Blog: Climate change is real, destructive and is an absolute emergency

Green UNISON Week means seven days to champion and promote the engagement and activity that UNISON does all year round on tackling climate change

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Just acknowledging climate change isn’t enough. And we can’t wait for the Tories to find a politically convenient time to deal with it.

We must pull together and champion the urgent action needed to meet this challenge head on.

The overwhelming scale of climate-related disasters surrounds us every week, and UNISON is not shying away from facing this existential threat.

For those unfamiliar with it, Green UNISON Week means seven days to champion and promote the engagement and activity that UNISON does all year round on tackling climate change.

Because for UNISON, it couldn’t be more clear that all areas of public services are already affected directly or indirectly by climate change.

Whether it’s in the health service, managing the increased health impacts of excessive heat or pollution, or in the Environment Agency, where our members respond to floods and droughts that erupt on an increasingly frequent basis.

Our members are at the frontline of what climate change means in the UK.

We’re clear that our role as a union is to hold governments to account on securing changes and funding to meet their climate commitments, to work in partnership with like-minded organisations, the TUC and other unions to achieve our common aims, but also, on a much more fundamental level, to encourage and enable our members to get active in the local transformations and negotiations that need to happen.

By working together we can ensure a transition to a greener workplace is a ‘just transition’, where workers are all recognised as stakeholders in the blueprint for our future and have a voice in decision-making. And that should be a global ambition.

UNISON doesn’t need any persuading that climate change is real, destructive and is an absolute emergency.

But our current reckless government won’t take the difficult decisions it was elected to take – like taxing extortionate profits made by polluting industries.

Climate change policy in public services is inextricably linked to policies on public health, the cost-of-living crisis, education and skills and almost every area of public policy.

We know that there are no jobs on a dead planet, but we also know that if the transition to net zero is unjust, it is the most disadvantaged workers and their families who will suffer.

Across the globe, we risk creating sacrificial zones if we don’t work together in a global effort.

It’s not too late for individuals, communities and nations to do their bit – and to push all our governments to work together.

UNISON has some specific asks too, for a just transition commission with dedicated ministerial oversight, real power to act and with input from trade unions, climate experts and community representatives.

The role of trade unions will be to keep workers’ voices central, to secure that just transition, and to encourage all our members to campaign for and negotiate green policies in their workplaces – because every action matters.

We can’t afford to wait for a more convenient time, we must have ambitious plans to meet this crisis head on.

Click here to sign up to our Green UNISON Network and find out more about events and ideas for how you can participate in Green UNISON Week, sign up to our webinars and find guides and resources for if you’re thinking of being a green rep for your local branch.