The public’s attention has rightly been on the streets this spring, in particular those streets occupied by masses of creative and dedicated young people protesting for the future of the planet.
The National Education Union - which with around 460,000 members is the biggest education union in Europe - recognised the importance of this movement, and committed itself to active solidarity at its conference this April.
A motion was moved by Islington and Wandsworth districts and overwhelmingly supported by conference. In it we argued that “the transition to a zero-carbon society to keep below a 1.5 degree increase is the most urgent problem facing humanity and is technically feasible”.
The motion also argued that “the consequences of a failure to act – or an unjust transition, whereby those with wealth and power dump the costs downwards – will be severe for our members, our communities, the children we teach and - in the worst case – could threaten our survival.”
We resolved that our generation has a responsibility “to help lead a just transition; shifting energy production, transport, housing and agriculture onto a sustainable basis within the lifetimes of the children currently in our schools,” requiring urgent government investment and an end to failing market ‘solutions’.
This involved a commitment to “lobby Government to press them on plans to carry out their obligation under the Paris Agreement to educate the public about the scale of climate change and the measures needed to deal with it – including through school’s curricula”, and the need “for every school to be zero carbon by 2030.”
We plan to hold an Education for a Just Transition conference on 12 October 2019, to further discussions about reorganising our societies and reskilling our citizens, and how this can be integrated into a liberatory pedagogy.
We also promised to “oppose any reprisals against students taking action to fight climate change, such as detentions [or] exclusions” because “the rights to strike and protest are fundamental democratic rights for students and workers alike”.
The conference also pledged “to support future student actions by approaching student representatives to offer trade union speakers, stewards and organisational support.”
Andrew Stone is secretary of Wandsworth National Education Union.
If you are an NEU member and would like to be involved in organising the Just Transition conference or other aspects of union climate change activity, please email the organisers.
Image: School strike, Flickr.