Acting for our planet #StandingTogether22

As delivered to Community’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Belfast on May 31st 2022.

Conference, Angela Carrigan, sharing the NEC’s support for Composite motion J on climate future.

Conference, the time to save our climate – and our planet – is running out. Every day of inaction is a tragic opportunity missed.

The United Nations recently released a damning report showing the scale of the disaster we need to avert. It warned that a failure to act now may result in a catastrophic 4.4°C average temperature rise, putting our planet, countless lives and jobs across the country at risk.

We need a plan, and we need one now.

In supporting this motion, we are calling for Community to lobby our government for a just transition. A just transition, simply put, is when high polluting or energy consuming industries adapt to be better for the planet, whilst maintaining jobs and supporting workers to retrain where needs be. It ensures that worker voices are at the heart of industrial change.

We will also work with international partners to develop just transition best practice globally.

As a country, we have an incredibly poor track record in this area. Our communities have already experienced first-hand the effects of ‘Unjust Transition’.  As we stand today in the shadow of Harland & Wolff’s infamous ‘Samson and Goliath’ we reflect on the losses within our industrial heritage.  Our once great Industrial Nation is only a shadow of its former self.  We’ve seen a succession of governments content to see the demise of our ship building, car production and the majority of our Steel Industry over the years. Most recently we saw what happened to steelworkers in Redcar – a harrowing example of what happens when industrial change is not managed properly. Thousands of jobs gone, entire communities without work, knock-on effects felt for generations.

As we transition to a net-zero green economy, government must engage and consult with workers. It must provide a comprehensive training programme to upskill and retrain all workers whose industries, like the steel industry, may be affected by climate change.

Our steel industry is the prime example of one that can lead us to a clean carbon future. Currently making up 9% of global emissions, the steel industry stands ready to transition to net-zero by 2050.

Decarbonisation is a pivotal moment for in the Steel Industry, they are ready to support the green renewable projects that still require steel, be that onshore/offshore Wind Turbines, wave generators right down to your reusable steel water bottles.  The world’s priorities may be changing but fundamentally Steel is still at the heart of the new ‘Green’ Infrastructure. But this requires government support, it requires a joined up green economic plan. It makes no sense to be continually importing products from overseas, merely shifting the emissions elsewhere. They may be out of sight for us, but they won’t be for the planet.

The British steel industry stands ready to support our green goals, and for a just transition to be ready for net zero.

As a union, Community must also use our relationships, and strong voice across workplaces to create positive change for our climate.

By supporting this motion, we will provide support, training, and guidance to members to ensure that they have the skills needed to adapt to the green jobs of the future.

We will aspire to elect an environmental rep into the branch structure for all branches. These green reps, a pioneering development for a trade union, will be putting the voices of U.K. workers at the forefront as we transition to a sustainable future.

This can be in simple minor changes to green sourcing of workplace materials and recycling to larger transformations such as employee commuting and clean energy sourcing.

We will also work with organisations that recognise Community in their workplace to find opportunities to collaborate in lobbying for a just transition to net-zero in time to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate emergency.

Conference, our union needs to be on the side of our planet. We won’t get a second earth; we need to stand up to defend the one we have. Thank you.

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