The Commission’s new guidelines for a just transition towards climate neutrality call on Member States to take action. People must be at the centre of environmental change – nobody shall be left behind. Early March 2022, the European Trade Union Institute organised an event focussing on the question what challenges the EU is facing in order to make the eco-social paradigm change a global success.
On 7 March 2022, the European Trade Union Institute held a discussion with high profile scientists on ”Challenges and perspectives of a just transition in Europe”. The participants addressed the question as to whether there is a gap between climate and social justice and to which extent institutions and the welfare state are in a position to cope with the new challenges of the eco-social paradigm change. Could the current political measures and practices of the EU regarded as a step towards a more comprehensive political framework, which integrates labour, climate as well as environmental priorities?
The green transformation will bring various distributional effects of climate measures. These highly complex effects demand a multi-faceted response to a variety of negative consequences, such as high electricity rates, vulnerability in case of extreme weather events, global inequalities but also inequalities on the labour market.
Trade unions face the challenge that these consequences are well established in the global North, especially in CO2-based sectors, such as the automobile industry. However, a green transformation could mean that many jobs will be lost, notably in these sectors. Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre, is therefore trying to develop green action plans in cooperation with trade unions to enable the necessary retraining of people in order to keep jobs. Instead of working in the automobile sector, affected workers could work in public transport after retraining, according to Markus Wissen from the Berlin School of Economics and Law. All Participants agreed that the just transition must be thought across national and European borders.
The political guidelines for a fair and inclusive transition towards climate neutrality, introduced by the EU Commission on 14 December 2021 served as the background of the event. The guidelines include employment and socio-political aspects of the just transition and shall support EU Member States in developing and implementing sets of measures. The proposal requires Member States to create measures to promote quality employment and to facilitate job-to-job transitions. Furthermore, measures are required to support equal access to quality education and training as well as measures to support fair tax-benefit and social protection systems. Affordable access to essential services – e.g. by investments in expanding public transport – shall also be promoted, as shall coordinated policy action to pursue a whole-of-economy approach and to actively involve social partners and other stakeholders. In order to finance these measures, the EU Commission already proposed a Social Climate Fund.
The position of AK
The EU Commission's proposed guidelines to ensuring a just transition towards climate neutrality, address many AK-relevant issues. In this context, AK especially welcomes the comprehensive pledge towards a just transition and the emphasis on the fact that its shape represents interdisciplinary matters between different policy fields – from research and regional policy via labour market and social policy to transport policy. The just transition towards climate neutrality can only succeed by linking social and environmental targets, when employment, distributional as well as fiscal measures are closely coordinated. This requires active involvement by the public sector at all political levels with close involvement of social partners and other stakeholders. AK suggests that the Commission organises a high-level conference on the social dimension of the transition towards climate neutrality with the participation of organised civil society in particular social partners.