National Union of Journalists climate fringe meeting

Fringe meeting: How to stop climate chaos Climate change, due to human activity, is creating wild weather patterns, such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts, which have devastating effects on people’s
lives. What can we, as journalists and trade unionists, do to make a difference?

3 April 2008
19.30 – 21.30
Room: Dublin 1
Europa Hotel,

Great Victoria Street

Belfast

Speakers:

* Jeremy Dear, general secretary of National Union of Journalists
* Eamonn McCann, Socialist Environmental Alliance candidate in Foyle
* John Woods, director (North of  Ireland), Friends of the Earth
* Joy Macknight, Campaign Against Climate Change TU group

Format of meeting:
Each speaker should speak for about 8 – 12 minutes, and then we will open up the floor for discussion. Speakers will have the opportunity to sum up after the discussion.

Objectives:
1. To raise the important issue of climate change.
2. To get NUJ members thinking about what they can do in the workplace to help combat climate change.
3. Also to promote other activities outside the workplace that trade unionists should get involved in.

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An Inconvenient Spoof

I’ve paved my front garden and planted three cars,
The rain cannot reach underground reservoirs

But I just don’t believe what they say are our follies,
That the poles are now melting like two big ice lollies

Great Yarmouth, it sizzles like somewhere in France,
And scorpions are spreading all over Northants

The warmest year yet since records began. It
Was the hottest one yet on our little planet

The forests are falling in the Amazon Basin,
But I just won’t acknowledge the problems we’re facing

So, I’ve bought me a Hummer and I drive it around,
I know that it’s not ecologically sound

I hog all the roads from St.Albans to Peckham,
And I boast that I’ve got one just like David Beckham.

I’ll read a newspaper that questions the proof,
That this warming is global and not just a spoof

I’ll battle my corner and hold my position
I don’t give a toss about carbon emissions

Why should I be bothered or remotely concerned?
I’m just reaping the benefits of what I have earned

Recycling is barmy, the greens are just daft,
Composting is something at which to be laughed

Wind turbines are hideous. They’re not the solution.
I prefer nuclear waste and industrial pollution

No time for soul searching, no time to reflect
It’s just all those pinko’s being politically correct

So please just ignore me when the sea starts to rise,
Don’t throw me a line when it’s up to my eyes

Inconvenient truth? Or elaborate farce?
Now, excuse me while I disappear………

by Rob Barratt 

Model Motion in support of the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC)

This model resolution can be amended for your own organisation.
This meeting notes:

1) That the level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is up one third on that of pre-industrial times: a level higher than it has been for at least 400 000 years.

2) The evidence that human activity is changing the climate is now overwhelming. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that future greenhouse gas emissions are likely to increase average global temperatures by between 2 C and 6.5 C this century.

3) That continued global warming threatens to undermine or even reverse human Progress, as flooding, drought, disease and ecological disruption increasingly affects the world’s population. The IPCC notes that the poorest countries will be by far the worst affected by climate change. Ultimately ‘run-away’ climate change threatens a global catastrophe of unimaginable scale.

4) The contradiction between the Government’s stated aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and its practice of expanding roads and airports.

5) The devastating impact a proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport would have on local communities as a consequence of increases in air and noise pollution, and on climate change as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases.

This meeting therefore demands that the UK government immediately scraps all plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport.

This meeting agrees to:

1) Affiliate to the Campaign against Climate Change (Affiliation fees: National Unions £250 per annum; Districts and Regions £100 per annum; local branches £25 per annum), and help its work with a further donation of £… (cheques payable to Campaign against Climate Change should be sent to Campaign against Climate Change , Top Floor, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX)

2) Send a delegation and banner to the National Demonstration against the third runway at Heathrow at 12 noon on Saturday 31st May 2008.

Aims and Objectives Statement of the Campaign against Climate Change

The Campaign against Climate Change exists to push for the urgent and radical action we need to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate. The destabilisation of global climate has become the very greatest threat to our planet and everyone on it – with the possible exception only of all-out war with modern weapons of mass-destruction. We do not know how much irreversible damage we have done already but we know that if we do not act now the effects will be many times more devastating still.

1/ The CCC exists to secure the action we need – at a local, national and, above all, international level – to minimise harmful climate change and the devastating impacts it will have. To that end the CCC seeks to raise awareness about the gravity and urgency of the threat from climate change and to influence those with the greatest power to take effective action to do so with the utmost speed and resolution. Where ignorance, short term greed and vested interests stand in the way of the action that is urgently needed, the CCC exists to fight against all of these things.

