“It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing, and be of itself pleasant to do; and which should be done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome or over-anxious. Turn that claim about as I may...I cannot find that it is an exorbitant claim; yet...if society would or could admit it, the face of the world would be changed.”
A green/ecosocialist industrial strategy has to have aims and objectives quite different from the crude imperative to capital accumulation that is currently the sole driver of economic activity in our society. It must recognise not only the inherent instability, injustice and unsustainability of the capitalist mode of production, but the limits to our ecosystem; that the biosphere on which we depend is finite, closed and constrained by the laws of thermodynamics.
We therefore should have five key aims in developing our industrial strategy:
- The assurance of meaningful employment and a life of dignity and modest comfort for all.
- The development of a low carbon society, with a sustainable low carbon industrial base.
- Freedom from a reliance on endless growth in the production of commodities.
- Industrial production based on social needs rather than the maximisation of profit.
- Democratic control in and of the workplace.
10 key objectives can be identified to begin to implement those aims:
- To reduce greenhouse gasses (CO₂, methane and nitrous oxide) emissions by at least 80% within twenty years.
- To increase electricity production by at least 80% within twenty years.
- To retrofit thermal efficiency equipment and materials in all existing homes, public buildings and commercial premises within twenty years.
- To replace or totally refurbish 20% of existing homes and 50% of public and commercial buildings within twenty years.
- To increase the use of public transport by 250% within ten years.
- To reduce real unemployment levels to a maximum of 2.5% within four years.
- To create at least one million new jobs directly concerned with infrastructural reconstruction over four years.
- To abolish income differentials between men and women within enterprises within five years.
- To reduce income differentials within enterprises to a maximum of 10:1 within five years and then progressively to a maximum of 5:1 within a further ten years.
- To ensure that tertiary education and training/retraining is freely available to all within five years.
Priority industrial sectors
The massive infrastructural investment and reconstruction programme called for in the Green New Deal and One Million Climate Jobs pamphlets will require us to prioritise the rapid development of three key sectors; energy generation and transmission, transport and construction. This is for three reasons:
First, because electricity generation and transmission, the heating and cooling of buildings and transport between them account for 83% of the 673 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses (CO₂e)emitted in Britain annually. If we are to reduce emissions as Rapidly and drastically as we need to then these sectors are clearly of the highest priority.
Second, because these three sectors provide the fundamental underpinnings of all other productive sectors and the essential foundations for the overall infrastructural and social renewal that is vital to our society.
Third, because a major programme of public investment and employment in these sectors will not only lead to major regeneration in other key industrial sectors but also, if properly funded, lead to rapid growth in R&D in socially useful technology.
Around 400 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity is currently generated in Britain every year, and its production annually generates around 420 million tonnes of CO₂e.
Even though the huge energy conservation programme proposed by the authors of both the Green New Deal and One Million Climate Jobs is (along with a radical overhaul of transport) the quickest and most effective way to
drastically reduce demand for energy, over the next few years we will have to actually increase the amount of electricity generated in order to provide a substitute for the coal, oil and natural gas currently used in space and water heating and for the kerosene, diesel and petrol used for transport. We will also face additional demand for electricity as we modernise and decarbonise a range of critical industrial processes, such as iron and steel production.
Because we must achieve this while simultaneously reducing the level of CO₂e emissions across the board without the use of current nuclear technology we will have to hugely expand our electricity generation capacity using zero carbon technologies based on wind, sun and water. We have to develop an integrated approach, one which the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) calls ‘powering down’ (reducing energy wastage) and ‘powering-up’ (deploying renewable energies). It will also be necessary to completely rejig how we distribute electricity. There is an urgent need to renew and extend the carrying capacity of the National Grid, both to take advantage of the development of very large offshore wind farms by developing a completely new high voltage direct current (DC) network to complement our present AC system and to adapt the National Grid to deal with distributed energy sources, such as CHP and microgeneration technologies.
It is estimated that it is possible to reduce our energy demands by over 55% through the energy efficiency retrofitting of homes, offices and industrial premises, and by improving transport systems through changes in technology and
use. However, even after such a large decrease, electricity demand will still roughly double compared to current the level because of the need for partial electrification in the transport and heat sectors. If this to is to be carbon neutral the need for the dramatic expansion of electricity generation from renewable sources is even more urgent. CAT
proposes a mix of zero carbon generation technologies which will be able to produce 842 TWh, which the authors of One Million Climate Jobs estimate will create 425,000 jobs.
However, there are a number of problems to be resolved before this generation capacity is put in place and those jobs created. The most important of these are the lack of production capacity, the shortage of skilled workers and the lack of any strategic programme of research and development.
Engineering and manufacturing industries are going to be at the core of delivering the equipment, technology and transport needed to fulfil the programme outlined above. However, over the last 30 years, the British economy has been increasingly dominated by the finance and service sectors, at the expense of manufacturing. Today manufacturing accounts for only about 12% of GDP.
