make UK’s very own Chief Economist Seamus Nevin. It is co-chaired by the former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, and the General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Dave Ward. Lifelong learning will be available to everyone no matter their background. It will make detailed proposals on how to integrate qualifications, introduce a credits system to make qualifications transferable and make it as easy as possible for people to pick up or pause their studies at times that work for them. Under a Labour government workers will never again be left feeling discarded because there will be an industrial strategy creating good, well-paid jobs and training to help workers learn new skills.

I strongly believe there should be genuine parity between vocational education and academic education.

We have to end the outdated grammar school mentality of looking down on someone who does a vocational course and looking up to someone who does an academic course. I see the skills of electrical work of computer work of design work learned through vocational courses as just as valuable as academic courses taken at university. We need all of those skills in our society. In Germany, where they really value engineering, they say: “You’re a clever kid – get down the metal workshop.’’

We ask employers to step up to invest in their workforce too.

Last week I visited the gear manufacturer Beard and Fitch in Harlow, and met Carol, a supervisor who is partially sighted. She was doing the final checking and polishing of the gears, and she had been provided with big screens to help her do her work. That’s a sensible employer who has made an investment in someone who was very good at her job. And it was paying off.

Brexit

Earlier this month I wrote to the Prime Minister laying out Labour’s alternative plan based around a permanent customs union with a British say in future trade deals, a strong relationship with the single market and full guarantees on workers’ rights, consumer standards and environmental protections. Later this week I will travel to Brussels to discuss it with Michel Barnier and others. Labour has consistently advocated a comprehensive UK-EU customs union to deliver frictionless trade and protect supply chains that stretch across the continent. Disrupting those supply chains would threaten good businesses and skilled jobs that we can’t afford to lose.

Concerns about a ‘no deal’ crash go well beyond the car industry. Take food and drink, which is actually the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. It needs frictionless trade for perishable goods, where time is of the essence. Or steel. Half the steel we produce is exported most of it to the EU. A disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean trade restrictions on virtually all steel companies’ export markets. And while the big household names get all the media attention, it’s the small and medium-sized manufacturers who will find it most burdensome to adjust to new customs arrangements.

Brexit has crystallised a choice about the kind of economy we want. On the one hand, the harsh economic environment fostered by the Conservatives: low investment, low productivity, low growth and a damaging trade deal with Donald Trump. On the other, Labour’s investment-led approach, underpinned by a close relationship with our European neighbours, in a rebalanced economy that no longer privileges those who lend and speculate over those who make things.

These are anxious times for manufacturers. But the future doesn’t have to be one of decline. With a government that believes in and supports industry, manufacturing will be the engine of innovation in the green economy of the future. Infrastructure, skills, certainty. That’s what manufacturing needs. That’s what only Labour will deliver.

 

 

 

 

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A Europe-wide “project hope” agenda – a central role for Jeremy Corbyn

Colin Hines is one of several readers who responded to a report in the Guardian. He wrote:

Your chilling, but hardly surprising, front-page revelation that one in four Europeans vote populist was long on excellent analysis, but lacked any solutions. Reversing this trend and its fallout, including Brexit, will require tackling the reasons for its rise:

  • widespread concerns about inadequately controlled migration
  • and the economic insecurity now rife among both the employed and unemployed.

Tackling the latter will require spelling out a “project hope” agenda which reverses austerity and instead invests in the rebuilding of Europe’s social infrastructure, while also funding a massive green infrastructure programme for transforming the energy, energy-saving and transport systems continent-wide.

Europeans should take inspiration from the US, where progressive new congresswomen and men are now pushing the Democrats into adopting just such aGreen New Deal”.

They realise that a “jobs in every part of the country” programme is central to defeating Trump.

Here, Jeremy Corbyn could play a central role by capitalising on the present parliamentary chaos and asserting that Labour supports a people’s vote, but with the “remain and reform” agenda for Europe, similar to that he “campaigned” for in the run up to the referendum.

Putting rebuilding local economies at the heart of such reform would gain support from leave-voting areas and could be a rallying call for those fighting rightwing populism across Europe. It could also have the domestic payoff of forming the core of Labour’s next and hopefully successful election manifesto, whenever required.

 

 

 

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Policies presented at a WM Labour Party Regional Office meeting

Message received on Mon, 12 November: David Bailey presented Economics for the Many (link to slides) at an interesting event at the WM Labour Party regional office. Over a hundred people came and there was a great discussion.

David Bailey

Professor of Industrial Strategy

Aston Business School
The Aston Triangle, Birmingham, B4 7ET, UK.
email: d.bailey@aston.ac.uk
tel: +44 (0)7981 925713 or +44 (0)121 204 5262
twitter: @dgbailey

David’s Blog: http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/authors/david-bailey/

Our projects:

http://www.makers-rise.org
http://www.foreurope.eu

 

 

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The Green New Deal: the real potential for jobs in every constituency

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Colin Hines, convenor of the UK Green New Deal Group writes in the Guardian:

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech had three crucial and interlinked components:

  • the need to transform the economy,
  • to prioritise improving conditions in the “left-behind” areas,
  • and a call for a “green jobs revolution in every nation and region”.

But your editorial (27 September) made the common mistake of emphasising wind and tidal schemes to help disadvantaged areas. Important as these green energy sources are, the real potential for jobs in every constituency lies in making the UK’s existing 28m dwellings and 2m commercial and public-sector buildings energy-efficient, with renewable technology such as solar PV fitted where feasible. There are, for example, 8m homes with solid walls which are without any effective insulation, and nearly 40m smart meters still need to be installed.

The majority of this work has to be done locally and has the advantage of being hard to automate or relocate abroad; it also requires a wide range of activities and skills that are likely to be needed for decades.

It will therefore inevitably help improve job opportunities for the “left-behind” communities, with resultant knock-on economic benefits for the communities where these workers live and work.

Owen Jones (Labour needed a reset button – and it got one, 27 September) asserted that Jeremy Corbyn’s crucial identification of climate change as the greatest crisis facing humanity made it a bread-and-butter issue.

Equally the role of a green revolution in jobs in improving the lives of those in leave-voting areas could well make it a bread and Brexit issue as well.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn at Labour’s conference in Wales

Shadow Welsh secretary Christina Rees, Carwyn Jones and Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn spoke at Labour’s conference in Llandudno on 22nd April and received a huge standing ovation, in spite of the relentless media efforts to portray him negatively while often ignoring or even covering up the disarray on the government’s front benches.

A transcript is not available but his 2017 speech is well worth revisiting: http://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/jeremy-corbyns-speech-to-the-welsh-labour-conference/

Highlights:

What Labour in Wales has achieved:

A health service free from unnecessary top-down reorganisations and privatisation where your hospitals are not struggling with record deficits due to the legacy of PFI. The NHS in Wales is treating more people than ever before and 90% say they received good treatment

  • Free prescriptions for all
  • A new treatment fund setup for life threatening illnesses
  • On cancer waiting times, Wales is doing better than England and cancer survival rates in Wales are improving faster than anywhere in Britain
  • You’ve protected the social care budget which has been slashed in England
  • and there are good industrial relations in Wales: no strikes provoked and no operations cancelled unnecessarily

We strongly support the doctors who don’t want patient safety to be put at risk.  Last week I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with a group of junior doctors. Let’s be clear, they are not “junior” they are dedicated, highly qualified people on whom we all depend. They are alarmed at the direction the NHS is taking.

As a parting gift they gave me this book “How to dismantle the NHS in 10 easy steps” which starts with an internal market and ends with an aim of introducing universal private health insurance.

As Nye Bevan said: “Illness is a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community”.

In Wales you have built an education system that has just delivered the best ever GCSE results

  • new schools are being built
  • primary school pupils get a free breakfast
  • the poorest college students still get the education maintenance allowance (EMA)
  • And where Welsh students aren’t shackled by mountainous debt and where grants are being maintained.

English students leave university with an average £22,000 more in debt than Welsh students; that is a shocking burden that shackles young people as they start in life. It is no surprise that home ownership has collapsed.

Jobs Growth Wales has helped 15,000 young people into work

  • The Young Entrepreneurs Bursary has helped young people to setup over 400 businesses in Wales and your plans to deliver 100,000 quality apprenticeships.
  • the Bay Campus at Swansea is already reaping the benefits of high tech jobs in the area.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that tax and benefit changes in the last five years have left the average Welsh household £560 a year worse off.

Tax cuts for the few, the super-rich and big business public service cuts and welfare cuts for the many. We have gratuitous inequality in this country the average pay of the top chief executives compared with the average worker has risen from 47 times in 1998 to 183 times last year.

For too many people in the UK who aren’t the super-rich elite and there are quite a few of them, life is wracked by insecurity, at work and at home, Labour believes that we only succeed if we all succeed together.

The impact of this insecurity on people’s lives can be huge, it affects people’s physical and mental health.

The Tories have failed to invest in modernising the economy, we are way behind other countries on our digital infrastructure, our transport, our energy system and our housing.

70 Labour councils have committed to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050 – including major cities like Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, and Liverpool and here in Wales in Swansea, Torfaen and Caerphilly. And Labour in Wales has set out a clear energy policy, Energy Wales: A Low Carbon Transition and is supporting decentralised energy production through the Local Energy Service.

The Conservative government continues to fail to invest in renewable energy cut subsidies for the nascent solar industry but increased them for fracking and for diesel generators.

If our investment in flood defences had been continued, retaining the senior staff employed to make decisions in these emergencies and protecting the emergency services who responded to save lives and homes during those difficult days and weeks, we would not have seen the level of destruction and flood damage that caused such anguish to so many people as their homes were damaged and their belongings ruined.

Transport infrastructure is absolutely crucial to industrial development and growth. I praise the Welsh government in its support in re-opening and improving valley railway lines, the plans for the improved metro links in the south west of Wales and the crucial need to improve the North Wales line and road links.

We have already challenged the government and won on many important issues:

  1. We forced them to take a U-turn on cuts to working tax credits meaning 3 million families will no longer be hit this April with a £1,000 cut to their family income
  2. We made them backtrack on plans to further cut police numbers in their Autumn statement
  3. And we stood against the horrendous proposal that the UK would run Saudi Arabia’s prison system for them

Our party is one of social justice every child deserves a good education every student the option to study at college or university everyone deserves a decent and secure home to live in nobody should ever be left destitute the grotesque levels of inequality are unjustifiable and must go.

We are living through an era of the most grotesque deepening inequality in Britain and the West. The cynics say that inevitably the next generation will be worse of that this, I say this is not inevitable and not necessary as socialist our duty is to expand the wealth but crucially to share it so the next generation is better off than this one, and our grandchildren will be better off than our children.

 

 

 

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Another Europe is Possible

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Another Europe is Possible campaigned for a radical ‘in’ vote – building a community that is pro-EU even while it works towards building a stronger, reformed union that can bring about the radical social change our citizens need in the UK and across Europe. It sees Brexit as a crisis for Britain – an attack on rights and freedoms, and a potentially calamitous brake on our prosperity. But too often this debate is conducted in a language of fear.

That’s why it has released a new campaign of hope set out in a new report – The Corbyn moment and European socialism.

It was written by Mary Kaldor, Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, Luke Cooper, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Anglia Ruskin University, John Palmer, former European Editor of the Guardian newspaper and Political Director of the European Policy Centre and Niccolo Milanese, Director of European Alternatives.

It takes a fresh look at the critical role that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government could play in transforming Europe’s politics, working from within the EU. You can read it in full here, and order paper copies by emailing info@anothereurope.org

The report makes the case that institutions such as the EU are essential to pushing forward radical and progressive change. A Corbyn-led Labour government could be instrumental to: 

* Taxing multinationals, including harmonising corporation tax rules and clamping down on tax avoidance.

* Regulating banks, including with a new financial transaction tax

* Protecting migrant workers’ rights and strengthening trade unions

* Digital Rights, where Labour has already played a leading role in the global debate

* Climate change, using its weight shift EU institutions and overcome big business lobbies

* Addressing global conflicts, prioritising the security of people, rather than the interests of states, on a humanitarian basis

* Ending fortress Europe, by radically altering the discourse, opening up legal routes for entry, and treating the refugee crisis as a humanitarian issue, not a security one

* Reforming the Eurozone, by playing a supportive role and example for progressive anti-austerity parties inside it

The message ends: Jeremy Corbyn has transformed British politics – and if you think he’s good for Britain, he’d be even better news for the EU, if we stay in it.

See this inspiring video with an interesting reference to Portugal, said to be flourishing under a government which has rejected austerity and used taxes to invest.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Alternative Models of Ownership Conference (10.02.18)

 http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/Q369GPank3G/Labour+Leaders+Host+Conference+Alternative/Jeremy+Corbyn

It is a pleasure to close today’s conference, which has shown once again that it is our Party that is coming up with big ideas.

And we’re not talking about ideas and policies dreamed up by corporate lobbyists and think tanks or the wonks of Westminster, but plans and policies rooted in the experience and understanding of our members and our movement; drawing on the ingenuity of each individual working together as part of a collective endeavour with a common goal.

Each of you here today is helping to develop the ideas and the policies that will define not just the next Labour Government but a whole new political era of real change.  An era that will be as John said earlier radically fairer, more equal and more democratic.

The questions of ownership and control that we’ve been discussing today go right to the heart of what is needed to create that different kind of society.

Because it cannot be right, economically effective, or socially just that profits extracted from vital public services are used to line the pockets of shareholders when they could and should be reinvested in those services or used to reduce consumer bills.

We know that those services will be better run when they are directly accountable to the public in the hands of the workforce responsible for their front line delivery and of the people who use and rely on them.  It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts.

That’s why, at last year’s general election, under the stewardship of Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, Transport Secretary Andy McDonald and Environment Secretary Sue Hayman, Labour pledged to bring energy, rail, water, and mail into public ownership and to put democratic management at the heart of how those industries are run.

This is not a return to the 20th century model of nationalisation but a catapult into 21st century public ownership.

The failure of privatisation and outsourcing of public services could not be clearer.

From Carillion’s collapse and the private sector’s chronic inability to run the East Coast Mainline to the exorbitant costs of PFI and the hopeless inability of G4S even to handle basic security at the London Olympics the same story is repeated again and again; costly, inefficient, secretive.

Unaccountable corporate featherbedding, lubricated by revolving door appointments between Whitehall, Westminster and private boardrooms as service standards and the pay and conditions of public service workers are driven down. This obsessive drive to outsource and privatise has been tried and tested to destruction.

Carillion’s meltdown is a watershed moment. We need to take a new direction with a genuinely mixed economy fit for the 21stcentury that meets the demands of cutting edge technological change. Public services that reflect today’s society and the industries of the future.

We need to put Britain at the forefront of the wave of international change in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities.

From India to Canada, countries across the world are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed and are taking back control of their public services.

Research by the Transnational Institute identifies 835 international examples of privatisation being reversed. It really is happening: from water under citizen ownership and control in Grenoble, France to mail under national ownership and control in Argentina.

There are very good reasons for what’s taking place. The neoliberal ideology that drove the privatisation frenzy forgot a key lesson that’s understood even by conventional neoclassical economics; that where there are natural monopolies, markets fail.

The architect of Thatcherite privatisation, Professor Stephen Littlechild thought regulators could mimic market competition but he was wrong. The regulators have proved too weak to close to the companies they’re supposed to be regulating and too prone to corporate capture which is why we’ve seen productivity increases of just 1% a year since our water industry was privatised despite all the new technology that the water industry has at its disposal.

Without genuine competition or public accountability private ownership of key utilities has meant customers at the mercy of rip-off price fixing. Water bills have increased 40% in real terms since privatisation but we don’t have anywhere else to go for our water when prices go up.

It’s this ridiculous and highly profitable situation that the water companies are so desperate to protect. The case for public ownership is so clear and so popular and we’ve demonstrated how it’s an investment with no net cost for the taxpayer. The water companies are so frightened that some have commissioned a so-called independent report to make the public believe nothing can change.

But as we know, things can and will change.

And they must when we’ve all seen how the big energy companies jack up prices too knowing full well most people don’t switch suppliers. And the energy grids are even worse, overcharging customers by £7.5bn over the last 8 years, according to Citizens Advice.

Climate change

But Labour’s plans are responding to an even bigger market failure than natural monopolies. We need to take back control of our energy system because, as Nicholas Stern described, “the greatest market failure the world has seen” is climate change.

Now, it pains me to have to contradict the US President, especially using data from a US government agency but according to NASA, the world’s average temperature in 2017 was 0.9 degrees Celsius above the 1951 to 1980 average.

