Get ready to green our public services

UNISON won’t shy away from the existential fight to save our planet, says Tim Roberts

UNISON is no stranger to campaigning on big issues.

We’ve spearheaded campaigns to bring in the minimum wage, ensure equal pay, safeguard the future of the NHS, defend our public services, fight racism, promote LGBT+ rights and so much more.

And next week we again turn our attention to perhaps the biggest issue of all: the existential threat posed by climate change.

There’s no equality, no minimum wage, no public services, no jobs — no people, no anything — on a dead planet.

That’s why it’s so important we fully commit ourselves to tackling the climate crisis during Green UNISON week, which starts tomorrow.

In the run-up to November’s Cop26 climate talks, we’ll be asking employers up and down the country what they’re doing to green public services.

Because reusing our shopping bags taking shorter showers won’t save the planet — the 100 top-polluting companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s carbon emissions.

These private-sector giants might be the biggest climate crisis villains, but our public services aren’t free from blame: the NHS in England is estimated to be behind around 7% of UK emissions. The health service is already committed to cutting down its emissions but as trade unionists, as public service workers, and as people living on the planet, we must do more.

If you care about climate change, it’s up to you to make Green UNISON week a success.

Has your branch got an environmental officer? It’s a relatively new role in UNISON to push our green and environmental agenda, leading discussions and negotiations on employer environmental policies and practices. They could even be linking up with local environmental campaigns such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth.

If your branch has an environmental officer, get in touch with them and ask what you can do to support their work. If there’s no-one doing it now, why not step up to the role yourself? UNISON is led by its members, so if you want to see your union campaigning effectively on climate change that means doing it yourself.

And why not plan a Green UNISON event? This could be a film showing or a lunchtime stall. You could even invite local school climate strikers or environmental campaigners to talk to members about the importance of Cop26 and climate change.

The crisis facing our planet is urgent but UNISON never shirks from a challenge. Please do everything you can to make our public services lead the fight for an environmentally sustainable future.

Green UNISON Week