Hydrogen for homes is a terrible idea. We should fight it

October 30, 2020

A plan to pipe hydrogen, instead of natural gas, to millions of UK households is being pushed hard by the fossil fuel industry. It sounds “green” – but could wreck efforts to make homes truly zero carbon, using insulation and electric heat pumps.

Oil and gas companies support switching the gas grid to hydrogen, as a survival option in case of decarbonisation, as hydrogen is usually fabricated from gas.

But the hydrogen strategy cuts across the approach recommended for years by housing

The gas grid: better to replace it with heat pumps. Photo by Ran-Allen / Creative Commons

policy wonks and architects: to use insulation to slash the amount of heat needed, and install electric pumps (which work like fridges in reverse).

Leeds Trades Union Council (TUC) last month launched a campaign in favour of retrofitting homes with high-quality insulation and heat pumps.

It’s an issue many people can unite around – those fighting for better housing and tenants’ rights, campaigners against fuel poverty, trades unionists fighting building industry cuts, and all of us who want to tackle climate change.

And there’s a choice to be made we cannot avoid.

If the gas grid is switched to hydrogen, that will block for good the electrification-and insulation approach, that heats homes better, more cheaply, with technology that we know works, and is truly zero-carbon. We cannot have it both ways.

We will be locked into extra dependency on fossil fuels, instead of speeding the shift away from them.

That gas-to-hydrogen switch is being planned in north-east England by Northern Gas Networks (NGN): its H21 project would convert 3.7 million homes and businesses by Read the rest of this entry »


India climate crisis: this is about capitalism and inequality

October 6, 2020

Global warming is upsetting the monsoon, making droughts more likely, and changing the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians, writes NAGRAJ ADVE, in a guest post based on his pamphlet, Global Warming in the Indian Context.  

The average sea level rise worldwide over 2016-2020 was nearly half a centimetre per year, says the United in Science 2020 report, published last month by the World Meteorological

Photo: Fridays for Future Guwahati

Organisation (WMO), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific institutions.

The rate of sea level rise is now significantly higher than the 20th century average, largely due to the loss of ice from the great ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland, besides warmer ocean waters expanding.

Reading the United in Science 2020 report made me think about sea level rise in terms of centimetres rather than millimetres – for the first time in the 15 years that I have been engaging with the climate crisis.

The impact of rising waters in the Indian sub-continent is one of the many issues covered in a new edition of my pamphlet, Global Warming in the Indian Context, published today by People & Nature.  I have updated the pamphlet – which was first published on People & Nature in June 2016 – to highlight many things about the climate crisis that have changed since then.

But the first thing to emphasise is that the social context in which climate change hits people in India is very different from that in the UK or mainland Europe.

■ In India, 650 million people rely on agriculture or related occupations; the average landholding per household is merely 2.5 acres, and half the area is under key crops such as rice and wheat;

■ Millions of small and marginal farmers have no access to irrigation, are entirely dependent on the rain, and hence more vulnerable to climatic changes; and

■ In the world’s most disastrous Covid-induced lockdown, 120 million people have lost their jobs or livelihoods – and there is no sign of economic recovery in sight.

Extreme climatic events have been getting more intense and frequent in India (and worldwide) in recent years – particularly extreme rainfall events. These result in floods, loss Read the rest of this entry »


North Sea workers ready to switch to renewables, survey shows

September 29, 2020

Most UK oil workers would consider switching to another industry – and, if given the option to retrain, more than half would choose to work on renewable energy, a survey published today shows.

The survey blasts a hole in the argument by trade union leaders that every last drop of oil must be produced, supposedly to preserve jobs. Actually, workers are

Let’s go! Wind turbines, with an electricity sub-station, in the North Sea (German sector). Photo: SteKrueBe / Creative Commons

ready to move away from fossil fuel production – as long as they can work and their families don’t suffer.

The 1383 offshore workers who responded to the survey crave job security, above all. Nearly half of them had been laid off or furloughed since oil prices crashed in March.

