According to government figures 2.67 million people are currently unemployed in Britain and this figure understates the real number. In addition, 22.2% of 16-24 year olds are unemployed. The trade union movement has to offer a solution to worklessness and despair. At the same time we recognise the need to put forward a positive programme to address rising CO2 emissions and the catastrophic climate change they will produce.
The Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group published the pamphlet ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ which explained in detail how decently paid, skilled, unionised work is the means of tackling these two problems.
The Campaign Against Climate Change then organised the tour of 25 towns and cities, ‘The Climate Jobs Caravan’, in Scotland, England and Wales to publicise these ideas from 12-25 May.
The Climate Caravan ended with two parallel meetings in Manchester and London.
Green MEP Jean Lambert opened up the 50 strong London rally by speaking of the need to make Green Jobs attractive. There was a big skills gap – even Germany did not have enough technical engineers – and the gender gap in recruitment to these jobs needs to be tackled.
Following her, Murad Qureshi, Chair of the Greater London Environment Committee, thought the Million Climate Jobs ideas was the ‘Plan B’ alternative to austerity. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee had been highly critical both of government policy and the Treasury.
Tony Kearns (Senior Deputy General Secretary, CWU), argued that trades unions must have a wider perspective than narrow sectional ones. We needed a ‘Just Transition’ to a new economy with workers re-trained for new jobs. Five million new houses will be required by 2020 and we need local integrated public transport.
Izzie from UK Young Peoples Climate Coalition reported on young people seeing the word ‘Jobs’ on the caravan had rushed forward desperate for work. This happened many times and became upsetting. Young people also came up with many innovative solutions to the issue of climate jobs. Roger Cox championed the idea of a government controlled National Climate Service.
Professor Barbara Harris – White shone a light on the shadowy world of energy subsidies. The current arrangements lock us into fossil fuels who receive far more support than renewables. Graham Petersen of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) argued that the government strategy on training, based on it being employer or consumer led had demonstrably failed. We needed to train up more construction workers but the lecturers who could do it were being sacked. An alternative approach was in the Green Skills Manifesto.
The chair, John Stewart, read out a message of support from Chris Baugh, PCS Deputy General Secretary, saying with 2.63 million unemployed and the peril of climate change the Million Climate Jobs demand was a logical response. It could be paid for by the £126 billion in uncollected tax.
At this point statements by many of those who visited the climate caravan saying why they wanted climate jobs were distributed.
Suzanne Jeffrey (Chair, CaCC TU group), spoke of the genesis of the Million Climate Jobs campaign and the success of the Climate Caravan tour. In every town or city visited, meetings and events had brought networks together. These now needed to develop and build. As the government went on a dash for gas we had to present alternative jobs for renewable to those, say, for fracking. We had to make the demand for One Million Jobs a key theme weaving through the TUC national demonstration on 20 October.
The meeting ended with a vibrant rap from Pete the climate poet.
(The Climate Caravan also visited the TUC Grass Roots Conference on Saturday 26 May at Congress House.)
Camden UNISON donated £100.00 to the Climate Caravan.