RSS Feed
image depicting person smiling
Website URL : http://www.ucu.org.uk/3386
image depicting Health, safety & environment


Find out about UCU's initiative on climate change and how you can become involved.

Recent developments

Greener Jobs Alliance: Ten Steps Toward Sustainability Skills

'A new UN agreement on climate change needs to be underpinned by an education strategy for a low carbon transition.'

 (.pdf) file type icon Greener Jobs Alliance ten steps toward sustainability skills (.pdf) [206kb]

The UCU Environment Rep Handbook 

'Staff Organising for Sustainability' has been launched at the 2014 UCU Congress. It is essential reading for all branch members interested in strengthening the union role in our institutions and communities.

 (.pdf) file type icon UCU Environment Rep Handbook Staff Organising for Sustainability (.pdf) [1.6Mb]

Education Unions Mobilising on Climate Change

'Human-induced climate change has serious environmental, economic and social consequences for all countries and all peoples and represents one of the most serious global challenges facing governments and society in the 21st century.' (EI World Congress Resolution 2.5.1)...

To learn more, read the full article here at Unite4Education.

UCU calls for an investment strategy that prevents runaway climate change

The fossil fuel industry is driving us towards a global climate crisis: we will not keep dangerous climate change at bay without halting our extraction of fossil-fuels. Too many UK universities support the fossil fuel industry directly through their research, their £6bn endowments and investments and their partnerships with some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world like BP and Shell. As for pension funds both these companies are also in the top ten investments of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The 'Fossil Free' and 'Green Light' campaigns launched last week and UCU attended both events.

Fossil Free - UCU and the TUC held a meeting with Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org to discuss the role of trade unions in the broad alliance being established to take this message into the education sector and wider community.


ShareAction The Green Light Report: resilient portfolios in an uncertain world is he first salvo in a campaign of a coalition of groups brought together by ShareAction, including Unison, Unite and the University and College Union. Its purpose is to highlight the need for the pension industry to take a central role in funding the measures necessary to mitigate climate change.

Click here for further information on 'the carbon bubble' and 'unburnable assets'

Sustainable development in higher education: Consultation on a framework for HEFCE

Download your copy now:  (.doc) file type icon Hefce consultation form (.doc) [82kb]

Annual Environment Report 2012-13

Download your copy now:  (.pdf) file type icon Annual Environment Report 2012-2013 (.pdf) [947kb]

Report from the International Labour Organisation annual conference

The University and College Union attended the International Labour Organisation annual conference. You can read Graham Petersen's report here:

 (.doc) file type icon ILO Report (.doc) [49kb]

NUS & HEFCE Environment Projects

Those branches who have a UCU environment rep or are interested in running environment campaigns should consider a link up with their student union or officer. The NUS has just received £5 million from HEFCE to run projects in institutions over a 2 year period. NUS see UCU as important partners to secure staff engagement and wider community links. We urge branches to make contact with their student body to identify potential projects. FE students can also apply to this fund if the college runs HE courses and is in receipt of HEFCE funding. Expressions of interest have to be with the NUS by June 5th.

Details of the fund can be found on the NUS website.

Greener Jobs Alliance Video

UCU has just released a new video produced by the Greener Jobs Alliance which you may find useful as an example of the types of projects we are hoping to encourage. It is based on work done with South Thames College. The video 'Better Choices for a Better Future' is 4 minutes long and examines, through the experience of 4 students, how sustainability can be linked to employability.

Sustainable Development Bill Consulation Response

The Welsh Government has brought forward proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill. If the proposals are adopted they would provide a framework that could point the way for other parts of the UK. They would make sustainable development a 'core organising' principle for public sector organisations. UCU has also called for recognition of the role of trade union environment reps as one of the mechanisms for ensuring that the principle is put into practice. The UCU response to the consultation can be found on this link:

 (.pdf) file type icon UCU Consultation Response (.pdf) [108kb]

Confronting the Climate Crisis

A conference bringing together climate scientists, trade unionists & environmental activists. 11am - 5pm, London Metropolitan University. Download the flyers below for full information.

 (.jpg) file type icon Climate Crisis (.jpg) [122kb]  (.jpg) file type icon Climate change 2 (.jpg) [158kb]

Fuel Poverty Video

Energy Bill Revolution have launched a short video that highlights the problems of the 1.6m UK children living in fuel poverty.

You can sign a petition here to make the government use the money it gets from our carbon taxes to make our homes super-energy efficient - driving down our energy bills forever. http://ow.ly/i3Gmc

UCU launches Greener Skills Manifesto

The University and College Union (UCU) has launched the Green Skills Manifesto in conjunction with the Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA).

The manifesto, which will be unveiled at the South West TUC Green Skills conference, calls on the government to urgently invest in training and jobs for the UK's low carbon industries.

The manifesto calls for:

  • A minister with responsibility for green skills to directly co-ordinate a training strategy that involves colleges and universities
  • Increasing apprenticeships that are geared towards delivering a low carbon economy
  • The expansion of science, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses at public universities
  • The comprehensive greening of the curriculum in schools, colleges, and universities

Research published in 2009 by the Aldersgate Group warned that the UK had a green skills gap which was slowing its transition to a low-carbon economy.

Graham Petersen, GJA Co-ordinator, said: "Investing in green skills and jobs is key to solving the current economic and climate crises. This manifesto is an important starting point for the UK to achieve its stated aim of the transition to a low-carbon economy."

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "With unemployment at a record high there is huge potential for growth in our low carbon industries which can generate thousands of new jobs and opportunities for young people. With other countries investing in their low carbon industries we cannot afford to be left behind.

"Our college and universities are uniquely placed to provide people with the (delete) green skills training but they must be given the necessary funding to do so." 

Report from the climate talks in Durban

Graham Petersen, UCU Environment Co-ordinator, has completed a report on his recent trip to Durban. You can download the report here:

 (.pdf) file type icon Durban Report (.pdf) [71kb]

TUC Green Reps Survey 2012

We need your help. The UCU has been one of the most active unions on environmental issues in the last few years. We train more Environment Reps than any other union. We have the largest number of reps of any other union. The last time that the Labour Research Department conducted a Green Reps survey on behalf of the TUC we had the 2nd highest response rate.

Please circulate this survey to any rep or branch officer who can provide an update on the state of play in your institution. The information will be invaluable for providing an overview of current performance in this crucial area of working life. The information will be collated and form part of an LRD pamphlet scheduled for May, 2012. This pamphlet will be an important resource for UCU branches.

The survey will take approx 10 minutes to fill in. Don't worry if you don't have all the information to make a judgement on each question. Fill in what you can and send it off asap. Help us to make sure that this year UCU are the No. 1 respondents to reflect the priority that the union is now giving to sustainable development issues. Thanks a lot for any help you can provide and good luck with your efforts to improve environmental performance in the FHE sector. Here is the link:


UCU at the climate talks in Durban

Graham Petersen, the UCU Environment Co-ordinator, has been attending COP17, held in 2011, as a delegate with the International Trade Union Confederation. You can read his diary from his trip below.

Wednesday 30 November

 The reports in the UK media about the prospects for the Kyoto Protocol are echoed here. The UCU supports the 3 key demands of the ITUC for a new climate deal:

1. Mitigation and the legal outcome

  • Developed countries must commit to an emission reduction target of at least 25% to 40% by 2020.
  • A 'high ambition' Kyoto Protocol 2 to avoid a gap in emission reduction commitments and preserve the legally binding KP. It should be renewed from 2012, with the highest emission target already pledged or more.

2. Climate Finance

  • Durban should deliver a road map ensuring the $100 billion agreed in Cancun will be directed through the Green Climate Fund, detailing the public sources, and incorporating innovative sources of finance such as the Financial Transactions Tax.

3. The International Labour Organisation and a Just Transition

  • A Just Transition to create green and decent jobs, and a framework for national dialogue between unions, governments, business and communities in every country.
  • Incorporate labour and social protection issues in workstreams under the Long-term Co-operative Action (LCA) - like social protection in the work of the Adaptation Committee and skills development in the work of the Technology Centres.
  • Mandate the ILO to work on the implementation of Just Transition and decent work.

Maximum pressure needs to be exerted on all governments to ensure that polluters are not put ahead of people. The voice of developing countries needs to be heard above those of the multinationals and those governments pressing for watered down pledge and review agreements. The Africa Group in the opening address made it clear that it 'would like to declare clear and loud that it will not let African soil be a graveyard for the Kyoto Protocol."

UCU will be working with the Congress of South African Trades Unions (COSATU) and ITUC to support the World Of Work Pavilion at KwaZulu Natal University. In particular we will be:

  • Participating in  the Global day of Action demonstration in Durban on Dec. 3rd 
  • Speaking at the 1 million climate jobs conference on Dec. 4th
  • Presenting a Workshop on 'From Greening the Workplace to Community Alliances' on Dec. 6th.

Finally congratulations on what looks like a magnificent response to the attacks on our pensions. The economic and the environmental crises need a united and co-ordinated response.

Friday 1 December

Hello again from not so sunny Durban. In fact there have been serious floods in the area killing 14 people. This underlines the fact that some of the worst examples of climate change are more pronounced in Africa than many other parts of the world. Please read The Guardian article by John Vidal.

The COP17 conference continues to be a contrast between the diplomatic niceties in the Conference sessions and the inspiring contact with the trades unions and the civil society organisations outside the main venue. The diplomatic process is of course disguising what many see as an attempt to stall the process of a 2nd commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.

The indifference to principles of justice, including climate justice, is reflected in the first major decision to come out of the talks - where to hold the next one!! The fact that Qatar has been chosen underlines the some of the problems with the whole UN process. Qatar has an appalling record on human rights and the ITUC has called for a review of this decision.

