25 May 2022

Unions crucial to development of climate movement

The trade union movement is crucial to the development of a climate movement, PCS conference heard in a debate on the impact and aftermath of COP26.

Motion A41, moved by Mairtin from DWP Glasgow branch on Wednesday (25) afternoon, criticised the government for greenwashing by promoting market mechanisms as the central plank to solve the climate emergency through emissions trading or carbon offsetting or some other accountancy trick. But leaving solutions to the market will not work.

Mairtin said we will take no lectures from the government on environmental issues: “We’ve been taking notice of environmental issues and talking about diversification for decades. We represent the poorest and most marginalised in society who will be most affected by the environmental disaster.

“We live in the ravages of the environmental crisis and we are the ones who will rebuild our communities.”

That COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference which took place in Glasgow last year, marked a new level of mass campaigning over the environmental crisis. There was praise for the COP26 Coalition, a coalition of groups and individuals mobilising around climate justice during COP26, for becoming a “dynamic movement involving environmental campaigns, religious organisations, trade unions and the left.”

The motion, which was carried unanimously, said that there are confusions and disagreements that need to be engaged with, such as the belief that moving away from a carbon-based economy will lead to job losses.

Angus from DWP Cambridgeshire who seconded the motion, said COP26 was a ‘cop-out 26’.

“PCS has led the way promoting the green agenda, this needs to continue and we also need to provide more support for our environmental reps,” he said.

The motion said that climate action must take account of the inequality of carbon emissions with the biggest emitters compensating the lowest emitters for climate change, recognised by COP18 in Doha, 2012 as the ‘climate debt’.

Jackie Green, supporting the motion on behalf of the NEC, highlighted how our union is developing a network of green reps nationally.

“As we look to move into a different phase after COP26, we look to mobilise around key events, including the TUC demo on 18 June,” she said.

The motion called on the NEC to:

  • Commit to engage fully with any new coalition that emerges out of the COP26 coalition.
  • Develop a network of green reps and equip them with the knowledge they need through dedicated training that happens on a regular basis.
  • Aim to build regional networks of reps based across different civil service departments.
  • Work in the wider trade union movement to engage other trade unions on this issue and develop cross-union networks.
  • Use those networks and work with the successor to the COP26 coalition to organise a trade union conference around the demand for a Just Transition to a more sustainable economy.