Guest blog by Chris Baugh (Assistant General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union) on a new initiative to build a climate jobs plan for Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre. A plan that is “practical, inspiring and sustainable that seeks not just to end fracking, but to end the economic demise of the region as a result of austerity politics.”
An article by Claire Perry, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, published on 18th May, said that “The future is beneath us”. The Minister gives rightful recognition to the contribution North Sea oil and gas has made to the economy, including creating jobs, if at the expense of jobs in the coal industry in the 1990s “dash for gas”. But otherwise, the piece sums up the fossilised policy of the current government
- Dependency on gas “for decades to come” with gas seen as central to meeting 2050 emissions reductions targets of 80% on a 1990 baseline
- Shale gas extraction or fracking.
This comes as no surprise given the Tories commitment to “going all out for shale”. Other announcements in the same week seek to accelerate fracking through further concentration of powers in Westminster over local decision making. As even the discredited and much boycotted Sun newspaper, who co-released the article for the Minister, accurately put it “ministers vow to force local areas to accept new gas projects”.
Opponents of fracking – grandmothers (‘nanas’), environmentalists, trade unionists – are dismissed as “using the most colourful and scaremongering language they can find and intimidating local communities and decision makers with lots of protestors from out of town.”
Local people raising legitimate concerns about the impact of fracking on climate change, risks to health of communities including the young and working people, among others is no doubt “scaremongering” to a government that doesn’t want the truth about fracking exposed. Such as the false promises of jobs, cheaper energy, meeting our climate targets, and little environmental impact.
And to safeguard these myths, the intimidation coming from the government and fracking companies themselves is a much greater threat to democracy, than the legitimate right of people to protest. Imposing fracking decisions on communities as happened in Lancashire, and the policing tactics used against protestors, raises more questions about the Government’s own creeping authoritarianism.
Minister Perry is wrong if she thinks the protest is just about fracking. It is about workers and communities having democratic control in what happens in their communities. This means putting forward an alternative – frack-free – economic vision built on renewable energy, public transport and ecologically viable construction to convert our economy to stop accelerating climate change.
Working with the local community, activists, and trade unionists, the PCS and Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union are launching an initiative in June on “Building a climate jobs plan for Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre”. A plan that is practical, inspiring and sustainable that seeks not just to end fracking, but to end the economic demise of the region as a result of austerity politics. Our booklet on the topic is available here.
Workers in Britain have seen the greatest decline in real wages (10%) of any European country except Greece since the financial crash. The North West is no exception to this. In 2017, trade unions and campaigners including those against fracking launched the Blackpool Needs a Pay-rise campaign to end growing inequality and precarious work including zero hours contracts, defend our public services, to oppose fracking, and to create real, socially, and environmentally useful jobs.
The Fylde region is rich in renewable resources such as offshore wind. Using the model of One Million Climate Jobs, we estimate an average of 4,500 new climate jobs – jobs that lower greenhouse gas emissions – could be created over the next twenty years. This is compared to an average of 420 jobs in fracking. These would be unionised, government, jobs as part of a National Climate Service, manufacturing wind turbines, installation and maintenance, and training. But there are plenty of other jobs that would need to be done to achieve a zero carbon economy.
Too many workers are seeing their skills and knowledge laid to waste. We believe that these should be utilised to build the zero carbon economy we urgently need. Yes, to tackle climate change, but also to give workers and communities a real future to look forward to.
The campaign against fracking in Lancashire will continue whether we create a climate jobs plan or not. However, the case is made stronger by not just saying no to fracking, but by presenting a vision that addresses fundamental issues of unemployment, social inequality and the climate. Fracking will not do that.
Minster Perry, the future isn’t beneath us. It’s in the hands of workers, it’s in our communities. It’s wind, solar and tidal power. In our collective, organised, power.
If you want to get involved or find out more about this initiative, please contact Green@pcs.org.uk.