2/ In particular the CCC brings people together to create a mass movement to push for our goals, including street demonstrations & other approaches.

3/ The CCC seeks a global solution to a global problem
and aims to push for an international emissions reductions treaty that is both effective in preventing the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate and equitable in the means of so doing. To be effective such a treaty needs to secure such reductions in the global total of greenhouse gas emissions as are deemed by the broad consensus of qualified scientific opinion to be necessary to prevent harmful climate change. The CCC aims to campaign against those with the greatest responsibility for preventing or delaying the progress we urgently need towards an international climate treaty.

4/ The CCC recognises that the issue of the destabilisation of global climate has enormous implications in terms of social justice and global inequality. The damage to the earth’s atmosphere has so far been done mainly by the rich nations but it is the poorest who will suffer the greatest and most immediately. The CCC recognises that any solution to the problem must be as fair as possible, incorporating principles of social justice and not exacerbating global and local inequalities

5/ The CCC aims to bring together as many people as possible who support our broad aims of pushing for urgent action on climate and reducing global emissions. The CCC does not therefore campaign on the important but more detailed questions of how best to achieve these emission reductions and recognises that supporters will have different and deeply held views on these issues.

NUT fringe meeting report

The CCC fringe meeting at NUT conference on Saturday went very well indeed. Phil Thornhill, Christine Blower (deputy general secretary) and myself spoke to around 40 delegates, and there was a very positive and interesting discussion. Following that meeting, we have now received pledges from senior officials within the union for help with ensuring that climate change will feature on the main agenda of our next annual conference.

If any of you are organising fringe meetings at your own union conference, please send in a brief report of how it went, and also let me have a list of email addresses of any delegates who wish to be added to our e-list.

In Manchester, we are going to produce a local version of the Heathrow Demo leaflet (which can be downloaded from http://www.campaigncc.org ) with details of our coaches. If you are able to do this for your own area please let me know. Also, please let me know of any union contingents that you know will be attending the demo.

An issue which might well arise when you raise Heathrow expansion in your union branch is the effect on jobs. Some union leaders have argued that we need to expand Heathrow in order to compete with other European hub airports in Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, and that if we don’t build a third runway tens of thousands of jobs might be lost. My response to that would be that competition never benefits workers, and that instead of competing with our brothers and sisters in those cities, we should be fighting alongside them to resist all airport expansion, across Europe and beyond.

Our government was more than happy to nationalise Northern Rock in order to protect the interests of financiers; perhaps they should consider nationalising the airports in order to protect the livelihoods of those who work in them – by for example cutting hours of work instead of jobs; and by providing retraining and redeployment (with no loss of pay or worsening of conditions) into sustainable industries such as rail. I think this would be a better union response than just going along with the bosses’ drive for ‘competitiveness’ regardless of the environmental cost of doing so.

I am confident that we may well win the campaign to stop the third runway. If we do so it will give a huge boost to all campaigns against airport expansion, including here in Manchester, but also internationally. So please do try your very best to ensure a big union turnout on the 31st May.

Fringe meeting at NUT conference

 Download the CACCTU flyer for the NUT conference fringe meeting.

NUT CACCTU leaflet

The answer is collective action – Tony Kearns of the CWU

Tony Kearns is the Senior Deputy General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union. This is an edited version of the speech he gave to the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union conference.

 Trade unions have been involved in this issue for quite a number of years. The shop workers’ union in 1957 put a motion to the Trade Union Congress calling for boilers, furnaces and motors to be redesigned “to prevent the poisoning of the atmosphere”. In 1972 the TUC organised a conference of workers on the issue of the environment. Over thirty-five trade unions attended. In 1990 the TUC passed a motion which raised the enormous danger to the people of the world posed by the effects of global warming. Some unions are now trying to put their own house in order. The PCS recently held a staff environment open day that was attended by over two hundred members of staff. The PCS now has over eighty environmental reps. I lead an environmental project group in the Communication Workers Union which aims to make all aspects of how we run the union “greener” – for want of a better phrase. 

 Now there are two types of trade unionists on the issue of the environment but they’ll end up as one type of trade unionist. There are those who already believe and are committed to this issue and there are those who don’t believe in the effects of global warming or are pretending it isn’t happening. But they will end up believing and getting involved in this cause for one simple reason. As the climate changes and as resources dry up the nature of work and employment will change across the planet. The trade unions that are turning a blind eye now will have to get involved at some stage. As the nature of what is produced changes that is going to affect workers on a day to day basis as their jobs change or as their jobs vanish or move, around the country or to the other side of the world. Workers on the other side of the world are going to be exploited by the same capitalists who exploit workers in this part of the world. It is a trade union issue because by the nature of what workers do on a day to day basis they are the producers of carbon emissions – not by will but by default. Trade unions and the workers they represent are going to have to get a grip of this.

