Graham Petersen, GJA Secretary
07879 492339 gjacoms@gmail.com
environment, employment & skills

Climate Change Awareness
An introductory course for trade unionists

How this course works

The Introduction briefly outlines why the climate crisis is a vital issue for trade union members and their unions. 

The course that follows is made up of 4 Modules, with a Quiz to test your knowledge at the end of each section!

Module 1: Climate Change Explained: The evidence 
Module 2: International Responses: How the United Nations, governments and trade unions are working for an international agreement to tackle the climate crisis.
Module 3: Trade Union Responses: demands for a fair and just transition. 
Module 4: Getting Involved: What you can do at work, in your union and in your community.

Introduction

Climate Emergency! The world is overheating 

The world is overheating. The ‘normal’ seasons over the past thousands of years are changing. The evidence is everywhere across the planet. On Thursday 25 July 2019, Britain experienced its hottest ever July day, at 38.1 degrees Centigrade.. In February 2019, firefighters tackled a “ferocious” moorland blaze in West Yorkshire after the warmest winter day on record. February 2014 brought our worst ever floods, with damage estimated at over £1 billion. 

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, according to the United Nations, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers.

Overheating of the planet is caused by ‘greenhouse gases’ trapped in the atmosphere, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane from burning fossil fuels – oil, coal, gas, petrol and diesel. At the rate we are polluting the atmosphere, there are only a dozen years left for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C. And beyond 1.5C, even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Climate breakdown is a trade union issue

A shift to a green economy brings not just opportunities but also risks to jobs and communities, in unionised industries like car manufacture, power and steel. It also means our public services must adapt – from firefighting, education and healthcare to local and central government. That’s why the TUC and unions are campaigning for a ‘Just Transition’ to greener, fairer economy. Many unions are acting to green their workplaces and join wider environment campaigns. 

The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said ‘urgent and unprecedented changes’ are needed to reach the target. The report was commissioned after the UN’s Paris Agreement in December 2015, where nations pledged to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.

Solutions – A Just Transition and a Green New Deal

Change must come to the very heart of our free market system that has allowed the climate crisis to unravel. In response to the growing climate crisis, the government is committed to reducing the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so. But critics say these are empty words without the necessary policies and commitment.  Radical new policies are required – such as a Just Transition, where unions can play a part, and Green New Deal to build the sustainable and fair society of tomorrow.

Change cannot wait. On Friday 15 March 2019, more than one million students skipped school in worldwide protests against government inaction on climate change. They were inspired by the young Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg. The UK’s Student Climate Network says, ‘Previous generations and those in positions of power have failed to protect us, they’ve failed to ensure we’ve got a future to look forward to. Not only this, those elected to lead and govern have betrayed countless people across the world already suffering the devastating impacts of climate change.’

Fighting the climate emergency and inequality

We must confront the climate emergency and inequality. As global overheating continues, the gap between rich and poor has never been wider. The richer you are the more you can consume. The poorest half of the world’s population are responsible for just 10% of daily carbon emissions. Yet developing nations are on the climate frontline, including many in sub-Saharan Africa, facing the greatest of extreme weather, and in Bangladesh, or the small island states, facing relentless sea rise. Yet they contribute the least per person to greenhouse gas emissions. The dual crisis of climate change and rising inequality are deeply interconnected.

No jobs on a dead planet

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) calls for unions to ‘demand of their governments and employers the dialogue that will see a national plan for decarbonisation, clean energy and jobs – a plan that includes commitments to ensure a just transition for all. Climate justice requires us to leave no-one behind in what is now a race against time.’ As Sharon Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, ‘There are no jobs on a dead planet¹’.

Module 1: Climate Change Explained


¹ITUC: https://www.ituc-csi.org/climate-justice-and-industrial