PSA Eco Network: IPCC report, CA clauses, and new Wellington Convenor

30 September 2021

The PSA Eco Network committee hope you’re doing well in these strange, uncertain times. Please read on for an update on the latest IPCC report and what it means for our work, negotiating collective agreement clauses on climate change, and an introduction to our new Wellington Convenor, Peter Upson.

IPCC Report strengthens case for union climate action

By Grant Brookes, PSA Eco network National Co-Convenor

Last month saw the release of the first instalment of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Produced by 234 experts from 66 countries, including four New Zealand authors, the “Working Group I” report updates our current knowledge on the physical science basis of climate change. The next two instalments – from “Working Group II”, dealing with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and “Working Group III”, dealing with the mitigation of climate change – are due out next year. “This report is a reality check,” says Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte. For PSA members, it also underscores just how important it is that “decarbonisation” has been added to the PSA Strategic Goals 2021-27 And it highlights the vital role of Eco network members, both within the PSA and in our workplaces. “In 2019,” says the report, “atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years.”

Carbon emissions from human activities are driving the observed global warming and recent changes in the climate. These changes include an increase in hot extremes in almost every region on Earth, with more heavy rainfall events and agricultural and ecological droughts across many parts of the globe, as well. The report also outlines our possible climate futures, based on a set of five illustrative emissions scenarios. These range from a “very high” scenario, with CO2 emissions that roughly double from current levels by 2050, to “very low”, where CO2 emissions decline to net zero around 2050.

The “intermediate” scenario is where emissions remain around current levels. In this climate future, it is “very likely” that the average global surface temperature would rise by between 2.1°C and 3.5°C by the year 2100. The last time temperatures were 2.5°C higher was three million years ago.

In our region , maximum 1-day rainfall on parts of New Zealand’s West Coast is projected to rise by around 40%, while East Coast droughts will worsen. The effects of climate change will be worse in cities Under the “very high” emissions scenario, rising sea-levels could change the median shoreline position along sandy coasts in some parts of New Zealand by more than 200m, inundating large low-lying areas. The concluding message from Working Group I will strengthen Eco network campaigns for action on climate change.

“There’s no going back from some changes in the climate system,” they say “However, some changes could be slowed and others could be stopped by limiting warming. The climate we experience in the future depends on our decisions now.”

Climate Clauses in Collective Agreements

By Anna Friedlander, PSA Eco Rep

We recently completed collective bargaining and ratified our Collective Agreement at Waipā District Council. Among the claims we put to the employer was a climate justice clause. There were two parts to this claim. First, we wanted to make a joint statement that the union and the employer acknowledge that we are facing a climate and ecological emergency, and that this emergency requires urgent action. Second, we wanted the parties to make a commitment to work together to minimise, mitigate and eliminate our impact on the climate. This would be enacted by, for example, PSA representation on climate change work done by the employer. More broadly, we were looking to engage with the employer around its responses to climate change and impact on workers. Unfortunately this claim was not successful.

What did make it into the Agreement in the end was a statement of “Shared Principles and Values” including reference to Te Tiriti, the Waipā District Council values and the PSA Strategic Goals. The body of this clause included a statement that “Both parties share a particular interest in … supporting the council’s work in preparing for climate change”. In addition, we removed a redundancy clause that limited employer liability in the case of natural disaster – I’d consider this a win on the climate front given that we are expecting more frequent and more severe weather events as a result of climate change.Hopefully, we can build on this statement in the next round of bargaining.

One thing I think would help get claims like this across the line would be examples of climate clauses in other collective agreements. I think this might help employers feel some level of comfort in putting something new into the agreement. The more Collective Agreements that have climate justice clauses, the easier it will be to get such a clause introduced. If we all keep chipping away at this, we can make a change. Climate change is an urgent problem and the more fronts we can fight it on the better.

Please get in touch with us at eco@psa.org.nz if you have a good clause in your collective agreement, or if you’re working on raising a claim like this in bargaining. The PSA Eco network is working on developing model environmental clauses and a guide to progressing claims in bargaining.

Introducing our new Wellington Convenor

By Peter Upson, PSA Eco network Wellington Convenor

I am originally from Auckland. I currently live in Wellington and I work for Public Trust. I have a Bachelor of Social Science, Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws (First Class Honours) from the University of Waikato. I have been a Union Delegate for FIRST Union and the PSA. I am a Committee Member of New Zealand Labour Law Association. I have published two academic articles in the Comparative Labour and Social Security Law Review at the University of Bordeaux on New Zealand Labour and Employment Law. I was previously an Eco Rep for the PSA Eco network and I am also a member of the PSA Youth network. I am particularly interested in hearing from PSA Eco network members living in Wellington and the surrounding areas. In terms of environmental issues my main areas of interest are new technology, electronic waste and climate change.

We now have a full Eco network Convenor Committee. We met virtually for some planning this month and will be meeting again soon. We’ll provide an update on our planning and how that connects to the new PSA Strategic Goals.

Published by grantbrookes

Kia ora! I’m Grant Brookes, a Nurse, Trade Unionist and NZNO past President now living in Wellington, New Zealand with my partner and two children and blogging at unionnursegrant.org. Since graduating in 1996, I’ve practised nursing in five cities in three countries. I’ve belonged to four nursing unions – and been a rep in three of them. This is my new blog. There’s more about me and my time as President at nznogrant.org.

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