Many complained about precarious employment and the contract labour now rife on the North Sea.

The survey, Offshore: oil and gas workers’ views on industry conditions and the energy transition, was put together by Platform London, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace.

The survey’s authors seem to be the first people who have actually asked workers what they think.

The Scottish government has a comfortably-funded Just Transition Commission, including trade union chiefs, that recently ran a consultation on its interim report.

But it was campaign groups, working with activists on the ground, who bothered to talk to offshore workers.

The survey, distributed via social media and targeted advertising, garnered 1546 responses. The results excluded replies by 163 people who work in midstream or Read the rest of this entry »


Leeds trades unionists: zero-carbon homes can help tackle climate change

September 2, 2020

Leeds Trades Union Council has issued a call for large-scale investment to insulate homes and install electric heat pumps, to cut carbon emissions and help tackle global warming.

Such a drive to retrofit and electrify homes would be an alternative to a multi-billion-pound scheme, supported by oil and gas companies, to turn the gas network over to hydrogen.

That scheme, Northern Gas Networks’ H21 project, could tie up billions of pounds of

Thermal imaging shows heat escaping from a house without insulation (right). From the Open Eco Homes web site

government money in risky carbon capture and storage technology, which is not proven to work at the scale required – but would help to prolong the oil and gas industry’s life by decades.

This is a test for social and labour movements all over the UK.

The demand for retrofitting and electrification should be taken up, and fossil-fuel-linked technofixes rejected. Otherwise, talk of “climate and ecological emergency” is empty words.

“Our most important and urgent action is to halt the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere”, says a draft document that the Leeds TUC published last week. “This means radical changes to the way we use energy for work, travel and to heat our homes.”

In setting out a plan for Leeds, the TUC there hopes to “offer a model that will be taken up by other towns, cities and regions”, where it can form the basis for collaboration between local authorities, and a focus for trade unions and community campaigners.

The case for super-insulation and heat pumps

“There can be no realistic pathway to zero carbon which relies solely on changes in the way we produce energy”, says the TUC document. “Continuing to extract and burn carbon- Read the rest of this entry »


South Africa: ‘climate change intensifies gender-based violence’

September 1, 2020

This guest post is by ORTHALIA KUNENE, a South African writer and grass-roots activist in her community with Extinction Rebellion (XR) South Africa. It is based on a talk she gave at a zoom session last month, organised by Extinction Rebellion Greenwich (UK).

Global warming isn’t simply going to destroy our communities – it is also going to be a serious intensifier of violence against women and girls.

I am a feminist, an African feminist to be exact. African feminism acknowledges Africa’s historical colonial realities. Hence, our battle is twofold: to dismantle patriarchal capitalism and to dismantle neoliberalism.

I grew up in an environment that normalised the oppression of women, and I only realised later in life that I, like so many black women in my country, fell into the demographic that

A climate policy protest in South Africa

unfortunately suffers the most – because the reality is that global capitalism has placed women, especially black women, at the bottom of the economic system.

Climate change is a direct product of the patriarchal capitalist economic model, which is built on the destruction and exploitation of human and natural resources. The oppression of women through control of women’s bodies, minds, and labour is part and parcel of this system.

As Africa still bears the horrifying scars of gender-based violence, alongside Covid-19, climate change has placed African women in the eye of the storm. Gender-based violence Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus: ‘what counts is workplace organisation’

August 19, 2020

The confrontation in Belarus between the Lukashenko regime and the mass movement continues. Strike committees are being formed at state-owned enterprises, and the strike at Belaruskali, one of the country’s strategic conglomerates, has begun. At the giant Minsk Tractor Factory, demonstrators who tried to talk to workers were stopped by police. In Grodno, Belarusian media report that the local authorities have begun a dialogue with the opposition. I am trying to follow the situation, and tell English-language readers about independent socialist and working-class trends in the movement. Here are an interview with an independent trade union activist, and, below, a political statement supported by the largest independent trade union federation. Many thanks to P for help with translations. GL.

