Graham: The conference aims to put the climate crisis at the centre of the debate about how to deal with the economic crisis. We need to find alternatives to the government’s austerity programme designed to deliver jobs and move us in the direction of a low carbon economy. We want to provide a forum for trade unionists, climate scientists, politicians and environmental activists. By working together in a broad alliance we can help to build a network with people looking for solutions that don’t trash the planet. I hope the conference will contribute to the efforts being made to make this a core organising issue for the trade union movement.
Graham: The UK coalition government is not delivering on its promise to be the ‘greenest government ever’. That will be no surprise to many people, but even their very limited ambitions are being sidelined. At the same time we have a worsening international picture with successive summits failing to deliver. To compound these problems we seem to have fewer people getting involved in challenging this crisis in national and international decision-making. The conference comes at a time when we need a clear assessment of these challenges and the measures needed to tackle them.
Scientists provide us with the research needed to back up our case for a million climate jobs. Scientists also need support against the ongoing attacks from the neoliberals who are pushing even harder to abandon the legal commitments that have been made. It’s important to work with the scientific community on ways to engage with the public to increase awareness. Plus some of them are union members so we have a responsibility to ensure their voice is heard.
Graham: There is more recognition that environmental action is only one part of sustainable development. The focus is increasingly around issues of social justice and well-being. When we talk of sustainable development we need to address system change. The failure to reduce carbon emissions underlines the weakness of a market-led approach. Science is not neutral. We are talking about the potential for significant planetary change and how that information is interpreted socially and politically. Scientists, like climate campaigners, will have different views about the solutions needed. We must not let these differences prevent us from developing coalitions to mobilise public support. Initiatives like the Energy Bill Revolution campaign show the potential for this.
Graham: Unions need to recognise that this is central to the fight for jobs and conditions of employment. That is easier said than done. The understandable focus on dealing with the fallout from the recession has often reduced what limited capacity was in place. We need to redouble our efforts to appoint environment/sustainability reps in the workplace.
In UCU we have had some success. In the last two years we have increased the number of reps by over 50 per cent, though this still leaves us with only around a third of branches covered. Many younger members are attracted to this work. It provides an opportunity to be pro-active rather than just being on the defensive fighting job cuts and contract changes. Unions need to ensure that any growth in low carbon employment is based on quality as well as quantity.
Graham: Outside of the workplace unions often have strong community links. These will be vital in building the coalitions of the future. In many areas trades councils have responded to the recent annual congress decision to make this a priority campaign. For example, Battersea and Wandsworth TUC has been instrumental in supporting a low carbon zone in the borough, illustrating the potential of putting community trade unionism into practice. It can open up joint work with organisations that may have had little previous contact. Local action has its limitations but it can often be a welcome relief from banging your head on the national policy wall.
Graham: The GJA starting point is that without a sustainability skills strategy any future investment will be flawed. The priority is up-skilling, or making existing jobs greener. We are coming to the end of the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development and progress has been painfully slow and, in some cases, gone into reverse. In the school sector we have Gove threatening to remove climate change from the curriculum. In further and higher education many institutions are reducing their commitments or not resourcing those that have been made. The uncertainty over government policy measures has threatened some of the growth in the green sector that has occurred. The bottom line is that the government is tied to an employer-led approach that is not delivering.
Graham: It’s difficult to see how the present government will be won over by our arguments. The most we can expect is that there will be a recognition borne out by the facts that the present policies are not working. For example, the flagship Green Deal policy is clearly not delivering even though the case for a massive energy efficiency programme is obvious. The reliance on consumer-led demand is flawed. It requires a level of state (national and local) funding that does not fit their macro-economic model. Funding through progressive taxation measures to properly finance the Green Investment Bank would be a good start.
Graham: There is real potential in moving this up the trade union and political agenda. We need to link the climate crisis to corporate responsibility failures. There is a growing awareness that corporations need to be held to account. It has to be a combination of linking the international with the local. In the education sector we have an opportunity to do that in an alliance with students. In all sectors we need an alternative vision to the austerity model. The conference is one small step on the road to achieving that.
Graham Peterson is the University and College Union’s environment and Greener Jobs Alliance co-ordinator
Click here for more information on the conference
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant