The transition to a low-carbon economy in Europe is no longer a mere possibility: it is bound to happen. The choice societies are facing is whether they stay passive and let the transition happen or whether they actively shape it.
Workers in high carbon industries and their trade unions are facing a major dilemma in this process. On the one hand, they will have to shoulder the biggest burden in the transition to a sustainable economy. Given that many of the unionised high carbon industries stand to disappear, many of the hard won victories in decades of labour disputes are at stake. On the other hand, unions are forces of societal change that understand the potential and the benefits of collective action. If unions in high carbon sectors continue using their clout to exclusively protect jobs in the short term they are missing out on an opportunity to shape the transition to a sustainable economy which we have already embarked on.
The trade union movement therefore developed the concept of Just Transition to enable a shift to a low carbon economy that is not only sustainable but also fair on those who stand to lose out, especially workers in high carbon industries. The burden of the transition needs to be fairly shared and distributed between and within countries: responsibility and capacity must be the guiding principles for burden sharing. Climate action can thereby become a driver for sustainable economic growth and social progress.
E3G is engaged in discussions on Just Transition with trade unions across Europe to further develop the concept and work towards its implementation.
This project has received funding from the European Commission through a LIFE grant. The content of this section reflects only the authors' views. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
This project is run in collaboration with Change Partnership.