Climate change has become the greatest threat to our planet and everyone on it. The devastating human and economic impacts of climate change are being felt already, from the flooded towns and villages across the UK in recent years, to the brutal Typhoon Haiyan that smashed its way across the the Philippines in 2014. We know that if we don’t act now, the effects will be even more devastating. People are increasingly aware of this and can see that things are going badly wrong. But often we are at a loss as to know what we can do and how to get involved in tackling this most pressing issue of our times.
In this module we will look at some of the ways we can get involved in national campaigns about climate change and raising it as an issue in our communities and places of work and study.
Getting involved in Campaigning
If the UK government is to deliver the Paris Agreement it signed up to and a zero-carbon Britain by 2050, then it will need to develop the policies to do that. For example, it would mean a serious re-think on major high carbon projects like the government’s massive road-building programme or airport expansion. It would certainly mean no to fracking for shale gas. For workers in the North Sea oil and gas industry, the government needs to seriously consider economic diversification to provide alternative highly skilled jobs for the future. These are huge challenges. It means government must provide a space where representatives of businesses, unions, and wider civil society can come together with government at a national level.
At the moment there is no sign of any of this happening. With the government tied to the same economic and political framework that has led to austerity and cuts to the public sector and funding for infrastructure, then it’s hard to imagine the change required happening. We can’t afford to just wait for governments and policy makers to come up with solutions. In fact they are far more likely to respond if there is pressure from people and communities taking action. An example of this is the successful campaign in Scotland that led to the Scottish Government announcing a halt to shale gas and coalbed methane exploration.
One organisation trying to bring together as many people as possible to campaign for urgent action on climate change and reducing emissions is the Campaign against Climate Change (CACC). It has a broad membership and aims to involve as many people as possible. It operates at a local level, nationally and internationally to raise awareness of environmental issues and to take action by organising local protests, national demonstrations, and highly visible public events.
In 2015 they organised the Time to Act demonstration. In London it was attended by 20,000 people. Here’s a short video of the event.
Time to Act demo 2015
There are numerous other movements around the world taking action and campaigning about climate change. If you would like to get involved in campaigning there are a number of groups in the UK. Here is a list of some of the main ones along with their website addresses where you can find out what they are about and the campaigns and actions they are involved in. Usually you can sign up for free email updates. Details of local groups linked to the organisations can be found in the right-hand column of the following table.
|Organisations/Campaigns||Information on local groups|
|Campaign against Climate Change |
aims to involve as many people as possible in pushing for urgent action on climate change and reducing global emissions
|Friends of the Earth|
an international network that campaigns for solutions to a range of environmental problems and climate justice
|A network of more than 200 local groups.
an international organisation working globally on climate change, protecting forests, defending oceans, and working for peace
|Local groups all over the UK
|People and Planet|
the student network campaigning about climate change, the environment, poverty and human rights
|67 local groups based in colleges and universities around the UK
A grassroots direct action campaign aimed at stopping the extraction of shale gas in the UK
|Local groups all over the UK and Ireland
|The Climate Coalition|
Brings together organisations to take action on climate change and limiting its impact on the world’s poorest communities.
|Over 100 organisations, from environment and development charities to unions, faith, community and women's groups
One Million Climate Jobs
In the previous module, we heard trade unionists and climate activists at the Paris Summit talk of the importance of working together and with other social movements to tackle the climate crisis.
The One Million Climate Jobs campaign has been set up by trade unionists working within the CACC. This campaign calls on the government to create one million climate jobs to solve both the economic and the environmental crises. It now has the backing of five national unions, including the largest, UNITE, the National Union of Students(NUS) and climate activists and experts.
Here is a section from their report outlining their key demands:
‘We need workers to build enough wind power, solar power, wave power and tidal power to meet all our energy needs. We need workers to insulate and retrofit all our existing homes and buildings in order to conserve energy. And we need workers to run a massive public transport system powered by renewable electricity.
We have people who need jobs, and jobs that must be done. So we want the government to hire a million people to do new climate jobs now in an integrated National Climate Service.
Our estimate is that those workers could cut our CO2 emissions by 86% in twenty years. We can also create another half a million jobs in the supply line. And we can guarantee a new job to anyone who loses their job because of these changes.’
One Million Climate Jobs 3rd report:
As well as producing the One Million Climate Jobs pamphlet and petition, the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union group (CACCTU) has also organised national conferences bringing together trade unionists, environmental campaigners, activists and academics to discuss the way in which trade unions can be part of the campaign to tackle climate change.
Getting involved in the workplace
Raising complicated issues like climate change where you work can be daunting but here is a list of suggestions, some of which you might want to consider.
If you are a member of a union, you could:
- Check out your union’s website. Is there an environment page? Has your union got a policy on green reps?
- If your branch doesn’t have a green rep, consider becoming one. Many unions will offer support and provide training.
- Speak to fellow workers about saving energy by turning off unnecessary equipment and lights.
- Look at how waste is managed in the organisation. Could more be done to cut down on unnecessary waste?
- Find out what your fellow workers’ opinions and concerns are about environmental issues in the workplace.
- Speak to your green rep or learning rep about organising a climate change awareness-raising event or use an existing event to promote the One Million Climate Jobs campaign by booking a speaker or selling the pamphlets.
- Ask your union to affiliate to the Campaign against Climate Change
Unions are in a unique position to lead on environmental and energy efficiency in the workplace and encourage changes in behaviour. Employers should be aware of this and see that improving their environmental performance is an investment for the future.
If there is no union at your workplace, you can still raise environmental issues, whether it’s around energy-saving, cutting down on waste, recycling, transport, safe and healthy working environments. If there are other workers sharing your concerns, you could form an environment group to raise awareness and act together. Suggest an environmental audit of the workplace. The TUC has a checklist of questions that are useful in assessing how green your workplace is: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/extras/gogreenatwork.pdf
More efficient use of resources and developing in a more sustainable way is beneficial for an organisation’s future and so employers should support staff initiatives.
For more ideas on how to get involved in environmental issues at work, look at the following website: www.tuc.org.uk/green_workplaces_network
Getting involved outside the workplace
Your place of work is part of a wider community. Your employer may even have policies that support community engagement. Check whether:
- there are any current links with campaigns and community groups
- there are any local issues / campaigns that you can link to your workplace. For example air quality, transport policies, renewable energy and energy efficiency
- your pension fund has investments in fossil fuels. Web sites like ShareAction https://shareaction.org/ and Fossil Free http://gofossilfree.org/uk/ can help you with this
- your union branch is affiliated to the local trades union council
Climate change is a growing concern for all of us. We don’t need to be scientists to talk with others about climate change. It’s much more important to talk about our own experiences and concerns. Sometimes it’s easy to wonder, when a problem is so huge, whether individuals can make any difference at all. But the small changes we make and the actions we take as consumers and citizens, using the power we have, do matter. It matters how we live our lives.
The need to live in harmony with the natural world which gives us everything, even a sense of beauty, is the subject of the following 5 minute film. It features Jeremy Irons and Maxine Peake and is written by Michael Morpurgo. It touchingly reminds us of the wonders of Earth and all that we stand to lose if we don’t halt climate change and take care of our world.
Show the Love film ‘I wish for you’
This is the end of the Climate Change Awareness course. We would appreciate your feedback.