A King’s speech for fossils – Greener Jobs Alliance


“Far from rising to the level of the challenge, Rishi Sunak’s speech highlighted nuclear war and pandemics as the two major threats to humanity; and the climate crisis fell off his list – as it always does.”

By Paul Atkin, Greener Jobs Alliance

The latest scientific assessment on the pace of climate breakdown should make everyone stop, take a deep breath and ring alarm bells loudly. Keeping below 1.5C now requires us to get to net zero by 2034. That makes the present government’s slow down criminally irresponsible.

Far from rising to the level of the challenge, as Elon Musk span fantasies of a fully automated luxury capitalism at the AI convention at Bletchley Park, Rishi Sunak’s speech highlighted nuclear war and pandemics as the two major threats to humanity; and the climate crisis fell off his list – as it always does. None so blind as those that will not see.

His aim to have annual sell offs for new oil and gas fields in the North Sea, in the core of his King’s Speech, underlines the importance of maintaining Labour’s commitment to stop them, but also block any deals done in the meantime, like Rosebank. If you are in the Labour Party or affiliated union please sign up to this campaign here.

Sunak’s attempt to make a retreat on climate commitments a “wedge issue” is not primarily electoral opportunism, and it didn’t do them a lot of good in Tamworth or Mid Bedfordshire. His aim is to align the Conservatives with fossil fuel interests as they dig into sabotaging the energy transition in defence of their profits.

Commenting on the IEAs projection that fossil fuel demand will peak this decade, Mike Wirth, the Chief Executive of Chevron opined “You can build scenarios, but we live in the real world and have to allocate capital to meet real world demands”.

For Chevron and Exxon Mobil, that means snapping up smaller companies with rights over the most lucrative new oil fields, primarily in Guyana. It will also mean pulling every string, pressing every button, and greasing every palm to slow down the transition, not least at the COP next month.

What Wirth tries to skid over is that the IEAs projections are based on extrapolations of the way things are actually moving, not wishful thinking, and they have tended to underestimate the rapidity of the shift to renewables.

His braggadocio about “real world demands” is likely to turn around and bite him; as the pace of renewable installations keeps accelerating, and the bottom drops out of the market for fossil fuels. At this point they will face a cliff edge collapse, holding vast quantities of stranded assets in the same way that the similarly over confident banks were in 2008; requiring a similar level of emergency response.

This time, we will have to make sure that this is about managing their decline with a just transition for their workers, not a bail out for the chief executives and shareholders at our collective expense, as was done with the banks.

In this context, with OPEC producers able to continue production at relatively low cost, the moves from Chevron and Exxon look more like an attempt by the biggest US companies to grab the most lucrative sites in a shrinking market at the expense of their smaller rivals, like BP and Shell; whose bet on sustaining fossil fuel production, and slowing their tentative transition into renewable energy, now looks like suicidal short term thinking, for them as well as us.

With 130 companies, including IKEA, Unilever, Volvo, ebay, BT, Bayer, Godrej and Heineken writing to the COP asking for a date for full fossil fuel phase out, there is a clear split in the business class.

The fossil fuel fraction will have more traction if there is a second coming of Donald Trump at the US Presidential election next year; in which case the US will make a screaming u turn back out of the Paris Agreement and go full on rogue state.

If we get a second term Biden Presidency proceeding with its America First transition through the Inflation Reduction Act, sucking most transition capital across the Atlantic, there will be challenges for a likely incoming Labour, or Labour led, government either way.

Our letters to Rachel Reeves and Angela Rayner are an attempt to set the best conditions to make the transition to prepare the movement for the struggles ahead.

Featured image: Rishi Sunak holds a weekly cabinet meeting the week of the King’s Speech debate. Photo credit: Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

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