Given that the conditions in the seas around Britain are among the best in the the world for the production of wind and wave generated electricity, it is absurd to the point of criminality that there is very little wind or wave turbine manufacturing capability located in Britain. But even though the manufacturing and engineering sector (particularly at
its ‘heavy’ end) has been significantly eroded and starved of resources for R&D for much apart from military related production, it has the potential to develop the production capacity and skilled workforce that will be needed - even with its much reduced capacity the UK manufacturing sector is still the world’s sixth largest by output and directly employs over three million people - if there is the political will and sufficient funding.
For example, the reinvention of the steel industry will need to be at the heart of a sustainable and socially useful engineering and manufacturing sector. While the steel making process currently generates vast amounts of CO₂, research is currently taking place with the aim of more than halving the CO₂ generated. To rapidly scale up this work to an industrial scale will require major R&D resources and process re-engineering on a vast scale, and if we are to develop a sustainable industrial base similar R&D and reinvestment programmes are likely to be needed in many other areas of manufacturing, such as glass and chemical engineering. Investment on such a level will require direct public funding and such funding will require levels of democratic public accountability that can only be guaranteed by public ownership.
The development of such a manufacturing base, along with that required to design and build a whole new electricity distribution system, would, as well as giving us a sustainable zero carbon electricity supply, at a very conservative estimate generate at least 450,000 permanent new jobs in manufacturing and civil and electrical engineering.
Transport accounts for 24% of domestic CO₂e emissions and while, since 1990, emissions from other sectors have gone down (by modest amounts) those from transport have gone up by11%.
There are three ways in which the issue of lowering these emissions can be addressed; first, through better land use planning and redesigning the urban environment, so that less transportation is needed. Second, by a progressive move from oil to (renewably generated) electricity as the major transport fuel. Third, a major shift in the balance between transport modes from cars to public transport. All three have major implications for our industrial strategy.
Road transport generates around 90 per cent of all domestic transport emissions, with car travel accounting for just over half and heavy goods vehicle and light van traffic accounting for just under a third. While cars, vans and taxis account for over six times as many passenger miles as public transport (buses, coaches, rail and light rail) they generate thirteen times the emissions. It is therefore clearly essential to undertake a massive development of public transport capacity and quality in order to enable a rapid shift from cars to buses, trams and trains.
Around 450,000 people are currently employed directly or indirectly by the ‘sustainable transport sector’ (public transport plus bicycles). This figure could be increased to around 800,000 if the modal shift recommended by CAT
were adopted. This would see the share of train travel double, from 7% of miles travelled to 14%, coaches increase their share from under 1% to 10%, local buses and trams increase from just below 4% to 5%, while cars, vans and taxis would decline from 80% to 54% (with most vehicles being fully or partly, directly or indirectly, electrically powered). It could see transport CO₂ emissions reduce from the current level of 174 million tonnes p.a. to around 35 million tonnes.
In order to meet the needs of a socially and environmentally sustainable public transport system that meets the needs and aspirations of most ordinary people, it will be necessary to completely reorient and rejig the existing motor vehicle industry. There will be two main drivers to this process; first, the need to move from petrol and diesel powered technologies to emerging electricity based ones and second, the need to run down car and van production and expand
bus, coach and light and heavy rail vehicle production. Such a radical shift in resources and direction is inconceivable without direct public intervention, both in terms of investment and direction - in other words, public ownership.
In addition, it is inconceivable that the current shambolic and fragmented provision of public transport could be reorganised and dramatically expanded on the basis of the current pattern of ownership. There is complete consensus on the left that the railway system must be brought back into full public ownership, but public ownership of bus
and coach services, whether on a municipal, regional or national basis - or, most probably, a combination of the three - is also vital. A publicly owned and democratically controlled public transport system would not only be able to integrate its various transport modes into a seamless service but would be able to experiment with new and potentially
more environmentally benign transport solutions.
The design, construction, maintenance, refurbishment and management of our built environment is central to the
achievement of a low carbon society. 27% of UK emissions arise from energy use in the home, while the heating, cooling and powering of non- domestic buildings accounts for an additional 17%.
A nation-wide, street by street programme to retrofit all existing homes is needed, not just to minimise energy use by draught proofing and insulating, but also, wherever possible, to install high renewable energy sources, such as solar thermal heating, ground source heat pumps, micro CHP and(perhaps) photovoltaic generators. It has been estimated that such a programme (accompanied by a switchover to renewably generated electricity for heating) would reduce greenhouse emissions generated by heating homes from 80 to 24 million tonnes, an overall cut of 70%, while creating at least 200,000 jobs.
There are a total of 22.5 million houses and flats in England and Wales, 21.6 million of which are occupied. If houses last for an average of one hundred years, that means that it will be necessary to replace or radically refurbish 225,000 homes a year, just to maintain the current housing stock.
However, not all houses are where they are currently needed, demographic changes are increasingly requiring changes in the housing type mix and over the course of the national refit programme some existing housing will prove to have such low potential to meet increasingly demanding building regulations, that in practice the number of
houses requiring replacement or radically refurbishment will be more like 300,000 a year.
