Every public sector organisation should have to justify the impact on the climate of every decision it takes, under plans to be put forward by the trade union, Unison.
Councils, enterprise agencies, government bodies and the government itself would all be accountable for any development or plan which increases the pollution that is warming the globe.
And, in a novel suggestion, Unison is proposing that chief executives responsible for climate-wrecking schemes should be hauled up before school children to explain their actions, as well as the Scottish Parliament.
Unison, which represents 162,000 public service workers across Scotland, will this week make its submission to the consultation on the Scottish government’s draft climate change bill. The consultation ends on 23 April.
For the first time, the union will propose a “general duty on public bodies to consider climate change in all decisions and report on progress annually.” That would mean introducing legislation obliging public agencies to take account of the effect on global warming in every decision, in much the same way as they currently have to consider impacts on equal opportunities.
Unison will also suggest that a selection of the annual reports produced by public bodies should be called in by a Scottish parliamentary committee for scrutiny at Holyrood. Locally, the union says, there should be “an annual schools gathering where students could question appropriate councillors and officials.”
According to Unison’s Scottish organiser, Dave Watson, facing direct questions from school children would be the more challenging. “Naming and shaming, and the embarrassment they cause, are not a bad way of improving accountability,” he says.
“If a public body is going to do something barmy that will damage the climate, it doesn’t mean they can’t do it. But it does mean it has to be flagged up.”
Decision-makers would have to think twice before they agreed schemes that increased climate pollution, Watson argues. “We want to put something into the process so that it will actually happen. We think this is the best way to get action.”
Unison’s submission on the climate change bill will also call for public bodies to be required to negotiate a “workplace environmental agreement” with their recognised trade unions. This would aim to save energy, cut waste and reduce water use in offices, as well as to encourage environmentally-friendly travel.
“Whilst guidance often exists it can be disparate and poorly promoted,” says the union’s draft submission. “We envisage the bill giving powers to Scottish ministers to issue regulations and guidance to promote greener workplaces.”
The submission adds: “Probably the largest and most disappointing omission in the consultation paper is the absence of any recognition that action in the workplace is essential to tackling climate change.”
Unison is also backing the demand for the Scottish National Party to stick to its manifesto commitment to mandatory targets to reduce climate pollution by three per cent a year. There are signs that ministers are planning to abandon this idea.
Unison is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of more than 30 environment, development, faith, community and other groups with at least 1.5 million supporters. The coalition’s recently launched campaign for tougher action to cut the pollution that is disrupting the climate is being backed by the Sunday Herald.
The union’s call for a legal duty on public bodies to consider climate change is welcomed by the chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, Mike Robinson. “I sincerely hope that the government will take note of this demand,” he says.
“If the public are being encouraged to make changes in their own lives then it is essential that public bodies are seen to be doing their bit. Measures like this, along with a commitment to at least three per cent annual targets, will give this bill the credibility it needs.”
The Scottish government pointed out that it was already working with the pubic sector to tackle climate change and had invited views on imposing new statutory duties. “The views expressed by Unison will be considered alongside other responses to the consultation,” said a government spokesman.
WHAT THE STOP CLIMATE CHAOS SCOTLAND COALITION WANTS
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is campaigning to ensure that the Scottish government keeps its manifesto commitment to a climate change bill with mandatory greenhouse gas reduction targets of three per cent a year and a 2050 reduction target of 80%. The campaign is being supported by the Sunday Herald.
Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is calling for the government’s climate change bill to include:
- the principle that Scotland should make an equitable contribution to global efforts to keep average temperature rises below two degrees centigrade
- at least 80% cuts in greenhouse gases on 1990 levels by 2050
- annual budgets to ensure reductions of at least three per cent per annum
- the inclusion of emissions from aviation and shipping
- a commitment to provide climate adaptation funding in addition to, and not at the expense of, the aid budget