Calls by unions for nationalisation of the shipyard are perfectly consistent with action on climate
John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy at Queens University Belfast today launched an open letter urging academics, politicians and the wider public to back the Harland & Wolff workforce campaign to safeguard jobs and skills at Belfast shipyard. The open letter seeks support not just for the retention but expansion of the shipyard in light of its vital importance for a ‘just transition’ to a future sustainable economy.
Professor Barry spoke of the reasons he has brought forward this initiative.
“As a society we have passed a ‘tipping point’ on addressing the climate and ecological crisis; politicians and decision-makers globally are ‘playing catch up’ with recent mobilisations demanding greater and faster action on our climate crisis. The most recent climate science stresses the scale and urgency of reducing greenhouse emissions. In order to meet the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to stay below two degrees warming, global emissions will have to peak less than a year from now and thereafter reduce by more than seven percent annually. If we want to meet the goal of the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is the lower and safer 1.5 degree warming target, we require ‘far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ with reductions of between 30-50 percent in global emissions by 2030 in energy, land use, transportation and agriculture. We desperately need leadership to meet this challenge.
“Here in Belfast we have an example of such leadership: the workers and trades unions at Harland and Wolff who have occupied the shipyard since it was threatened with closure earlier this month. Most of the work done at the site over the past decade has been in renewable energy, mainly offshore wind turbines and the workforce is highly skilled and specialised with a clear strategic importance for a future transition to a low carbon economy and society.
“If we are serious about creating a green and sustainable economy, we do not simply need to defend jobs at Harland and Wolff we need to expand them. We need apprenticeships and skills development with the aim of turning the shipyard into a hub for the new renewable energy industrial revolution. Decent, well-paid employment in the rapidly growing green economy sector should be something that everyone supports, regardless of political persuasion. This could be a much needed good news story for Northern Ireland, matching its skilled workforce to the challenge and opportunities within the low carbon energy transformation of our economies and societies.
“We need to move from talk to action and roll up our sleeves to support the workers at Harland and Wolff who have demonstrated leadership on this vital issue. Calls by unions for nationalisation of the shipyard are perfectly consistent with action on climate. If we need a ‘wartime mobilisation’ to deliver the urgency and scale of the energy transition for climate targets, then nationalisation is a perfectly appropriate course of action. This is a what a ‘Just Transition’ looks like, determined action by the state to ensure that in moving from fossil fuels to renewables, no community is left behind or that working families bear an unfair burden.
“The struggle at Harland and Wolff shows that while the transition to a low carbon future is inevitable, justice is not. By supporting the workers we can deliver justice for them as well as fulfilling our obligations to justice for those yet born. In this case, ‘the cause of labour is the hope of a sustainable world’”, Mr Barry said.