Mobilise to save the planet

UNISON is urging members to take part in the global day of action on the climate crisis on 12 November

The United Nation’s COP27 climate conference opens at the end of this week in Egypt, in the shadow of the UN’s own prediction that only the “rapid transformation of societies” will avert climate disaster.

A new UN report shows that countries are far short of meeting their Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to below 2°, and preferably 1.5° by 2030.

Since COP26, hosted in Glasgow last year, very limited progress has been made in reducing emissions. In fact, policies currently in place, with no additional action, are projected to result in global warming of 2.8° over the twenty-first century.

Inger Anderson, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said: “We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster.”

The 27th climate conference will be held from 6 to 18 November, with over 198 countries attending. Trade unions will take part as observers and use their collective voice to influence decisions, put forward demands for a just transition to a low-carbon economy and hold governments to account.

Global day of action

UNISON is urging members to join the global day of action on 12 November – midway through the conference – when marches, rallies and local activities across the UK will give them the opportunity to show their solidarity and demand urgent climate action from government.

Stephen Smellie, the UNISON national executive council member who attended COP26 last year, will again be part of the ITUC delegation in Egypt.

He said: “We must not lose sight of the fact that the climate crisis is the most important issue facing working people throughout the world. The current energy crisis is a manifestation of that wider and deeper crisis.

“Governments must take action to implement the policies now that will give us a fighting chance of avoiding the chaos that the climate crisis is increasingly causing. The only way to get them to do that is to put as much pressure on our own governments. The global mobilisations on 12 November are a part of that.”

One person who has been prevaricating about attending COP27 is UK prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Michelle Singleton, UNISON’s policy officer with responsibility for climate change, commented: “Unbelievably, having hosted last year’s summit, our government seems to have forgotten it has a huge role to play in ensuring global commitments are met.

“But time is running out. Now is the time to remind them of what’s at stake and the strength of feeling across the globe.”

She added: “We know our members are massively overloaded right now, struggling with both the demands of their work and the cost of living. But we also know that the climate emergency, the global cost of living crisis and the human rights abuses facing activists in Egypt are inextricably linked by political choices to put profits ahead of people.

“Report after report highlights the dangers that climate change poses for health, for life, and for societal infrastructure, without proper planning and measures to avert it.”

Get involved

When UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea closed this year’s Green UNISON week on 1 October, she reaffirmed the union’s commitment to a green agenda, with just transition at its heart.

“The devastating impacts of the climate emergency are being felt across every part of the globe, but they fall heaviest on the disadvantaged,” she said.

“We are determined to be part of the necessary change – trade unions have a vital role to ensure urgent policies and measures deliver a fair transition to a greener planet.”

The COP27 Coalition (led by Egyptian, African and Arab civil society groups), the Climate Justice Coalition (CJC) and other climate justice organisations have come together to mobilise the global day of action on 12 November.

The global day of action will involve more than 20 demonstrations in towns and cities across the UK, including London, Edinburgh, Swansea and Belfast. Tony Wright, chair of UNISON’s national policy and campaigns committee, will be speaking at the Sheffield rally.

UNISON is asking branches to encourage their members to attend their nearest demonstration, by emailing them and sharing CJC promotional materials on social media.

Equally, green reps and other interested members can speak with their branches, about how to best organise a UNISON presence on the day.