Going green

The founders of the Equity for a Green New Deal network on growing the movement within the union

The Equity for a Green New Deal (GND) network came together online last year, having been inspired by the wider movement in the US and UK.

Green New Deal advocates aim to tackle the twin issues of climate crisis and economic injustice – which we believe to be interlinked – by focusing on industrial and financial policy, the creation of secure green jobs and addressing global inequality.

The story of our own network begins at the start of 2019, with Councillor Paul Valentine. Keen for Equity to further address green issues and the climate crisis, Paul put forward a ‘Green Review’ motion asking the union to take a close look at what we were achieving in relation to the climate crisis.

The Green Review also asked Equity to consider its environmental policy, as well as its management of energy, assets, waste, water, plastics and contracts. After the union came back with a very detailed response, it became clear that we could become greener.

In fact, some recommendations to come out of the Green Review are already being implemented, such as solar panels on the roof of Guild House, alongside investment in the air conditioning and filtration system.

While this bubbled away at internal level, it quickly became apparent that other members were leading further responses to Green issues. Activists Will Attenborough and Leila Mimmack, the latter of whom is now Young Members Councillor, were actively campaigning for the Equity pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.

Fast forward to 2020 and Paul, Leila and Councillor Sam Swann realised that with such good work going on at member level, it would be great to knit it all together. And thus, the Equity for a Green New Deal network was formed.

Through branch events and word-of-mouth, the network has grown and our aim is to represents all members of Equity in the fight for a greener union. We also want to work across the union, regions and nations, to share and campaign on Green issues in a joined-up way, and with as many grassroots groups as possible.

So far, each of our meetings have featured a guest speaker, with inspiring talks from Julie’s Bicycle, Green New Deal UK and the Climate Justice Network.

We are made up of people keen to take action locally, as well as on a more national or global level. This could be improving Equity’s own ecological impact, using our union to lobby Government and, most importantly, empowering members, showing solidarity and building resources so that people can run their campaigns.

Our upcoming plans include compiling a Green New Deal manifesto so that members know what the GND network is working towards; collaborating with reps from other unions on actions and creative responses to the UN climate conference in Glasgow this November, as part of the COP26 Coalition; supporting intersectional movements such as anti-racism and Kill the Bill, under the principle that climate justice is racial justice; and getting theatre representatives in a room with cooperative energy groups, foundations and experts to seriously talk about retrofitting theatres.

This last point will be a big task and if anyone wants to be involved, please contact us. Actions could include the National installing solar panels, the Gate insulating their roof or the Royal Exchange switching to a green energy supplier.

We are in – and have been in – a climate emergency for a long time, with the time to act being many yesterdays ago. Relentless and rapacious capitalism is hellbent on consuming our planet’s resources (including people) for profit, with just 100 companies responsible for 71% of carbon emissions. This makes individual action feel futile.

However, movements have been battling against the climate crisis for just as long, from indigenous communities protesting the construction of pipelines, mining, deforestation and systemic land grabs, to local projects collectivising energy production. We cannot get bogged down in what George Monbiot describes as “micro-consumerist b*llocks” of plastic straws and individual consumption – there simply isn’t time.

Instead, we need to build our power as a collective, as trade unionists and campaigners. Our movement will only be strong if we fight together, and share knowledge and resources.

If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch via the Equity for a Green New Deal Twitter account @equity4gnd

Cleaning up the union’s pensions

Sounds sexy, huh…? Well, as knotty and bureaucratic as pensions are perceived to be, they can have a huge amount of influence.

Pensions invest millions of pounds of our money into companies, with some of these being climate destructive conglomerates such as Shell and BP.

With many countries setting low carbon targets, these investments are potentially very risky as well as morally criminal. Fossil fuel companies are responsible for quashing meaningful change in response to the climate crisis, polluting and devastating communities in places such as the Niger Delta with their extractive industries and then using our cultural institutions to greenwash their damaging behaviour.

In 2016, a group of Equity members set out to join the international movement that has to date led to the divestment of $11 trillion from fossil fuels worldwide, and counting. The union listened and, along with the Equity pension scheme broker, Hencilla, has been hugely supportive in enacting this change.

We hope that a shift is on the near horizon and will update the network and our members as soon as we can.