Although the move to a net zero future will have inevitable impacts on jobs and employment, it is important that these changes do not happen at the expense of workers. In many places, trade unions have already started to develop proposals and strategies to tackle climate-related structural change in inclusive and socially just ways. University of Leeds researchers are studying policies and initiatives from countries across the world that aim to help protect workers and vulnerable groups in order to further inform policy.
The challenge of defining a Just Transition
The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions demands dramatic changes in the way societies and economies are organised, and will have enormous consequences for habitual ways of working and living throughout the world. This transformation will require not only new technological solutions, but also far-reaching economic and social rearrangements.
The term ‘Just Transitions’ provides a heading under which trade unions and other labour-related policy actors are discussing and promoting their concepts for tackling these rearrangements in socially just and inclusive ways. The concrete aims, understandings and concepts of Just Transitions are highly diverse and vary amongst actors (governments, union bodies, companies etc) and across different scales (international, national, local).
Workers so far have not been consulted enough on decarbonising the economy. They need job security, and new skills, they need to have an active say in this major transformation of society
So far, systematic research comparing these debates and initiatives in different countries of the Global South and North is lacking, leaving a lot of room for ambiguities and misunderstandings in this important policy field which will hamper fair policy implementation.
Exploring global approaches
Researchers at the University of Leeds are investigating the varied ideas, debates and strategies around Just Transitions under different economic, institutional and climate policy framework conditions. This involves a systematic comparison of Just Transition concepts and initiatives in 12 countries: Germany, UK, Spain, and Poland in Europe; the United States and Québec in North America; four of the five BRICS countries – Brazil, China, Russia, and South Africa; and Chile and Nigeria in the global South.
In each country, the research team are analysing differing visions of just and sustainable futures and how these visions relate to government efforts to achieve net zero. Case studies of Just Transition initiatives provide an insight into how these visions play out in concrete action.
In highlighting similarities and differences in the challenges and the ways they are tackled, this research will contribute to a deeper understanding of the conditions for, and forms of, successful Just Transitions, and foster mutual learning among the policy actors aspiring to them around the world.
Listen to Professor Vera Trappman and Dr Dennis Eversberg discuss the research in this podcast series.
- A typology and case studies illustrating a wide range of strategy development and Just Transition initiatives;
- Analysis of prerequisites and possible hurdles or pitfalls of successful Just Transition concepts;
- