News

Flooding crisis made worse by climate change and cuts to services

By Martin Empson, treasurer of the Campaign Against Climate Change trade union group

In 2015 Britain has seen repeated flooding causing large-scale damage. Tens of thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes, suffered days without power and seen their homes and businesses destroyed as storms repeatedly hit the country. In the latest bout of flooding, thousands of people in Manchester, Leeds and York have been hit, sometimes with the worst floods ever, as rivers broke banks.

In Salford, Greater Manchester, the local news magazine, The Salford Star reported that residents had had almost no notice of the floods. People complained that flood gates failed to work after they hadn’t been properly re-fitted following repair work on the estates.

David Cameron has expressed sympathy with victims, and celebrated the work of the emergency workers. But his government’s policies have made the situation far worse. Back in 2011, the then Tory-Liberal coalition government announced an 8 percent cut (£540 million) in spending on flood defences. Government policies that favour the fossil fuel industry, such as fracking, will only increase emissions leading to further climate change and more frequent floods.

Trade unions that represent workers in the emergency services have repeatedly warned of the impacts of austerity measures on their ability to deal with flooding and other severe weather.

Unison, for instance, which represents workers at the Environment Agency, reported how cuts would reduce its ability to prevent and respond to flooding and tidal surges. In 2012/13 the grant was £124 million less than in 2009/10. [https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/water-environment-and-transport/key-issues/cuts-at-the-environment-agency/]

Staff numbers at the Agency have been reduced by around 1000. The November 2015 autumn statement pledged that the Agency would have its funding for flood defences “preserved”, but the rest of its budget would decrease by 15%. The government claims that it is protecting front line services that respond to emergencies and help prevent flooding, but cutting behind the scenes staff and resources hit the ability of workers to deal with crises, and the ability to make long term plans for future, worsening, weather.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has also highlighted the way that cuts will affect its ability to respond to emergencies such as flooding. In response to the most recent floods the FBU said that “threats posed by such large scale floods are beyond the capacity of local services to cope. The impact of massive cuts to funding of the country’s fire and rescue service is being felt by all firefighters, including those who are aiding flood rescue.”

Simon Hickman, Manchester FBU Brigade Organiser, whose members were on the front line dealing with floods in Salford said, “We’re stretched to the limit with the lack of resources due to the cuts, and we’ve just been told that £15.8 million is to be cut locally. It is bad enough this time but it will be far worse next time. We had 56 fire engines available, the majority were committed to incidents. Yet we are told we may be cut down to as few as 30 at night time, which will remove any resilience in the future”.

Even Coastguard services have been cut back.

The government is well aware of the increased risks of flooding because of climate change.  Almost a decade ago, in 2006, Nicolas Stern wrote an extensive report into the economic impacts of climate change for the then Labour government which warned that “Infrastructure damage from flooding and storms is expected to increase substantially” unless there were flood management policies that could avoid this. In purely economic terms, Stern saw the situation as getting far worse as global warming increased, warning that

“The costs of flooding in Europe are likely to increase, unless flood management is strengthened in line with the rising risk. In the UK, annual flood losses could increase from around 0.1% of GDP today to 0.2 – 0.4% of GDP once global temperature increases reach 3 to 4°C.”

These floods are not “unprecedented” they are the new norm. Climate change means that we are going to see more frequent and more extreme flooding. In order to protect lives, homes and businesses we need to reverse the cuts to emergency services and the Environmental Agency and increase funding.

We also need investment that can reduce the impact of climate change. Writing in The Guardian, environmental campaigner George Monbiot has shown that planting trees can help the soil absorb water. Rather than cuts, we should be creating jobs that can save lives, protect property and reduce the impact of climate change.

But we also need to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. This is why the Campaign against Climate Change, with seven national trade unions, and the National Union of Students are calling for One Million Climate Jobs. The creation of such jobs, through investment in renewable energy, insulation schemes, public transport and energy reduction could reduce emissions from the UK by 86% in twenty years. The trade union movement recognises that climate change is no longer an abstract discussion, but a reality. Dealing with it can help create jobs and improve society.

In 2014 David Cameron told flooded communities in the South-West that “money was no object” in helping them recover from that year’s floods. In 2016 we must hold him to that statement and demand the sort of investment that can prevent future disasters.

READ THE ONE MILLION CLIMATE JOBS REPORT HERE (PDF)


 

COP21 - Protest has shaped the debate, but Paris didn't save the planet


By Suzanne Jeffery, chair of the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union group

The climate deal agreed by world leaders in Paris this week is being heralded as a historic deal which has set the world on track to avoid catastrophic climate change. This is by no means what has 

happened.  

What is true is that world leaders have been under pressure from a growing global climate movement and community of scientists who have successfully raised awareness of both the issue and the need for serious and urgent action. To some extent whatever positives there are in the agreement are a reflection of this pressure. The headline grabbing desire "to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees" reflects the campaigning of many in the poorest parts of the world that have rightly argued that 2 degrees warming seals their fate. For many years their campaigning slogan has been 1.5 to stay alive! 
 
It's important that we recognise the impact of protest and pressure on the talks. However there will be and should be no complacency from the movement in the wake of the Paris agreement. The deal is historic only in so far as it underlines what the movement has been arguing for years. That there is an urgent and real threat to the climate which will have catastrophic consequences. But that threat still remains because the Paris talks have done absolutely nothing to prevent it or begin to tackle it. 
 
The commitments made by countries to reduce emissions, far from keeping temperatures below 1.5 degrees instead set us on track for 3 degrees warming. It is not only the most vulnerable for which this means a death sentence. These commitments to reduce emissions are not even legally binding. There is nothing to enforce national government compliance with their own commitments.
 
Despite the rhetoric there is no urgency in the agreement. A review of progress will take place in 2018, again with no legal status and a "stock take process" is set to begin from 2023. The real action that could tackle climate change - massive cuts to fossil fuels are postponed by timelines which bear no relation to the pace of change that the climate is already undergoing or to the need for urgent action to prevent further warming. 
 
Given that many scientists predict we will have hit 1. 2 degrees warming by 2030 the detail and non urgent timescale of the deal continue to set us firmly on track for catastrophic climate change. The climate scientist and activist James Hansen, has called the agreement a "fraud", "fake" and "bullshit" - no action, just promises. 
 
The headlines might want us to believe the days of fossil fuels are over. But for the CEOs and bosses of the worlds richest coal, oil, gas and fracking companies, the world looks pretty much like business as usual coming out of the Paris talks as it was going into it. Profit making polluting with impunity is not threatened by the deal. Indeed the new carbon markets introduced into the Paris agreement will no doubt make some of the very rich, even richer with no impact on reducing emissions. 
 
This is most definitely the case in the UK where Cameron and Osbourne's policies are creating a new golden era of super profits for their friends in the fossil fuel companies at the same time as trashing renewable energy and the environmental policies aimed at cutting emissions.  
 
Paris has not saved the planet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build a bigger more diverse climate movement - one willing to make common cause with others who are challenging a government and a system that still prioritises the interests of the wealthy over the interests of the planet and the people who live on it. 
 
Our first challenge is to expose and take on the devastating impact Tory policies are having on the environment in the UK. 
 
Amber Rudd said before Paris that government energy policy was going to give less focus to climate change and more emphasis on affordable energy!! We need to make sure that the Tory government can't get away with spinning the lie that climate change will not devastate ordinary people's lives or that fossil fuels help keep bills down. The floods in Cumbria show us yet again what climate change really means. And we also need to make sure that we redouble our efforts to fight for massive popular support for policies like one million climate jobs which do tackle climate change and create jobs. 
 
We need to make sure we stay on the streets in 2016.

TIME TO ACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

 

29 November: Join the Trade Unions / Climate Jobs bloc on the People's March for Climate, Jobs and Justice

Join us in London with trade union activists and supporters from around the country in a march for action on climate, justice and jobs.
We are calling for urgent action on climate change:
- creating jobs through massive public investment in renewable energy, insulation and public transport;
- moving investment from risky 'stranded assets' in fossil fuel industries and into a sustainable economy, while protecting workers' rights;
- a fair international climate deal to ensure a safe planet for future generations

Stand up against the ideology-driven cuts causing major job losses in solar energy, insulation and other industries and preventing action on climate change.

