The role of education institutions in tackling climate change
UCU/NUS Conference, 13 May 2016, Manchester
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Find out about UCU's initiative on climate change and how you can become involved.
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.
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)
- Use the resources and links in this section.
- Sign up to UCU's environment network to receive regular emailed environmental newsletter. Share ideas and knowledge. To sign up send an email to Graham Petersen
- Become a workplace environment rep and negotiate for a greener college or university
- Adopt lifestyle changes which reduce your carbon footprint
- Join the Campaign against Climate Change
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 Graham Petersen for more information.
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 Graham Petersen.
See Go Green at Work