“Until workers in the factories begin to organise, this will be so much hot air”  

An interview with Sergey Antusevich, deputy chair of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU), published by the Russian magazine Snob on 18 August.

Q: Strikes have started in Belarus. Clearly, they are linked with the post-election protests, but they certainly didn’t start straightaway. What has the decision-making process and why did it take time?

SA: I think that people had waited for the outcome of the elections, in the hope that their vote against Lukashenko could influence the situation in the country. But when it turned out that their votes were simply thrown in the bin, the conversation changed. On 10 August people came into work, talked with colleagues and discovered that none of them

Striking workers at Belaruskali, Soligorsk, 17 August. Photo: EPA-EFE

had voted for Lukashenko. They ended up feeling that something needed to be done. From different factories, activists from trade unions affiliated to BCDTU called us with questions and ideas. We replied that centralised trade union structures could, of course, condemn electoral fraud and demand a vote recount, but that this would be of little use without being supported by action from the workplaces. I said, and I can say it again now, that until workers in the factories begin to organise, begin to oppose the lies, the lack of rights and the degrading treatment, when the authorities have just spat on them and wiped them on the pavement, this will all be just so much hot air.

Q: Did you co-ordinate the workers’ actions

SA: At first we had no means of full-scale coordination: the Internet was cut off nationwide. I spent two days with no connection, basically; I could not set up a working Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus: potash workers strike to support victims of police violence

August 17, 2020

This statement by striking workers at Belaruskali, a giant potash fertiliser production complex, has been released today by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union. The Russian original is here. Belaruskali, based at Salihorsk, 120 kilometres south of Minsk, is one of the largest producers of potash fertilisers in the world, employing about 12,000 workers. Each of its four production units consists of one or two potash ore mines, and a processing unit.

This morning at Belaruskali there were meetings of all production units with management, who were informed that an indefinite strike is to begin. Strike committees have been formed at all production units. They are formulating demands to the employer and guarantees of safety for the strikers and their families. Later on, around two p.m., these demands will be presented to Belaruskali management. At present, production has not been stopped. Workers are conserving equipment and preparing for cessation of operations, so as not to damage the enterprise or its employees.

The strike is expected to start at midnight on 18 August. From eight a.m., the production process will be stopped.

The strikers’ demands:

What was done to the peaceful Belarusian people on 9-11 August 2020 showed the true face of the Belarusian authorities, and the real attitude of the power of the wealthy towards citizens. Hundreds of men and women of all ages, including young boys and girls,

A meeting at Belaruskali this morning

became the helpless hostages of monsters in uniform, and were subjected to unprecedented torture, humiliation and the most vicious beatings. And this lawlessness was conducted with the approval, and the direct participation, of officers of the district department of internal affairs and judges of the Salihorsk district court.

No-one will forget what has happened; no-one will pardon your crimes. Thousands of people in Salihorsk, whole enterprises, have joined the national peaceful solidarity STRIKE. The people are against violence and brutality, against the falsification of election results, and against lawlessness and recklessness in our city.

The following demands by citizens are being expressed through peaceful mass actions in the city of Salihorsk:

1. Take measures to declare the results of the presidential election null and void. To this end we call on the Salihorsk Regional Electoral Commission to make public the real results Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus: ‘without organisation, without struggle, the oppressive unfreedom will never disappear’

August 14, 2020

The revolt against the authoritarian regime in Belarus has spread from the city streets, where thousands of protesters have been battling with police, to the workplaces. On Thursday 13 August workers at large enterprises – including chemical and food factories, and construction and transport companies – downed tools in protest at the monstrous surge of police violence and arrests. People are quitting the state-supported trade unions. Films and photographs of workers’ meetings, at which participants denounced police violence and the fraudulent election results, are spreading like wildfire across social media. Womens’ organisations are taking to the streets – against a president whose fury was provoked, especially, by the support for Svetlana Tikhonovskaya, the woman who dared to stand against him for election. Here are two appeals by independent trade union organisations that were published yesterday. Please share and re-post. GL.

