#TUC21: Why we need to decarbonise the steel industry

Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge we face as a planet. Record temperatures and extreme weather conditions like those responsible for over 200 deaths across Europe this summer are being recorded on an increasingly frequent basis, and the window to turn back the clock is closing rapidly. 

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a damning report showing the scale of the disaster needed to avert. The report showed that Earth is expected to hit the critical threshold of 1.5°C warming due to climate change within the next twenty years. In the worst of five scenarios detailing how future global emissions may play out, the world faces a catastrophic 4.4°C average temperature rise by 2100, the IPCC concluded. 

Failing to act now is putting our planet and jobs across the country at risk.

That is why we are bringing is motion today to back the decarbonisation of the steel industry. 

There is no magic bullet solution to eradicating pollution and solving the climate crisis, but more everyone collectively doing their bit to change and improve the way we live. Our steel industry is one such example of this.   

Green steel has the potential to better the air we breathe and the planet we live on. The global steel market is currently worth an estimated $2.5 trillion and produces 9% of global emissions. Decarbonisation is coming to us all, that is simply a reality. What is up for question is how we as an industry choose to adapt to this. 

We know that our steel industry must decarbonise in a responsible way, and we recognise that the future of British steelmaking is supporting green jobs at the core of a low-carbon economy. We firmly believe that trade unions must be at the heart of the decision-making process to deliver a just transition that protects jobs and steel communities.  

We are also adamant that steelworkers must get all the support they need to adapt to new circumstances and acquire new skills where jobs change or evolve.  

Rebuilding our economy is going to require millions of tonnes of high-quality British-made steel because if we’re serious about reducing global emissions it is nonsensical to continue importing dirty steels from the other side of the world.  

Moreover, the green industries of the future, like offshore wind and electric vehicles, will all require a reliable source of domestically produced steel. Net-zero means we need to grow Britain’s steel industry, not shrink it, and in doing so create new jobs and opportunities in parts of the country that most need them.  

The choice is clear – either we make the steels here, supporting tens of thousands of good jobs, or we can offshore those jobs and rely on high-carbon imports from countries playing by different rules. Steel sections produced within the U.K. result in 50% less CO2 emitted than steel sections sourced from the EU.  

As part of our motion, we are calling for the General Council to continue to support the steel unions’ ‘Britain, we need our steel’ campaign and to lobby for a green industrial strategy based on a foundation of steel. 

In advance of COP26 in November, we are calling for Congress to lobby government to deliver the support and financial backing we need to decarbonise our steel industry and secure its long-term future  

A commitment to decarbonising the steel industry has the potential to create jobs, protect communities and save lives. We bring this motion to Congress to get the full powerful backing of our movement behind this. It is abundantly clear that for the air we breathe and the planet we live on, we cannot afford any further delay.  

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