Blog: Taking demands to world leaders at COP28

Without all governments stepping up to this existential emergency, there is no doubt, we will run out of time to protect our planet

Christina McAnea, arms folded, in front of conference stage - 'Fighting for our future'

The UN’s climate change conference, COP28, is under way in Dubai and we’ve sent UNISON’s own observer, NEC member Tony Wright, to the conference. You can read more about his role here.

Back home in the UK, we’re also preparing to take part in the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) Global Day of Action. Events are planned in Aberystwyth, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Portsmouth and Sheffield.

We no longer have to look very far to see the damage being caused every day by climate change – it’s here in the UK. And while the Westminster government is busy giving ever more tax breaks to the biggest polluting companies, and allowing them to make record-breaking profits from soaring energy bills, the global COP process is all about getting governments to stop burying their heads in the sand and to take action.

Without all governments stepping up to this existential emergency, there is no doubt, we will run out of time to protect our planet. This is a fundamental trade union issue, because the jobs, health and finances of UNISON members are all affected by climate change.

World leaders are now in Dubai to make key decisions on how countries will commit to tackling the climate emergency. But at its core, there must be a just transition. It has to promote and protect human rights and fundamental labour rights. Also, it must guarantee intergenerational and gender equity, racial justice and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, impacted communities and migrants.

As UNISON is part of the ITUC observer delegation, we have clear, joint demands of world leaders:

  • Only a just transition to a low-carbon economy can secure the future and livelihoods of workers and their communities
  • Just transition plans should be co-created with workers and their trade unions to guarantee decent work, social protection, training opportunities and job security for all workers affected by global warming and climate change policies
  • Plans must be underpinned by the fundamental Labour rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining and facilitated through social dialogue between workers and their unions, employers and governments, as established by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Trade unionists across the world are mobilising around these core principles. And while we know the COP processes won’t hold all the solutions, we must do all we can to tackle the climate catastrophe head on. We can all do our bit, too, which is why we’re encouraging all members to find an event to take part in on the Global Day of Action on 9 December.

Follow our Green UNISON campaign online and look out for our special reports back during COP over the next few weeks.