Arguably the most important issue at present is climate change; there are some sceptics about it and scientific truth cannot be decided by a majority vote, but an overwhelming majority of relevant scientific opinion now agrees that climate change is taking place and trace its causes to a rise in global temperatures that has taken place over about the past 200 years. This can be attributed to human industrial production and consumption, but there is no consensus over what the effects could be. Sea level rises, extreme weather fluctuations and desertification in some regions, perhaps, but exactly how much, when and where is uncertain.
Whatever the impacts, it seems certain that these will affect the working lives of Trades unionists in all occupations. Some Union are becoming aware of this and, are taking on climate change as a Trades Union issue. A recent TUC leaflet notes how front line workers in the emergency services could already be feeling the impact of climate change, but the effects will certain spread far wider that this, possibly including the destruction and relocation of entire industries and markets, and more positively, perhaps, the creation of new industrial sectors, as is already happening with renewables and recycling.
All major British political parties at least state that something ought to be done, but what role can Trades Unions play in this? A lot of work so far seems to have gone towards uncontentious issues, e.g.; having environmental reps who may engage with employers to encourage modifications to make workplaces as environmentally sound as possible. However, deeper problems remain, some unions may successfully pressure, for ‘green’ workplaces; Fords at Dagenham now reportedly adorns its roof with wind turbines, but if the product continues to do environmental damage, as mass-produced petrol driven vehicles do, what is the point?
Difficult issues such as this mean that pre-existing ‘green’ and trades Union political, economic and social agendas cannot simply be bolted together. However discussion about disagreements is the way forward to building a united response to climate change. drawn from a politics based on the interests of workers, the powerless and the poor, rather than the concerns of existing elites to perpetuate their power and privilege.
To this end, I would like to invite trade unionist, activists and branches to support the Campaign Against Climate Change Trades Union Conference that will be held at ULU Malet St, London on February 9th 2008. The Campaign Against Climate Change is an environmental pressure group, which numbers many trades unionists amongst its members and supporters. It has called the conference to address questions such as those outlined above with the support of several major trades Unions, TU branches and Green organisations. There will be workshops throughout the day and plenary sessions addressed by some prominent political and union figures, including Derek Wall and Caroline Lucas. For further details please contact. firstname.lastname@example.org.