Open Appeal by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union to workers

Dear Belarusians,

The authorities’ actions – in falsifying the election results, breaching human rights, instigating mass arrests and beatings of peaceful protesters and passers-by across the whole country – could all lead to irreversible consequences for Belarus. We are hearing ever-louder

A factory meeting in Minsk earlier this week

announcements from the European Union and the United States, that they are ready to impose various sanctions, including economic ones, on Belarus as a state that is trampling cynically on the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Closure of the western markets for our products and services would be a catastrophe for our enterprises. The impact of this would be borne first of all by ordinary workers, who are in a bad enough situation already.

To defend ourselves and our freedom of action at the workplace, we propose the following pattern of simple collective actions:

1. Quit the state’s social organisations, such as the [government-supported] Federation of Belarusian Trade Unions, [the pro-presidential civic-political association] Belaya Rus and the Read the rest of this entry »


The Russian state’s case against Yuri Dmitriev, historian of Stalinist repression, dissected

July 24, 2020

On 22 July the city court in Petrozavodsk, north-west Russia, sentenced Yuri Dmitriev – a historian of Stalin era repression, who works excavating the remains of political prisoners killed in local camps – to three-and-a-half years in a penal colony.

Dmitriev was found guilty of forced sexual activity with his underage adopted daughter, and cleared of charges of creating pornographic material, possession of weapons and indecent acts. He has always denied all these charges. Taking into account time served, Dmitriev is expected to be freed in November – although the prosecutor had called for a 15-year sentence.

Dmitriev, who was acquitted of similar offences at a previous trial, has won support internationally as a victim of political persecution.

People & Nature today publishes an article by Nikita Girin, examining the charges in detail, that first appeared in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta on 13 July. It reflects the view of Russian human rights defenders and free speech advocates – that these charges were contrived, with a view to silencing Dmitriev’s authoritative, determined voice on Stalinist repression.

The article shines light on the brutal and cynical methods used by the state to protect its Stalinist predecessors from Russians determined to understand their own history. Please read and share.


Viktor Filinkov, political prisoner: “An idealist who takes on responsibility for the big picture”

July 3, 2020

While Black Lives Matter demonstrators fill the streets of cities around the world, opening a new chapter in the history of anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle, the Russian anti-fascists Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov are starting long jail sentences.

A St Petersburg court sentenced Filinkov to seven years, and Boyarshinov to five-and-a-half, on 22 June, on trumped-up charges of involvement in a “terrorist grouping” – the “Network”. In February, seven other defendants were jailed by a court in Penza for between six and 18 years, and last year another in St Petersburg for three-and-a-half years.

Detailed evidence that the “network” case defendants were subjected to horrific tortures after their arrest

Viktor Filinkov in court. Photo by David Frenkel, Mediazona

has been published and submitted to state bodies. President Vladimir Putin last year cynically promised to look into it. Nevertheless, the defendants have been railroaded to penal colonies.

This portrait of Viktor Filinkov – who refused to admit guilt and received one of the heaviest sentences – is by Yevgeny Antonov. It was first published in Russian by the Petersburg news outlet Bumaga.

==

On Monday 22 June, the 2nd Western District Military Court [in St Petersburg] announced the sentences on the Petersburg defendants in the “Network” case, Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov. They were found guilty of involvement in a terrorist grouping (article 205.4, part 2 of the criminal code). Filinkov was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony (standard regime). Boyarshinov got five and a half years (Yuli was also convicted of the illegal possession of explosive materials (article 222.1, part 1)).

Four days before the sentencing, Filinkov addressed the court. The 25-year old computer programmer set out the inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s case, and used diagrams to show why the PGP [Pretty Good Privacy encryption] programme would not be used by a conspiratorial terrorist group, as the prosecution had claimed.

In his closing statement, Filinkov stated that the internal affairs ministry, the prosecutor, the federal prison service, the Investigative Committee, the federal security service [FSB], the court and the Read the rest of this entry »


%d bloggers like this: