At a UK level, UCU is part of the Trade Union Coordinating Group, campaigning for action on the climate crisis and for climate justice, which work is particularly urgent in the lead up to COP26, and together with the National Union of Students, we are campaigning for universities to decarbonise and decolonise.
At Leeds, seven ‘Climate principles’ were agreed back in 2019, and subsequently the Sustainability Service worked hard, along with students and staff, to develop a Climate Plan, in order to reach the agreed ‘net zero by 2030’ target. However, this Climate Plan has not been adopted, no significant action has yet been taken, and there has been no strategic investment to reduce carbon emissions. Leeds UCU agreed a motion on these issues at our General Meeting on 7th October 2021 and the two emails below come out of that:
- Message to UCU members from the branch Climate and Ecological Crisis Working Group
- Letter from all three campus trade unions to the Vice Chancellor about the university Climate Plan
If you’d like to get involved with this work at Leeds, you can join the branch Climate and Ecological Crisis Working Group – email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
1. Message to UCU members from the branch Climate and Ecological Crisis Working Group
COP26 starts very soon, and we as a union need to do everything we can to raise climate awareness and to campaign on this issue. We’d like to highlight some key opportunities for colleagues to get involved.
- UCU have worked with the NEU, NUS and others to launch a Climate Themed Learning Month this November, which we would encourage all staff to take part in. Take a look at the range of resources available, and get your students thinking about the climate crisis this November whilst the spotlight is on the global negotiations in Glasgow.
- On 6 November, UCU members across the country are joining the COP26 Coalition for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. Demonstrations will be taking place around the world.
- Here is a link to activities taking place in Leeds https://actionnetwork.org/events/leeds-global-day-of-action-for-climate-justice or check out the interactive map https://cop26coalition.org/map/
- From 7-10 November, UCU are taking part in the COP26 Coalition’s People’s Summit, as an alternative to business as usual of false solutions and inaction at the COP negotiations. The summit will be held both in-person in Glasgow and online.
This is a critical time to raise our union voice for climate justice, join us!
Leeds UCU Climate and Ecological Crisis Working Group
2. Letter from all three campus trade unions to the Vice Chancellor about the university Climate Plan
Sent: 18 October 2021 14:41
To: Simone Buitendijk
Subject: The Climate Crisis and the University’s Climate Plan
We are writing because we are concerned by our institution’s lack of progress towards meeting the crucial targets required to achieve net zero by 2030. We were encouraged when Council approved the Seven Climate Principles more than two years ago. However, we are very concerned about the lack of progress made by the University since that time and are particularly concerned at the failure to put the principles into action.
As active citizens of our University community, staff and students have been following closely and contributing to the development of the Climate Plan for nearly three years. However, we were last consulted on it in April this year, when we were told it would go to Council for approval in May. Six months later and we have heard no updates on its progress – the silence is deafening. Given the urgency with which we need to tackle the climate emergency, this delay makes us extremely anxious and makes us doubt the University’s commitment to this vital issue.
Therefore, we ask you urgently to update us on the state of development of our Climate Plan. What processes are in place for its implementation and what are the timelines? We cannot allow this to be delayed from one Council meeting to the next, as it has been for the last 18 months.
In announcing the staff stoppage for the global climate strike in September, the For Staff news article stated that: “We’re committed to taking action on climate change through our Seven Climate Principles, and we use these to guide all University activity in moving towards a sustainable, low-carbon future”.
We would like to know how the commitment to take action on climate has been realised in the past 12 months? What aspects of the Seven Climate Principles have been implemented and with what results?
We would also like to hear about representation structures available to staff and students providing feedback and sharing concerns about matters related to climate and sustainability? Further, we would like to understand what the future official channels available for staff and students will look like to feed into the ongoing nature of the “live” Climate Plan?
An update on progress for sign off and implementation of the Climate Plan is well overdue. We would also expect to receive an update about the investment planning needed to make sure that the Climate Plan delivers its goals. After 27 months, we truly believe there is no more time available for delays. We also do not see reason for the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the implementation of the Climate Plan any further, especially in light of the rising income stream of the University given unprecedented student recruitment. We are facing a global emergency and appropriate funding should be released as a matter of urgency.
Also, it is not clear to us how and in what form academic support “to evaluate the business case for adopting net zero based on the Stern Review” will be used. We have serious concern about the reference to a “business case” to evaluate and justify the reduction of carbon emissions. As a research-based and educational institution we should be acting in the public good regardless of any business case. We really do not see how such approach can be driven by values as you regularly proclaim.
Finally, in light of your recent communication (eNews 15/09.21) and the information available on the website (Climate Plan | Sustainability Service | University of Leeds ) we understand that the Climate Plan for our University is due to be released in 2021.
Please can you clarify the timeline of activity from now to its release date, which given Christmas closure, we assume will be no later than mid-December?
We look forward to receiving your answers to our questions. And we would very much welcome a meeting with you where staff and students can hear your answers and ask additional questions in the spirit of our values-driven mission as a University.
If we are shown a genuine willingness to tackle this issue, we very much look forward to working with you to achieve these goals.
Chloe Wallace: Branch President, Leeds University UCU
Jo Westerman: Branch Chair, Leeds University Unite
Nick Allen: Branch Chair: Leeds University Unison
This page was last updated on 18 October 2021