Millions of people marched at climate strikes on Friday, ahead of today's UN Climate Action Summit.
There were rallies in cities including London, Manchester and Glasgow, and #ClimateStrike, #SchoolsStrike4Climate and #ClimateAction were all trending on social media.
Much of the action was led by young people, with many inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said "every child" should be in school.
The UN Climate Action Summit 2019 kicks off today. The statement for the summit reads: “The last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health, through air pollution, heatwaves and risks to food security.
“The impacts of climate change are being felt everywhere and are having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow. But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.”
We reached out to multiple top charities to discuss their policies on staff taking part in the strikes, and were disappointed by the lack of response or concrete policies in place. One large charity, with a London head office, said that they were not aware of the climate strikes.
Below are responses from some of the charities contacted.
RSPB: Staff encouraged to show ‘solidarity’
Ann Kiceluk, executive director at the RSPB, said: “We are encouraging staff and volunteers to show solidarity, in whatever way is appropriate”. This might be thorugh through digital engagement, attending local events, or through other means as “climate change is the biggest threat to nature.”
She said the RSPB were “allowing staff a day off work to do so” and “encouraging people to wear branded clothing”.
“I am wearing a coat today. Some people have also made banners, those sorts of things,” she added.
National Trust: Staff encouraged to take a volunteering day
Harry Bowell, director of operation and consultancy at the National Trust said: “As a conservation charity we believe we are part of the solution to tackle climate change. We also know many staff feel strongly about this issue and some may want to take time out to attend these events as a matter of individual choice.
“We want to be able to support that in a way which doesn’t undermine our policies or leave our properties unable to open. Therefore, we have encouraged staff who want to take part to consider using one of their five annual volunteering days to attend or booking annual leave so we can effectively manage our properties.”
Oxfam: Shops closing for 30 minutes
Oxfam said: “Oxfam supports the aims of the climate strikes and is joining the Trade Union Congress call for a 30-minute workday stoppage in solidarity. Oxfam shops across the country will also close for 30 minutes.”
A spokesperson said that CAF staff were able to take a volunteering day to attend the strikes in an individual capacity.
British Heart Foundation
BHF said it did not have a specific policy when it comes to taking days off for strike action. But added that it enables staff to book leave on a fairly flexible basis, so taking time off for a strike or protest would be possible. Employees would have the choice of either taking unpaid leave or paid annual leave booked via the usual process.
Cancer Research UK
“To achieve Cancer Research UK’s ambitious goal of beating cancer, our staff need to maintain a healthy work/life balance. The charity is flexible in providing appropriate and reasonable time off for other commitments and interests, either at the discretion of a line manager, as annual leave or leave without pay.”
Macmillan does not have a policy around staff leave for climate protests and said that “if a member of staff who is scheduled to be working would like to take part, they are advised to speak to their line manager about flexing their working day.”
A Barnardo’s spokesperson said: “Our staff are passionate about making the world a better and safer place for children, so it’s understandable some colleagues might want to join climate change events.
“In such situations, all our staff have annual leave entitlement and would be aware they can request time off in line with our employment policies.”
Action for Children
An Action for Children spokesperson said: “Action for Children’s Choose Childhood report, released this summer, showed that 48 per cent of children and young people are concerned about the environment and we know some of our colleagues are joining today’s action in their own time.
“As a children’s charity, our focus remains on delivering services to vulnerable children but we believe we must listen to young peoples’ voices on this issue.”
‘If you are not talking about it what you are doing?’
Commentators on social media noted that there were relatively few non-environmental charities taking part in activity.
Madeleine Sugden, a digital impact consultant, has written a blog on charities joining in with the #GlobalClimateStrike on social media.
She said: “Even if it’s not your cause, this is a global day of activism about something that will have impact on us all.
“But if on the biggest day of protest about the environment, you are not joining in with the conversation, what does that say? If you are not talking about what you are doing, maybe people will assume you are doing nothing?” she added.
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