Bring your union banners on 29th November!

Download a model motion for your union branch to support the march

Join on Facebook - and find out the latest information on the march, including transport from around the country at www.climatejusticejobs.org.uk

 


 

Global Climate Jobs report

There is a new booklet on GLOBAL CLIMATE JOBS, with contributions from campaigns in Norway, South Africa, New York, Britain and Canada.

You can download a version easy to read on screen here and a version without pictures to print out here.

French and Spanish translations coming soon

Find out more about global campaigning on climate jobs.


 

One Million Climate Jobs
Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crises


Third Edition
Revised, expanded and updated

The Million Climate Jobs pamphlet is a fantastic tool for mapping the kind of climate justice future we should all be working towards. - Naomi Klein, author This Changes Everything


To halt climate change we need drastic cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we put into the air. That means leaving most of the existing reserves of high carbon fuels in the ground. We need workers to insulate and retrofit homes and buildings to conserve energy. We need workers to build enough renewable power to meet all our energy needs. And we need workers to maintain the new systems the future of humanity depends on.This booklet calculates and explains how we can allow for a just energy transition for workers, society and the planet.

This is the third edition of the ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ report, written with the support of trade unions and environmental groups. It has been completely revised, expanded and updated.

You can download the report or order copies for delivery (discounts for bulk purchases).

The Online Technical Companion is now available for download. This contains the footnotes, calculations and additional supporting documentation for the report.

This report has been produced by the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union group in conjunction with the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), Communication Workers Union (CWU), Fire Brigades Union (FBU), National Union of Students (NUS), Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Transport Salaried Staffs Associationa (TSSA), Unite, the union (UNITE), and the University and College Union (UCU)

 

The pamphlet was launched at the The International Fight for Climate Jobs Conference on Sat 20 Sept in London - details here.

 



Time to Act! For a Future that Doesn't Cost the Earth - Protest March 7th 2015

We are already experiencing the effects of  a changing climate. The impacts are being  felt everywhere. The terrible floods which hit  Southern England in the winter, the extreme storms which devastated rail and roads, are the kind of events that will increase. As ever in these situations, as in others, it is the least well off that suffer the most. 

Instead of acting to reduce the use of fossil  fuels, rich multinationals and governments plan to extract even more. Cameron’s government have gone on a “dash for gas”, subsidising their friends in the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions. They’re even changing the law and spending more money on pushing fracking. If governments keep expanding the use of fossil fuels instead of cutting them then we will be heading for 4-6 degree temperature rises. This is a recipe for disaster, a planet that will have an environment we won’t be able to live in. 
 
We have to demand action from our government, and stand up to big business and the huge vested interests who have put their profits ahead of the needs of everyone else and the planet. It’s Time to Act! On climate change. 
 
We can do something about this. 
 
  • We can create climate jobs in renewable energy and transport which reduce emissions and unemployment. 
  • We can insulate homes which reduce energy use and keep people out of fuel poverty.
  • We can fight to stop big business lobbying to stop international agreements that we need to reduce emissions. 
  • We can call for One Million Climate Jobs.

SEE WHAT HAPPENED HERE!

 

 


Why we need to create a million climate jobs

We face an economic crisis and an environmental crisis in Britain and across the world. We need solutions to both beginning now. Climate activists, and several national trade unions, are launching a campaign to make the government create one million green climate jobs. We have produced a pamphlet that explains how we can do that and why we must. To find solutions to the climate crisis and the recession, we need more public spending, the opposite of current government policy. We have people who need jobs and work that needs to be done. A million climate jobs in the UK will not solve all the economy's problems. But it will take a million human beings off the dole and put them to work saving the future. You can find out more by watching the One Million Climate Jobs film on our resouces page.

 The pamphlet is available for download here. Hardcopies can also be ordered.

National Climate Petition

The national petition calling for one million climate jobs has now been launched. Please sign it here.