We are long past debating whether global warming is happening, or if it is man-made. It is. And it is not just a threat to our future on this planet it is fuelling wars, natural disasters and the refugee crisis right now.

To avoid a future of extreme heatwaves, shortages of fresh water, falling crop yields, increased flooding, dangerous rises in sea levels, and the mass loss of biodiversity in both land and sea we need, as a bare minimum, to meet our Paris obligations and seek to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The challenge of climate change requires us to radically shift the way we organise our economy.

In 1945, elected to govern a country ravaged by six years of war, Clem Attlee’s Labour Government knew that the only way to rebuild our economy was through a decisive turn to collective action. Necessary action to help avert climate catastrophe requires us to be at least as radical.

Tackling global warming won’t be achieved by warm words. Nobody is fooled by Michael Gove’s reinvention of himself as an eco-warrior. Behind the rhetoric lies a trail of environmental destruction.

This is a Government that has licensed fracking, declared a moratorium on renewable levies, while massively subsidising fossil fuels dithered over tidal, held back onshore wind, U-turned on making all new homes zero carbon and is failing to take the necessary measures to meet our legal commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.

At last year’s election by contrast, Labour pledged to ban fracking, insulate four million homes, invest in rail and bus networks to reduce traffic on our roads, invest in tidal and wind, and deliver 60% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Public ownership of our energy system

A green energy system will look radically different to the one we have today. The past is a centralised system with a few large plants. The future is decentralised, flexible and diverse with new sources of energy large and small, from tidal to solar.

Smart technologies will optimise usage so that instead of keeping gas plants running just in case there is a lull in renewable generation the system fulfils needs by identifying the greenest, most local energy source. There will be much more use of local, micro grids and of batteries to store and balance fluctuating renewable energy.

We will still need a grid to match energy supply with demand and import and export renewable energy abroad because the wind won’t always blow where energy is needed. But it will be a smart grid, radically transformed.

Transforming the grid will require investment and planning on a scale that is simply not happening under the current system.

Price cap regulation encourages private grid operators to cut costs and pay money out in dividends, not to plan how the grid will need to work in 25 years’ time, or to make the necessary long-term investments we need to get there.

Grid operators are notorious for overcharging and causing delays in connecting renewables because they have no incentive to make it easy for clean, community generators to connect to the grid, or to encourage community grid initiatives that might end up undermining their profits.

The greenest energy is usually the most local but people have been queuing up for years to connect renewable energy to the national grid. With the national grid in public hands we can put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system, committing to renewable generation from tidal to onshore wind. Investing to connect renewable energy to the grid, giving impetus to the kind of research and innovation that will make our grids smarter, more flexible, and capable of genuine optimisation.

And actively devolving power to local communities, by giving community energy practical support and encouragement. Energy transition will depend on the initiative and ingenuity of the many to localise the production and consumption of energy.

We need public ownership and democratic control to make that happen and use the skills and knowledge of the workforce and communities across the country.

There are some who hanker after a Thatcherite so-called “prosumer” model where people produce and consume their own energy and whole communities opt out of the grid. But not everyone has the resources – natural or financial – to go it alone. Energy independence for some will mean rising bills and unreliable energy for the rest.

We need a publicly-owned grid to act as the great leveller, distributing energy from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce and guaranteeing that everyone has access to clean, affordable energy  all of the time. Anything else is not only unjust, it risks doing immeasurable harm to the climate cause.

Because we will only win support for the changes that are needed if we make sure that everyone shares in the benefits. And there are many benefits, not just in cheaper energy, an end to fuel poverty, cleaner air, and a sustainable planet, but also in the creation of new good jobs and industries in renewable energy and green tech across the country.

In short, to go green, we must take control of our energy.

Just Transition

This is why it is so important that these changes are planned democratically. Many people and communities in Britain are economically reliant on fossil fuels. Our energy system needs to change but it cannot be workers and local communities who pay the price.The devastation wreaked when our coal mines were closed, leaving a legacy of decline that former mining communities are still living with, is a brutal reminder of what can happen when those communities are silenced and disregarded in the process of change.

Never again.

In public hands, under democratic control, workforces and their unions will be the managers of this change, not its casualties. The growth of green energy and green tech offers huge opportunities for job creation. Our publicly owned energy system will ensure a smooth transition and protect workers and communities, seizing those opportunities for the many, not the few.

