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Climate carnage is here and the unions must act

We now face floods, fires and famines as has been predicted for decades. The leading capitalist governments are still not acting fast enough, if at all — so this November we must force their hands, writes STEPHEN SMELLIE

AS Germany and Belgium recover from the catastrophic rainfall of the past week and mourn the many deaths and Canada and the west coast of the US struggle to cope with extreme heat that has caused deaths and the destruction by wildfires of whole towns, the United Nations continues its preparations for the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November.

Many people, experts in climate change, campaigners and increasingly just ordinary folk who recognise that global heating is with us already, are saying this is the world’s last chance to put into place policies and crucially, actions to prevent the rising temperatures across the world leading to catastrophic climate change that will make the floods in Germany and the wildfires in Canada seem minor.

Too few governments seem to have got the message so far. While using green rhetoric, the leading capitalist countries continue to prioritise economic growth, including further exploitation of fossil fuels. Over the future of the climate, our future health, of life on our planet.

It is the need to change this situation that means a great effort is needed before and during the two weeks of Cop26 in Glasgow to force governments to commit to actions and that these actions need to begin now and not be put off till some time in the future when it will be too late.

The Cop26 Coalition, made up of a broad range of environmental, community and faith organisations with trade union and major NGO backing, have organised to ensure that world leaders arriving in Glasgow will know that their continued inaction is not acceptable.

Demonstrations have now been confirmed for both Glasgow and London on the November 6 (the middle Saturday) and work has began to mobilise thousands of people on the day.

Trade unions, as always, are crucial and so as well as the coalition involving many trade unionists in their planning a meeting is taking place this week with several general secretaries from trade unions in Britain to discuss how best to mobilise members so that on both demonstrations trade union banners will be numerous and visible. The intention is also that trade union messages are to the fore on the day.

At previous COPs there has been a global mobilisation with thousands of organisations and activists heading to the summit to make their voices heard and to further engage and network with other activists.

Due to Covid and particularly due to the vaccine apartheid that means that people in the global south will wait a long time before they can be double vaccinated, the numbers attending from outside Britain will be limited and so it is likely that demonstrations will assemble in cities all around the world at the same time as the Glasgow and London events.

The coalition’s local hubs are also liaising with groups and trade unions in their area to organise their own demonstrations for people who cannot travel to Glasgow and London.
Together these plans are likely to see millions of people co-ordinating demonstrations demanding Global Climate Justice.

Following the demonstrations on November 6 the coalition will convene a People’s Summit in Glasgow from Sunday November 7 to Tuesday 9, which will see hundreds of meetings, discussions, action-planning sessions and networking taking place with information being shared from within the official Cop26 summit with the thousands of participants in the city and beyond. Hundreds of organisations from around the world are expected to bid for space within the summit to share their experience and discuss their demands.

In addition to these events many organisations are organising separately. The STUC in liaison with the ITUC are arranging an international trade union event whilst Unison are planning to launch a report on how to de-carbonise public service.

There are plans to carry out direct actions against key big polluters in the city and elsewhere in Scotland. The coalition’s Glasgow Group have been working on several plans to bring people together to address local issues and the Glasgow Trades Union Council, working with Get Glasgow Moving, has been building support for both a free public transport campaign and for the retro-fitting of all the city’s homes.

Fridays For Future, which grew out of the school climate strikes, are considering their plans for Friday November 5 with likely calls for supportive and solidarity action in support of them.

For two weeks in November the world’s eyes will be on Glasgow. Two weeks that could determine the future of life on the planet and at the same time establish a global and broad coalition around the demands for a Just Transition, for Global Climate Justice and that alternative world that we know is possible. One that is within our grasp if we organise together.

The coalition is looking for support to promote, organise and fund these events and can be contacted via www.cop26coalition.org.  

Stephen Smellie is a Unison NEC member.

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