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Environment

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

See also our list of environmental links and resources.



Diary date : Diary date clip imageUSS ethical investment seminar

7 October 2015, London. UCU conference to explore an ethical investment strategy in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

read more on the USS seminar here


Recent developments

UCU Annual Environment Report 2014-2015

'For a future that doesn't cost the earth'. The UCU Annual Environment Report 2014-15 has been produced. It outlines the work of our environment reps and the sustainable development challenges we face as a union. It will be available at UCU Congress in Glasgow and can be downloaded here:

 (.pdf) file type icon UCU Annual Environment |report 2014-2015 (.pdf) [686kb]


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'


UCU annual environment report 2012-13

Download your copy now:  (.pdf) file type icon UCU annual environment report 2012-2013 (.pdf) [947kb]


Report from the International Labour Organisation annual conference

UCU attended the International Labour Organisation annual conference. You can read Graham Petersen's report here:

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


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. 


See also our archive for more on UCU's environmental work.


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

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