Public services, climate action and how austerity will kill our planet

8 November 2021 - COP26 Glasgow, Launch UNISON Report 'Getting to Net Zero in Public Services'
8 November 2021 - COP26 Glasgow, Launch UNISON Report 'Getting to Net Zero in Public Services'

(9 November 2021)  For countries to become zero Co2 emitters they have to address the emissions from the public services. Unison, one of the UK public service unions, researched what this would mean for the UK. A new report published on the occasion of COP26 in Glasgow considered the emissions of hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, care homes, town halls, leisure centres, police stations, courts, social housing, plus water, transport and environmental services. To get the UK’s public services across the net zero line will require £140bn or €163,758,000,000.00 Euros of government funding by 2035.

The report, Getting to Net Zero in Public Services: The Road to Decarbonisation, says that without government funding, public services still reeling from a decade of austerity, will struggle to decarbonise.The research was presented during a seminar that was live streamed across the UK and broader. Unison General Secretary Christina Mcanea underlined some of the reports key messages and how the union would use it in discussions with employers and local authorities. There is no time to loose. The government needs to step in as private investment is not coming to do this.

Other speakers included:

  • PSI’s David Boys who made the link with the efforts that are needed to assist developing countries. They do not need the austerity and neoliberal policies pushed by World Bank and global financial institutions. These have not delivered. This is very clear in the energy sector where a recent report of TNI shows that emissions are increasing still in many countries of the world. Relying on private sector finance solutions now has led to an investment gap in renewables and energy efficiency measures. EPSU, PSI and the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy are presenting a road map how public energy can bring progress for workers and their communities during COP26.
  • Paul Novak, the deputy general secretary of the TUC who stressed the challenge there is to make the government of the UK understand that addressing climate change needs the unions to be part and parcel of the transition. He warned against the corporations and governments green-washing the transition. The transition needs to be inclusive and take account of the interest of women, young people, and black, Asian, minority ethnic groups for example.
  • The EPSU General Secretary. He made the connection with the recently adopted statement of governments and the European Commission on Just Transition. It points to many of the things we consider crucial to build acceptance for transition, but it is devoid of concrete rights workers will get. Europe’s Green Deal, the comprehensive ambition to make the EU climate neutral by 2050, and the Fit for 55 package to reduce CO2 emissions with 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 miss attention for the role public services will play. The Unison report emphasizes that new austerity measures if passed will slow down actions to reduce CO2 emissions.

All speakers saw a central role for public services and public service workers as part of steps to bring about a stop to global warming and to build a more resilient economy and society. Redistribution of wealth is needed and that will require tax justice and system change.

The report is recommended to EPSU affiliates and can be used as a basis for discussions with unions as well as governments and employers, The report was presented partially online partially physical on 8 November 2021, Glasgow

Getting to Net Zero in Public Services: The Road to Decarbonisation can be accessed here. Unison commissioned the report from the University of Greenwich Public Services International Research Unit and from Transition Economics.

For more on the seminar 

  • EPSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan at Launch UNISON report 'Getting to Net Zero in Public Services'
  • COP 26 Glasgow, Launch report UNISON, 8 November 2021