Raising awareness of the impact of climate change on education - Spotlight on UK unions


Following the ETUCE's two year-long project on the role education trade unions in addressing sustainable environmental development, we are putting a spotlight on the inspiring environmental practices of our members. 

Education trade unions in the UK continue to mobilise for climate justice through creating innovative initiatives that work to combat the climate emergency in an equitable way. The Universities and College Union (UCU), the National Education Union (NEU), the Teachers’ Union (NASUWT) and Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) recognise that human activities have greatly contributed to changing the planet's climatic system and outline the strong need for the education sector to support learners to address these impacts.

As a result of understanding of the urgent need to take action in the sphere of education, all these education trade unions have started a range of initiatives to combat the climate emergency. The EIS carried out a carbon audit around three years ago that illustrated the amount of wasted paper and resources generated by the trade union. The information was shared within the trade union and used to plan strategies and change practices towards sustainability within the trade union. The UCU has created a specialist website which provides resources to support and encourage members to run Climate Themed Learning Campaigns. These campaigns extend to promoting a Climate Learning Month in November of 2022. The month was an initiative in partnership with NEU and numerous other stakeholders in light of COP27 occurring in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. In addition to this, in conjunction with Mock COP, the UCU launched a film screened in the Children and Youth Pavilion at COP27, highlighting the need for collective action to address the impacts of the climate crisis on students and the educational workforce throughout the world.

UCU have also rolled out climate and sustainability training for all members, in partnership with Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK). The training is part of the centralised UCU CPD offering and is free to any member, it includes workshops on: Running Climate Learning Events; Decarbonising and Democratising education; Embedding climate education in learning; Introduction to sustainability and climate education; Democratising education for a Just Transition. To date, over 1,900 members have participated in these workshops, since 2020. Similarly, the NEU has coordinated climate related webinars on the subject of making schools fit for the future, becoming a successful eco-school, and delivering climate education. These webinars touched on important topics from giving practical advice for implementing the Eco-Schools Seven Step Framework to providing a wider definition of climate and environmental education.

Are you an ETUCE member organisation? Get in touch if you would like for us to spotlight your inspiring environmental practices!