8 September 2021

COP26: Building for climate action in your branch

PCS Green rep Charlotte Smith explains what her branch has been doing to build towards a global day of action, on 6 November, during the UN climate change talks in Glasgow.

As world leaders and experts prepare to gather in Glasgow for the UN’s COP26 talks on climate change this November, people from all walks of life are planning a global day of action on 6 November to call for climate justice.

Manchester-based PCS green rep Charlotte Smith, from DfE branch, has been working to build knowledge among her branch colleagues around climate issues and create a group of like-minded people to get involved and take action – in November and beyond.

Having only joined the department a year ago, when working from home was already the norm, Charlotte has never met her colleagues in person. In the absence of the “kitchen conversations” that can help with finding out what people’s passions and views are, she decided to organise a series of one-hour online lunchtime sessions on various environmental issues.

Interested in finding out more? See below for more details on COP26, the coalition mobilising citizens around climate justice issues, and ideas on what you can do to get involved as a PCS activist.

“Climate change is my absolute number one priority. Within that there are all sorts of different strands. For example, one important element is anti-racism and refugees. Climate change is creating refugees, and it’s affecting the global south harder, although the north is now getting more extreme weather events too.

“However, these topics can be quite daunting as a conversation starter, especially when you are at home and not having those ‘kitchen conversations’. So I set up some meetings, using speakers, with content that people could start to learn from. On the face of it they were not necessarily about trade unions and activism but more generally about what is going on in the world.”

Charlotte organised three meetings: the first on why we need to be concerned about the climate; a second on biodiversity loss, with a speaker from the RSPB who had coordinated their report, the State of Nature; and a third one with a speaker from the Woodland Trust, which has a report called the State of the UK’s Woods and Trees.

“The response and feedback we have had has just been brilliant, people have been very enthusiastic about learning what is happening in the world around them. They are keen to understand and learn more. All the speakers were really clear and engaging,” she says.

After the sessions she emailed the attendees and is using that to build a group of people who are interested in the issues, and from there will find out who wants to take part in activities around COP26.

To build for the event, she will organise a fourth session at the end of September on what COP26 is and why unions are protesting.

“I will be protesting in Manchester on 6 November. Why?

“We’ve got to do something urgently about climate change and the degradation of our environment. It is relevant to me as a human being. It’s true that as union members, the way we organise our working lives can have an impact on the environment – eg office and energy use, commuting. We need to look at that, but starting from that point could seem a bit technical. Union members don’t only think about things that impact them at work. The people coming to our meetings show there is an audience out there who care about the wider issues.

“What unions can bring to this is collective organisation and collective action. It’s important for unions to get involved in the debate about what a just transition [to a low-carbon economy] looks like. That absolutely has to involve workers.

“My advice for other reps is to engage with the people around you. Being at home needn’t stop you from doing that. Finding like-minded people to develop a collective idea is the key, and out of that you can develop what you can do in your workplace.

“Even without a speaker you could be having a discussion in every branch like the one I’m planning on COP26. The chances are that in your area there is someone who knows a lot about it.”


  • What is COP26? The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (or COP26) is being hosted by the UK. It will be held in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. Its aim is to “accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” but campaigners say not enough is being done to bring about the systemic changes needed for genuinely equitable and effective solutions.
  • PCS is a member of the COP26 Coalition, a civil society coalition of groups and individuals mobilising around climate justice during COP26. Protests are being organised at locations across the UK on 6 Nov – find your local hub. During the event the coalition will host a parallel hybrid online/in-person ‘People’s Summit’ from 7–10 November. Please ensure you take into consideration covid safety if attending any of the protests.


In your branch/group/workplace, you can:

  • Put COP26 on the agenda for your next branch meeting.
  • Share information and encourage colleagues to join demonstrations, such as the day of action on 6 November – find your local hub.
  • Discuss ways to support climate strike events – PCS is backing one planned for 24 Sept. See BB/91/21 for a full briefing.
  • Appoint a green rep.
  • Find out what is happening in your area to agree urgent measures with the employer to reduce workplace carbon emissions.
  • Run stalls or events to raise awareness of climate change and why it’s a trade union issue.
  • Sign up to the PCS Green e-news – contact green@pcs.org.uk
  • Follow PCS on Facebook PCS4ClimateJustice and Twitter @ClimatePcs
  • PCS: Green workplaces