‘This union is a green union’: UNISON commits to decarbonise public services

UNISON commits to introduce green reps on all branch committees in order to support bargaining and negotiation on decarbonisation

Stephen Smellie speaking at conference

Today, UNISON unanimously passed a motion on climate change at the 2022 national delegate conference.

At COP26 in November 2021, UNISON launched a ground-breaking report on climate justice: Getting to Net Zero in Public Services: The Road to Decarbonisation.

The report asserts that getting public services to net-zero will need £140 billion of government funding by 2035. Without significant and immediate government funding, public services that are still reeling from a decade of austerity will struggle to decarbonise.

The motion includes measures for all branches to elect green representatives who will support the development of a green bargaining and negotiating agenda.

Introducing the motion, UNISON NEC member Stephen Smellie (pictured) said: “This union is a green union”.

Speaking in support of the motion, Lilian Macer from UNISON Scotland said: “Public services have to deal with climate change. Its UNISON members working in water and energy that clean up the aftermath of extreme weather events. This is not something we can leave to the market because the market created this problem.”

Ms Macer also stressed that climate change needed collective action and social change, not just individual action: “We need to work with other unions, we need to work with campaigning organisations”

UNISON’s report found that the NHS is responsible for 4% of UK emissions, and public services 8%.

Another speaker added that climate measures such as insulating homes would also help tackle the cost of living crisis and urged conference delegates to support the current rail strikes: “unless we invest in good public transport, our climate commitments are doomed.”

An amendment to the motion included a commitment to encourage public bodies to support a sustainable transition away from meat and dairy farming.