Sunak's set to backtrack on climate action, but we expect better from trade union leaders

Sunak's dangerous backtracking on policies for net zero, in a craven attempt to win votes for an unpopular Tory government, is a disaster for the planet and does nothing to tackle the cost of living crisis. Every trade unionist should challenge and join campaigners in opposing this.

Sadly there is nothing new in backtracking on climate pledges from the Tory party in government. But we should expect different from trade trade union leaders.

This summer has shown the devastating impacts of climate change. Several thousand lives have been lost in Libya as a result of the most serious climate event to date, yet senior trade union figures are arguing for more fossil fuel extraction in the name of defending jobs.

Both GMB General Secretary Gary Smith and Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham want the Labour Party to reverse its decision not to grant new licences for extracting oil and gas from the North Sea.

Gary Smith claims ‘We’ve cut carbon emissions by decimating working class communities”. This is nonsense. Mining communities were destroyed for economic reasons and to break one of the best organised trade unions in Britain. It was not to reduce carbon emissions. British pits were considered uneconomic and were replaced with cheaper imported coal. The years of austerity and falling real wages account for what has happened since.

Allowing uncontrolled climate change would be the ultimate assault on working class communities in Britain and across the world. That is why we urgently need to transition away from fossil fuels in a way that protects workers rather than the profits of the fossil fuel companies. 

The science is absolutely clear. The more carbon and other greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere, the greater global warming, and the more devasting the impact on the climate and our lives.

We already know that climate events happen with little or no warning and can have a catastrophic consequences for those impacted. People can lose not just their jobs, but also their homes and even their lives. 

Far from defending jobs, demanding new licences for another 30 years of even more carbon emissions actually puts jobs at greater risk of coming to an abrupt end, either from climate events or their economic consequences.

Our Climate Jobs report, 'Building a Workforce for the Climate Emergency'  shows that to successfully transition away from fossil fuels it will be necessary to recruit, train and deploy many more workers than those currently working in fossil fuel related industries. It will take time to do this so we need to start now.

Instead of pandering to the interests of the fossil fuel industry and its Government supporters, the trade union movement must use its full weight to demand that employers and Government urgently create and invest in the climate jobs and the just transition that we need to secure the future of us all.

If you want to campaign for urgent climate action within the trade union movement as well as jobs, then join us.

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April 21-24: Unite to Survive

We're supporting the Extinction Rebellion call-out for the 'BIG ONE' mobilisation, involving more than 200 groups and organisations gathering around Parliament 21-24 April

It's clear that the multiple crises we face are interlinked: irreversible climate breakdown, spiralling cost of living and poverty, and attacks on fundamental rights to protest and strike. So let's make sure this message is heard with plenty of trade union banners and placards on the action!

Friday 21 April

'People's pickets' outside government departments, with many different groups coming together to organise these. CACCTU will be at the "Department for Energy Security and Net Zero" (DESNZ), along with other groups including Fuel Poverty Action, Stop Rosebank, Just Stop Oil and Biofuelwatch and more. 

Activists will be there from 7am to allow engagement with workers as they arrive. The 'pickets' will continue throughout the day until 6pm, though key times are likely to be12 noon to 2pm when workers are coming and going, and activists coming for the day are most likely to be around.. At 3pm there will also be an 'opening ceremony' in Parliament Square.

PCS Union are supporting the action but will not be asking members to come out during core hours, only at lunchtime. Note that "People's Pickets" are to be inclusive and accessible, and won't block access to the buildings.

Some trade unionists will be planning to attend other picket sites with their local groups or specific campaigns. There is a map showing the locations of the different government departments.

Saturday 22 April

The trade union hub will be opposite the south end of the Houses of Parliament, just past 'Old Palace Yard' where the health, education and science hubs are based. CACCTU will be there along with XR TU and other trade union climate groups. We'll have speakers and discussion from 11-1pm, about how trade unions and climate activists can and must work together, the solutions we need, and those we don't.  Please come and join us if you can!

11am - Welcome! Trade unions and climate activism

Daniel Randall, RMT and XRTU

11.10 - The changes we need

Climate jobs - Suzanne Jeffery, CACCTU; Avoiding greenwash - Ellen Robottom, CACCTU; Offshore workers’ demands for a just energy transition  - Rosemary Harris, Platform; Cumbria coal mine and green jobs - Hazel Graham; plus open discussion

11.40 - Climate/green networks in trade unions

NEU Climate Change Network - Paul Atkin; Equity For a Green New Deal; Unite Grassroot Climate Justice Caucus - Clara Paillard; plus open discussion and networking

12.10 - Democracy - workers and climate

Workers Assemblies - Finlay Asher, Safe Landing; Green reps (tbc)

12.25 - Organising locally (speakers and open mic)

Carol Mills, Eastbourne Trades Council, plus other speakers

From 1pm CACCTU will be joining other trade union climate activists for a Trade Union bloc on the march for biodiversity – please bring your TU flags and banners.  

Unite Grassroots Climate Justice Caucus call for motion submission

Call to action for Unite members: the deadline for branches to submit motions to be debated at the July policy conference is 31st January.

The recently formed Unite Grassroots Climate Justice Caucus is seeking to get the same motion submitted by as many branches as possible. These were chosen with the aims of keeping the motions simple and focusing on the top priorities that emerged during Caucus meetings. Caucus members are asked to choose one of these two motions. 

Each Unite branch can submit one motion only (unfortunately Unite Community branches cannot submit motions, though in some cases they may have influence with their local geographical or sector-based branches). Your Branch Secretary should have circulated the information including Conference forms for motions. If not, you still have time to contact them and ask for a Branch meeting to take place before the conference deadline in January, to select a motion. Branch members would have to have enough notice to consider the motion (and any other motions on the table) before agreeing what to submit to conference.

No new fossil fuels motion: Currently Unite's policy is to support continued fossil fuel extraction and is using Carbon Capture and Storage as the justification for doing so. This motion aims to push for the end of support for new extraction but does not mention existing production at this stage because the motion would be lost given the number of workers Unite represents in fossil fuel industries. But, if won, this would be a start. Motion text

Workers Assemblies in key sectors motion: Not many of the Caucus members work in industries such as fossil fuels, chemicals, automotive or aviation. However, if you do, you may want to push for this motion to be sent to conference as it argues for Workers Assemblies to take place in all sectors to move forward the Climate Justice & Just Transition agenda. Motion text

Unite members can join the Climate Justice Caucus here.

You can also get in touch to inform the caucus about motions being submitted via CACCTU on


Unite Grassroots Climate Justice Caucus is an unofficial group of members of Unite the Union who want to link up and organise at grassroot level to improve how Unite approaches Climate Justice.