So let me make this commitment here today. Just as the US GI Bill gave education, housing and income support to every unemployed veteran returning from the Second World War, the next Labour Government will guarantee that all energy workers are offered retraining, a new job on equivalent terms and conditions, covered by collective agreements and fully supported in their housing and income needs through transition.

We will make good the words of the Canadian campaigner Naomi Klein, when she said: “The real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system, one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power.”

Conclusion 

Comrades and friends, a blinkered faith in untrammelled markets and a doctrinal rejection of the power of collective action are the twin dogmas that have blighted political thinking in this country for nearly 40 years, have been brutally exposed for the destructive blind alley they are.

Who can maintain that handing the private sector control of our public services delivers economic or social efficiency and best value after the havoc wreaked by the collapse of Carillion, or the £2 billion public bailout of the East Coast Mainline rail franchise?

An overriding obsession with what is claimed to be “efficiency” but which almost always turns out to mean simply “the cheapest” has fixated on cutting costs for the private providers while loading them on to the public purse and suffocated the public service ethos in the process.

By taking our public services back into public hands, we will not only put a stop to rip-off monopoly pricing, we will put our shared values and collective goals at the heart of how those public services are run. Whether that’s:

  • an energy system that doesn’t jeopardise the future of our planet,
  • a joined up transport system that helps us, rather than hinders us,
  • moving away from reliance on fossil fuels,
  • a postal service that delivers for everyone across the UK and which invests for technological change rather than managing decline,
  • a water system which puts an end to wasteful leakage and environmental degradation,
  • a society which puts its most valuable resources, the creations of our collective endeavour, in the hands of everyone who is part of that society,
  • extending the principle of universalism, right across our basic services.
  • eree at the point of use to all who use them:

 

That’s real, everyday, practical socialism. And we’re going to build it together.

 

 

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For the common good: industrial diversification

A growing number are urging Government to move support from the Trident project and arms export industry to other sectors that meet real needs and use highly skilled workers for constructive purposes, designing emission-free rail, road and waterway vehicles, advancing renewable energy, particularly wave and tidal energy, engineering low emission new-build housing and retrofitting much of the housing stock.

In October this year, Andrew Smith cited a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which put the cost to tax payers of government support for the arms trade at more than £100m a year, adding, “This is to say nothing of the huge levels of political and logistical support that the arms companies are offered”.

Widely accepted figures from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) are that arms exports only count for 0.2% of UK jobs and around 1% of exports. According to the MoD, 65,000 British jobs depend on arms exports and as the total number of jobs in the UK is just over 30 million the arms trade accounts for a tiny fraction of total employment.

And this manufacturing sector is not flourishing – the ‘defence’ industry now represents only 10% of all manufacturing.

A range of housing has been built on the Royal Ordnance site in Euxton, where the land is so contaminated that vegetable growing is forbidden. Last month, BAE, major employers in the area, announced that it will be cutting up to 750 jobs Warton and Samlesbury plants in Lancashire and up to 400 people will be made redundant in Brough, East Yorkshire.

The Trades Union Congress, passed a motion in October calling for the Labour Party to set up a shadow defence diversification agency to engage with plant representatives, trades unions representing arms industry workers, and local authorities. The agency would listen to their ideas, so that practical plans can be drawn up for arms conversion while protecting skilled employment and pay levels.

Some opportunities are listed in the Green New Deal Report (2008) and the Green Homes Guide – just as relevant today or more so, as concerns about air pollution and climate instability escalate.

GND: “At the high skilled end (engineering and electronic) design; though to medium and unskilled work making every building energy tight, and fitting more efficient energy systems in homes, offices and factories . . . putting in place a new regional grid system, ranging from large-scale wind, wave and tidal electricity to decentralised energy systems that increase domestic and local energy production”. 

                                              A British hydrogen-powered train? 

We add to their recommendations the designing of emission-free rail, road and waterway vehicles and of advances in tidal and wave power, which have enormous potential but are currently lagging far behind solar, wind and hydropower technologies.

As Matthew Lynn wrote in The Spectator: “There might be a case for maintaining a modest, specialised arms industry to support our own army. But anyone who thinks an export-driven defence industry is important to the economy should stop kidding themselves”.

 

 

 

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