TUC backs climate strikes and reiterates calls for business leaders and politicians to deliver national commission for a just transition to a net zero economy
Members of trade unions across the UK are being urged to take part in workplace actions in support of today’s global climate strike, as thousands of schoolchildren, students, and employees prepare to take to the streets to call for bolder climate action.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has encouraged its members to join events around the country, and asked members to meet with employers to take forward ideas to reduce emissions and environmental impacts within their organisations.
The group is also encouraging members to organise a “solidarity photo” in their workplace and post them to social media in support of strikers around the world and lobby their MP to support calls for a National Commission on the Just Transition.
The TUC wants the government to introduce a cross-party commission that would also include business and trade union representatives. The group would then emulate the recently appointed Scottish Just Transition Commission in exploring how best to ensure the shift to a net zero economy creates new green jobs while minimising the impacts on carbon intensive industries and communities.
“Workers in the energy sector and energy-intensive industries like steel, chemicals and ceramics must have a voice at the heart of plans to decarbonise our economy,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. “We urgently need a national commission to plan the transition – and to make sure workers get a fair deal with great new green jobs.”
Business leaders and the government should back the proposal so the commission can be operational as soon as possible, she added.
The TUC stopped short of calling on workers to join the climate strikes, as proposed in a motion by the University College Union at the TUC annual congress. But it urged members to support the protests either through time agreed with their manager, or in their lunch break.
A host of businesses and organisations have agreed to join the global climate strike, or to support action by staff. Clothing firms Patagonia and Burton, sparkling water manufacturer Sodastream, and retail chain Lush are amongst the firms to announce plans to shutdown some operations in support of the strike, while several websites including social media giants Tumblr and Kickstarter are taking part in a digital strike.
Staff at the UK Green Building Council are walking out in London, along with several of the organisation’s members in the construction and property industry. The trade body is also launching an online platform to profile the headline commitments and carbon targets of built environment organisations.
Meanwhile, employees of herbal tea company Pukka Teas will join the protest in Bristol having prevously unveiled plans to become zero carbon by 2030.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also expected to attend a Youth Climate Strike in London, where he will urge them to continue their campaign for bolder climate action from politician.
“I know the situation can look bleak,” he will say. “We have a Prime Minister that has called global warming a ‘primitive fear without foundation’. The US President is a full-blown climate denier, putting our planet in danger by pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. And the Amazon is on fire, looted by big corporations with a Brazilian president watching on who doesn’t care.
“But when we see young people demanding urgent action, it’s an inspiration. When I see this movement growing – and it’s growing every day – I know we can tackle the climate emergency.”
Separately UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has urged governments to sign up for a new just transition jobs initiative to ensure that employment and wellbeing are at the centre of the move to a low-carbon economy.
The initiative, launched to coincide with next week’s Climate Action Summit, is being spearheaded by the International Labour Organization (ILO), and is supported by members of the summit’s social and political drivers action area, including the B-Team, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the International Organisation of Employers .
“Some 40 per cent of world employment relies directly on a healthy and stable environment. Business cannot succeed on a planet that fails. Jobs cannot be sustained on a dying planet,” said Guterres.
The UN wants countries to formulate national plans for a just transition, creating decent work as well as green jobs, and sets out specific measures for inclusion in these plans, which include assessing the employment, social, and economic impacts of climate action; implementing measures on skills development; designating social protection policies to protect workers and vulnerable groups; and increasing the transfer of technology and knowledge to developing countries.
Director-general at the International Labour Organisation, Guy Ryder, said: “The actors in the world of work – governments, employers and workers – have a key role to play in developing new ways of working that safeguard the environment for present and future generations, eradicate poverty and promote social justice by fostering sustainable enterprises and creating decent work for all.”
Hopes are building that next week’s UN Summit will deliver a series of significant breakthroughs, with scores of world leaders expected to announce plans to strengthen their national decarbonisation plans.
Meanwhile, CEOs from some of the world’s largest businesses will also be in New York to announce a raft of new corporate emission reduction plans, including long-awaited proposals from a group of leading oil majors.