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TUED Bulletin 109: A Public Energy Response to the Climate Emergency: A New Labor Forum Global Roundtable

TUED Coordinator Sean Sweeney recently contributed to a Global Roundtable on national public energy responses to the climate emergency. A summary follows, with links to the print and podcast elements of the roundtable.

The spring 2021 edition of New Labor Forum features three contributions making the case for public ownership of energy in different national contexts: South Africa, the Republic of Ireland, and Mexico.

First, Dominic Brown, based in Cape Town, South Africa, explains that renewable energy advocates and much of the country’s elite see the breakup and eventual privatization of the country’s public utility as necessary to ending the country’s dependence on coal for electricity. South African unions oppose this path and have cobbled together an alliance in defense of a reformed and “demarketized” national utility to oversee what will in any case be a very challenging transition to a low-carbon economy.

Next, Sinéad Mercier documents the achievements of the rural electrification program pursued in the 1930s by the newly independent Republic of Ireland. She notes that the privatization agenda pursued during the last two decades by the European Union has subverted the country’s public goods approach to electricity provision and has also failed to meet its climate targets.

Finally, Sean Sweeney’s contribution looks at the largely unnoticed efforts by Mexico’s left MORENA government to reverse the energy privatization process set in motion by previous administrations. While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is not a “climate champion,” Sweeney suggests his actions could set the stage for a public goods approach to decarbonization. Read the full text here, and listen to the related podcast episode here.


Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) is a global, multi-sector trade union initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and responds to the attacks on workers’ rights and protections. TUED is is part of the Global Labour Institute Network.
For more information on how your union can be part of TUED, see here.

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