Delegates at the ITF education and organising conference in June were keen to discuss climate change and welcomed the presentations from Jonathan Neale (expert researcher for the ETF climate change project) and Manuel Cortes (TSSA assistant general secretary). 

Jonathan opened with a discussion on the impacts of climate change including abrupt climate change, feedback effects, extreme weather events, famine, climate refugees and the potential for war. In order to stop climate change he called for the replacement of all electricity from coal to renewables, refurbishment and insulatation of houses and changes to transportation, shifting people from private cars to buses and trains (with eventually all energy coming from renewable energy). This of course is of particular interest for transport workers. 

He emphasised that the technological advancements for renewable energy and efficient transportation have already been made, but that the political will is not yet there. It is now well-documented that climate change policies will make more jobs available for workers.

Why it is important that unions address climate change?

  • All action on climate change has traditionally been within the limits of the market (Kyoto Protocol) but the market will not solve the problems of climate change (Stern Report).
  • To respond to climate change there must be government investment not cuts.
  • There has been a political failure by governments at the UN talks on climate change to adopt a binding agreement for emissions reductions. To address this there needs to be a global movement built from below, for a mass campaign for climate jobs and government intervention.
  • The international labour movement is an example of how mass campaigning and collective action provides solutions. And there are no other organisations that can organise people across the world like trade unions can!  
  • Unions need to be active on climate change in the workplace, with other unions, environmental and social movements, and with political parties.
  • Unions can provide education and training for our members on climate change.
  • Unions should not just follow the climate debates, but also be fully included in the talks and lead on policies that affect workers in their workplaces.

    The TSSA have taken a practical approach to addressing climate change and with the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC) they have produce a pamphlet One Million Climate Jobs. The pamphlet provides ways for a ‘just transition’ to become a reality and for workers not to lose the conditions for which they have fought.  They argue that there is a double global crisis: economic and environmental, which needs a bold economic alternative that protects jobs and the climate.

    TSSA has developed educational events with CACC on the science of climate change and ways to build a sustainable economy. The training courses were initially only for elected reps and then they were opened up to all members and particularly young members. The union found that through work on climate change they have reached more young people, which has helped to get young members more involved and understand the role of unions in wider society.  The TSSA activists and the environment course is now a regular part of the TSSA education and organising programme.The TSSA has also set up Together for Transport to empower communities to protect public transport. The campaign brings together groups and individuals who share a vision of an integrated public transport system serving local communities in order to find local solutions to the threats posed by cuts.

    For information on the ITF’s campaign promoting public transport and the global union campaign on Quality Public Services.

    In the plenary discussion, ITF affiliates called for more research on the creation and loss of jobs in transport in relation to climate change policies, how workers will be affected by the shift to greener transport modes and renewable energy and how they can be retrained and reskilled. Although there is no agreed global definition of ‘green jobs’ they can be defined as “any jobs that reduce carbon emissions”.

    Some practical initiatives that ITF affiliates can take include:

  • Recognition for environmental reps.
  • Continue the debate and agree policy on climate change within unions.
  • Educate and train members on climate change and how workers can contribute to environmental policies and campaign to reduce emissions in transport. It may also be a way to recruit new members or increasing the involvement of current members, particularly young members and women.
  • Be open to the possibilities of collaborative working with management, environmental organisations, civil society and the general public to provide training, educational guides, publicity and seminars.
  • Develop informal electronic networks for interested members.
  • Look at government or company procurement processes and assess the supply chains to see how they could become greener.
  • Through education, unions will be able to have more influence, negotiate with different companies and have greater influence over environmental campaigns.
  • Prepare and participate in international talks on climate change like COP17 and Rio+20and the Rio+20 stakeholder forum so that workers viewpoints are included in the debate.  

    A full report of the education and organising conference will be available to download shortly.