UCU will be participating in the Global day of Action on Saturday when we will be marching with our comrades from trades unions in South Africa and around the world. This will be followed by the Climate Jobs Conference on Sunday where we will be presenting a plenary on Ensuring a Just Transition to a low carbon economy. Reports on these next week.

UCU is working closely with the TUC on the delegation. .

hHere's the link to Philip Pearson's blog with further updates

Wednesday 8 December

My involvement at the COP17 Conference comes to an end today. Compared to previous COPs there has been little international publicity and this year very little engagement by Heads of State. There is currently no sign of an agreement that will represent a way forward on climate change. The term Conference of Polluters is increasingly being used to reflect the efforts to sabotage any agreement on the Kyoto Protocol 2, a Roadmap and the Finance arrangements. The unions 'prize' of the adoption of a 'Just transition', from the Cancun summit in 2010, looks increasingly vulnerable. There are the obvious villains like the USA and Saudi Arabia but the truth is that there is no leadership being shown by anyone in this process.

Our UK trade union delegation had meetings with the UK and European Union representatives and came away with the view that no one is prepared to break the deadlock. Let's hope I'm proved wrong when we get the final texts at the end of the week.

Meanwhile outside the conference UCU has had a far more productive time working with other trades unions and the social movements.
Saturday, Dec. 3rd - There was a 10,000 strong demonstration calling for climate justice
Sunday, Dec 4th - UCU chaired one of the workshops at the 1 million climate jobs conference attended by 500 people.
Tuesday, Dec. 7th - We organised a workshop on 'Greening the workplace: Community Alliances' with the TUC to promote our work.
The ITUC workshops at the World of Work pavilion that have been taking place everyday from Nov. 29th- Dec. 7th have been a great opportunity to share ideas with other trades unions from around the world.

The contacts made will be used to support our work in the UK and international arena. We have a strong Climate Change policy adopted at our last Education International World Congress and we need in the face of this Durban disaster to ramp up the campaign in our sector.

I will produce a full report for our next UCU Environment News in January.

The challenge of climate change

Human induced climate change is potentially disastrous and has thrust the environment and energy use to the forefront of educational, professional and trade union attention. Universities and colleges are amongst institutions being challenged to reduce their 'carbon footprint'. The TUC (Trades Union Congress) is urging unions to increase attention to environmental, especially climate related matters - and to engage with employers to develop low-carbon strategies and a 'just transition' to a low carbon economy and society.

There is now a scientific consensus that unless carbon-based energy use is radically reduced, the world faces a crisis in which the poorest will suffer the most, but all of us will be affected. The dangers of inaction are extremely serious:

  • Many locations may become uninhabitable
  • Food shortages may threaten survival for many people
  • Mass migration is likely
  • Many species face extinction

The Stern Review made clear that the sooner we act, the less likely or intense will be the climate change and the impact on our environment.

What is UCU doing?

UCU's founding Congress in 2007 committed UCU to play its part in 'greening the campus' and 'greening the curriculum' and to assist campaigns for sustainable national policies and local practices.

With 120,000 members in further and higher education, UCU is uniquely equipped to make a significant contribution to the battle against climate change. We have union reps in every FE and HE workplace and many members with specialist knowledge. UCU is:

  • Encouraging health and safety reps and others to train as 'environment reps' - to negotiate locally for greener workplace practices and better incorporation of sustainability into the curriculum.
  • Intending to press employers in every college and university to develop local carbon reduction strategies in conjunction with staff unions and student representatives.
  • Liaising with other trade unions and the TUC to press for greener government policies

Climate change is 'arguably the single greatest challenge facing humankind... For the TUC climate change has become a key issue' (TUC deputy general secretary, Frances O' Grady)

How to play your part

Workplace environmental reps

Who can be an environmental rep?
Any UCU member who is enthusiastic enough! You may be a UCU health and safety rep, a branch officer or departmental rep, or simply a UCU member keen to promote a green agenda in your workplace.

What can a union environmental rep do?
Environmental reps can work in a similar way to other union reps by raising awareness of green issues in the workplace and making sure they are included in the negotiating/bargaining agenda. A main concern would be to agree a joint approach to 'greening the workplace', ideally formalised in a collective agreement and overseen by an employer/union committee that addresses environmental issues.

I'm interested in being an environmental rep, what do I do now?
You can contact your branch or local association secretary/president. If you are not sure how to make contact you can use our local contacts finder to contact your branch/LA. Alternatively you can email web@ucu.org.uk for more information.

TUC Green Workplaces Network : TUC Green Workplaces NetworkTUC UGR handbook
The TUC have published an excellent handbook for union green rep (UGRs or environment reps) with advice on organising and action, background information on the issues and a resource section. Printed copies of Go Green at Work are being circulated to every UCU branch. Others can be obtained by emailing web@ucu.org.uk.

See Go Green at Work

UCU member services: Log in here to update your record online
About the fighting fund
See also


For more information about anything on this page, please email the web editor
Link to go to top of page