 There’s a well-founded criticism that the champions of capitalism’s “second eleven” throughout the industrialised world have been the trade unions because of their protectionism when it comes to the creation and protection of jobs at all costs. Sometimes that manifest itself in defending jobs that continue to destroy the environment and add to climate change. The way I see it is that the environmental movement sprung up out of the new social movements in the 1960s along with things like women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights and the anti-nuclear lobby. Funnily enough these are all the issues that trade unions are now taking up. Climate change is now the last issue for trade unions to engage with. The fact is though that the struggle for the working environment was one of the reasons that trade unions sprung up just after the Industrial Revolution. They struggled for healthy and safe conditions in the workplace. Children were getting maimed and people were being worked to death. It sounds just like what’s happening now in the developing world. For me it’s a logical extension to move from wanting to have a safer environment to work in to wanting a safer environment to live on our planet. I don’t see how anybody can argue that there’s any difference between the day to day work that trade unions do and wanting to ensure that the people we represent go to work in a safe healthy environment. So you can’t stand aside and say “we couldn’t care less about what type of environment you live in” once they’ve stepped out of the workplace.

Unions that are ignoring the issue won’t be able to do so for much longer for two reasons. Their members at some point are going to demand that they start taking climate change seriously. We did a survey of our young members and asked them “what are the issues that you are concerned about?” We expected them to say “wages, hours and bosses”. It wasn’t. Issue number one was housing because due to the ridiculous state of the housing market there’s nowhere decent to live. And issue number two for our members under thirty was the environment. It seems to us that among tomorrow’s generation of trade unionists the very narrow idea of trade unionists only being concerned with work is weakening. We can campaign on any issue we want – hours, jobs, conditions – but if we don’t have a planet we can live on we are wasting our time,

 What are the multi-billion pound companies and the governments we live under going to do when resources get scarce? The film Mad Max might look like a documentary in about fifteen years time. There are going to be wars fought over basic resources as they begin to run out. The capitalists aren’t just going to say “those environmentalists were right and we were wrong”. I understand the point about what we can do as individuals, things like switching off the stand by on our TV, not using as much water. We can all do these things as individuals but the reason governments and big business rams those suggestions down your throat is because it gets them off the hook. It stops them doing what needs to be done. While they are lecturing you about switching off lights – which is right – they present that like it is the answer. It’s not the answer. It takes up Thatcher’s theme that there is no such thing as society, there’s no such thing as collectivism, it’s all about the individual.  What matters for me as a trade unionist is collective action producing results. On this occasion what’s called for is collective action across a broad spectrum of direct action groups, political groups, campaign groups and trade unions coming together to say that “this is the planet we live on and have to make a living on. It’s worth fighting for.” My message is that climate change is a trade union issue. If we are really interested in our members we are interested in them twenty four seven and there’s no bigger issue for my members than having a planet to live on. The answer is collective action across a broad political spectrum and trade unions are already involved and we are going to get even more involved.

Unions and environmentalists demand action on global warming

Published Date: 11 February 2008
Trade unionists and green campaigners have joined forces in central London in a bid to tackle climate change.
The Campaign Against Climate Change Union Conference brought together union leaders and employees from across the UK to discuss the challenges facing workers.

Topics for discussion at the conference, held at the University of London, included carbon trading, how to make the workplace greener and alternative energy.

Tony Kearns, deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, said on Saturday: “The conference is a rallying cry for individual members to take the massive issue of climate change back to their branches across the UK.

“The trade union movement has always been a vehicle for pushing forward social change and that is what we are beginning.

“This is important to unions because if it affects the world, it affects people and workers. We need to look at different ways of living and therefore working.

“Capitalism is not suddenly going to wake up and decide we need to save the planet. We as unions need to force the change and this is just the beginning.

“The union movement will go from here and there will be more conferences when we will begin to ask questions of government and business. But today is predominantly about coming together and making a positive start.”

But Mr Kearns admitted that not all the unions are yet behind the climate change movement.

“Not all the trade unions are on board yet, of course. There are obvious issues for workers involved in industries such as nuclear power, oil and the production of cars and other vehicles. They will have to hold internal discussions about what their potential role might be.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2008, All Rights Reserved.