Andy Parsons, PCS rep at the Natural Environment Research Council reports on the ‘Green Camp’ at Tolpuddle, in which union activists discussed a trade union response to Climate Change.
For the second year running, the TUC ran a Green Camp on the three days prior to the Tolpuddle Festival. What is the Green Camp? The Green Camp is an opportunity for trades unionists to learn about the trade union response to the greatest challenge facing the planet – climate change. I was one of six PCS activists who attended. There were about 30 on the Open College accredited course, from a range of unions including Unite, Unison, GMB, FBU, UCU and the NUS.
The course began with a walk through the village of Tolpuddle with Nigel Costley from South West TUC. He pointed out the historic landmarks in the village, including the tree where the martyrs met, and James Hammett’s grave in the churchyard.
Our next stop was Tolpuddle Village Hall. I’m not sure any of us needed reminding of the urgency of action needed on climate change, but in case we did this was soon dispelled by watching David Attenborough’s excellent BBC programme. This sets out clearly the science behind the problem and the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are necessary if we stand any chance of stabilising the climate. It’s a tall target – the latest science says we have 10 years at most to stop global emissions rising and begin the transition to a low-carbon future.
Back in our classroom (a yurt in the festival field) we set about discussing the issues and drawing up plans for our own workplaces. The best thing about attending events with other union members is the ideas and inspiration you give each other. Various members of the group presented research on various topics and gave examples of great actions they had taken. For example, PCS reps at HMRC in Wales have formed their own green forum with regular meetings to share ideas and keep each other informed; in other organisations, green travel plans were being introduced that would prevent flying for business trips to locations in Europe; while elsewhere we heard of various schemes to reduce energy consumption.
The Tolpuddle Festival is organised by the South-West TUC, and we were fortunate enough to have members of a new project team recently funded to work with unions in the south-west on green issues. They used the course as a sounding board for ideas, and if you are in the south-west and want to get some assistance greening your workplace, email@example.com is a good place to start.
We finished off the course by drawing up action plans to take back to work. My own plan includes removing all the inefficient, energy-intensive, polluting desktop printers from my office and using the cleaner efficient network printers instead. What’s yours? If you want more ideas on greening the workplace, the PCS green pages are an excellent resource, www.pcs.org.uk/green, or try taking a TUC course on the environment – check out the unionlearn website, www.unionlearn.org.uk.