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Climate emergency

1 July 2008

Find out about UCU's initiative on responding to the climate emergency and how you can become involved.

Sign up for a UCU CPD course on climate & sustainability

Click for information about UCU green reps training

Contact us at

See also our list of environmental links and resources.

Join the discussion: join our green reps email list today

Open to all members with an interest in environmental issues in their workplace and beyond.

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The future we choose 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.

Climate protests 1 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.

Since 2022 we also have a dedicated Climate and ecological emergency committee. This committee is elected to advise UCU's national executive committee which has representatives from both further and higher education.

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:

You can read our latest blog on most recent work that UCU has undertaken.

    Climate ideas 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. Alternatively you can email Paul Bridge for more information.

    'How to become a UCU green rep' video training

    UCU have now embedded a series of exciting and challenging environment focused courses aimed at both members and reps across both our professional development and activist programmes.

    We are hoping that activists and reps regardless of their position in a branch will take part in our Bargaining for a Green New Deal course, click here for further information.

    In line with congress resolutions, we hope that this approach will help branches negotiate agreements that are both kinder on the planet and good for members.

    As part of the above changes and listening to reps who said they struggled with accessing time off for our introductory green rep course. We have recorded a session especially for new green reps. We hope that this will be more accessible and allow new green reps along with others in the branch to concentrate their facility time on the GND bargaining course mentioned above.

    This short hour-long recording covers the following:

    • who can be a green rep
    • why green reps are important
    • the role and functions of a green rep
    • the position of a green rep in their local branch
    • the types of activities a green rep might be involved it
    • the types question a green rep might ask when first taking on the role.

    We hope you will find the video content useful.

    For more information on becoming a green rep, see our green rep role profile [202kb].

    We will be adding further introductory courses over the coming months.

    Please direct any feedback to We take feedback seriously and are always happy to enter into discussion.

    Broken bottle pile (full)

    Last updated: 15 February 2024