In addition, there are almost two million households on council housing waiting lists. In order to clear those waiting
lists over a twenty year period, an additional 100,000 homes a year will need to be built, giving a total new build/total refurbishment target of 400,00 homes a year. In addition, it is likely that due to the needs of rising standards and changing use patterns, 50% of non domestic buildings will need to be replaced or totally refurbished over twenty
In order to undertake the huge building, rebuilding and refurbishment programme that is required it will be necessary for the industry to be able to offer proper training and jobs that offer security and a worthwhile career path. It will be necessary to disseminate and put into practice on a national scale those examples of good practice and innovative
technology that can be found, both in Britain and (more frequently) elsewhere in Europe and further afield. And it will be necessary the develop, fund and implement a plan of action both nationally and locally that is democratically
accountable to the people whose daily lives will be effected by it.
None of that will be possible in the industry as it currently exists. It will be necessary to radically reorganise it and introduce a large measure of social enterprise in a range of forms, from the revival of local authority and housing association DLOs to the establishment of community based environmental refurbishment co-operatives and the development of publicly owned regional and national specialist civil engineering and non domestic construction
Research and Development
The lack of properly funded long term industrial R&D in Britain is an ongoing scandal. At the moment, there are seven academic scientific Research Councils in Britain, which between them spend around £3billion annually. However, unlike many other countries we have no proper Industrial Research Council.
A new body, a Low Carbon Technology Research Council, needs to be established. It would need to be funded at the same sort of level as that of the EPSCR and the other big research councils - at least £450m to £500m a year.
Employment, training and redeployment
The programme of infrastructural investment outlined above would lead to a rapid expansion in key industrial sectors and a huge increase in available jobs - indeed, is likely to lead to local labour shortages and more generalised skill shortages in some sectors. At the same time, there would clearly have to be a run-down in other areas, leading to job losses and a consequent need to provide opportunities for redeployment or alternative employment.
It is clear that any plans for major industrial restructuring would have to deal with the real and legitimate concerns of those workers whose current livelihoods might be adversely affected by them. Therefore, an iron clad commitment to guaranteed alternative employment, retraining and rehousing if necessary for all affected workers with no loss of
wages is essential.
In order to meet the twin challenges of skills shortages within rapidly growing industrial sectors and the urgent need to retrain workers redeployed from declining sectors, it will be necessary to completely overhaul the provision and
organisation of industrial training and education. We have to break down the division between ‘brain work’ and ‘hand work, and part of how we do that is to break down the division between ‘vocational’ and ‘non vocational‘ education.
One contribution to doing that would be to guarantee free access to appropriate tertiary level education and training for all. Another would be the establishment of a mandatory training levy on all employers to fund a reinvigorated apprenticeship/traineeship system in all sectors.
There is no doubt that rebuilding our society will be very expensive. The energy conservation and renewable energy development plan outlined in The Green New Deal has been costed at between £50billion and £70 billion a year
and the additional programme proposed above would add between £40 billion and £60 billion a year to that, so we are talking about finding something like £110 billion, or around 5.5% of GDP.
If National Insurance payments were channelled into a similar national pension and investment fund similar to Norway’s Oljefondet in Britain, the fund would, over a period of time, provide both the necessary financial underpinning for a new universal Citizens’ Pension incorporating existing state and private occupational pension schemes, and the funding for a direct public investment programme.
Through this vehicle we could invest in both necessary public works and in an industrial programme, building the new, low carbon manufacturing base that is the vital prerequisite for a socially just and sustainable economy. If a National Pension and Investment Fund was to invest solely in the development and acquisition of industrial enterprises in Britain it would generate the bulk of funding for the desperately needed extensions of public, co-operative and community enterprise that have to be the basis of our green industrial revolution.
The massive infrastructural and social investment programme sketched out above will require a whole new way of planning what we do and how we do it, at national, regional, local and individual enterprise level. We will need to
replace the current failed market mechanisms with a democratic economic planning system that has at its heart a recognition that it is ultimately accountable, not to banks or speculative financial institutions, nor bureaucratic state institutions no matter how benevolent their intentions, but the people whose homes and jobs are involved at a
local level and the local institutions that can be made to be democratically accountable to them.
These new planning processes would have to be democratic to a degree not seen before, and input into them would
have to be shared at all levels, so that workers’ representatives from individual enterprises or representatives of specific localities or communities would have as much say as Ministers or their ‘experts’.
Democracy in the workplace
Two principles that lie at the heart of ecosocialist politics are a commitment to genuine grass roots democracy in all areas of our lives and a commitment to subsidiarity - to decision making at the most local possible level. If these principles are to have any real meaning then they have to be applied to the workplace - whether that workplace
is in the public or private sector.
The process of developing mechanisms for implementing these principles will take some years and will necessarily require much trial and error, but initially at least would involve two key initiatives. First, greatly extending and entrenching the rights of workers to join and be represented by unions of their choice and the legal recognition that the interests and aspirations of an enterprise’s work force (and of wider society) carry more weight than those of senior executives and institutional share holders. Second, a huge increase in the the co-operative sector by the strategic use of the National Pension and Investment Fund to transfer ownership and control of enterprises to their workforces.
From Nov/Dec 2011 edition of the Watermelon.