Climate Change

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2009 National Delegate Conference
29 May 2009

Conference notes that in the period since National Delegate Conference 2008 there have been significant developments in relation to climate change policy that will have far reaching consequences for the way in which we live our lives, the world of work and the public services. These include:

1)The passing into law of new climate change acts covering the entire UK, which for the first time create a legally binding target for an 80 per cent reduction in C02 emissions by 2050;

2)The first report of the new Committee on Climate Change, which notes that the UK will need to decarbonise its power generation capacity by 2030, if it is to reach emissions targets necessary for us to play our part in avoiding the most devastating consequences of climate change;

3)The further development of the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which will place a requirement on large public sector organisations across the UK to take part in a carbon trading scheme;

4)The prioritisation of climate change related National Indicators by over 80 per cent of local authorities;

5)The publication of the new NHS Carbon Reduction Strategy, that aims to make sustainability a key goal of our health service;

6)International developments, including the agreement reached by the European Union on ambitious targets for energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions, and the ongoing negotiations around a successor to the Kyoto protocol, due to be concluded in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Conference also notes that despite these developments there are still major decisions to be taken about how the shift to a low carbon economy is to be achieved and paid for. One increasingly significant proposition is that the measures needed to tackle climate change will be intimately linked to our response to the current economic crisis. This approach can be seen in the actions of governments in the UK and the US, who are developing policies aimed at putting in place a Green New Deal, that creates green collar jobs to counter unemployment and helps tackle climate change.

Whilst we should be proud of our union’s work on climate change, not least our contribution to the campaign to ensure that the climate change act has teeth, we must recognise that the context for our involvement has changed. We believe much still requires to be done if we are to address the immediate challenges facing us and we recognise we require firm and positive partnerships with employers and government agencies if progress is to be made.

With this in mind, it is important that UNISON now raises its game even further. To such ends Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to undertake the following actions:

1)Undertake a thorough review of the extent to which new measures outlined above will impact on different sectors in which we organise;

2)Carry out research onto the scope for organising green collar jobs in the public services, utilities, transport and the community and voluntary sector;

3) Establish a dialogue with employers at a national, regional and local level with a view to seeking support and facilities time for trade union environmental representatives, initiating joint environmental committees and negotiating joint climate change action plans/green workplace action plans for each employer, department and major workplace;

4)Seeking to create the role of environmental representative who will co-ordinate union input into these action plans; accountable to the appropriate local union structures, e.g. Stewards Committees. This role can be taken by existing stewards or Health and Safety representatives but preferably, where there are joint plans or negotiations with employers to create them, they may be stand alone posts;

5)Arrange appropriate training for UNISON representatives to be able to carry these initiatives forward and roll out training opportunities for activists, members and potential members in those areas where climate change related measures are being introduced in the workplace, such as local government and the health service;

6)Consider the option of a future rule change giving formal status to the role of environmental representatives within UNISON structures;

7)Continue to engage in policy debates and campaigns around fair and effective ways of reducing emissions and making the transition to a low carbon economy.

As well as agreement on targets for emissions reductions UNISON should campaign for:

a) All government agencies to produce realistic conversion plans for the achievement of these targets within their own economies and to immediately change current policies which are inconsistent, e.g. on aviation expansion, road building;

b) The placing of a duty on all publicly-funded bodies and major private employers to consider climate change in all decisions and report on progress annually, this in association with negotiated green workplace agreements;

c) A binding international treaty which requires developed countries to meet stringent emission reductions targets, a financial mechanism to support developing countries in: implementation of their plans and programmes for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, and which subordinates other international bodies like the World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund to the objective of an environmentally sustainable and just development of the world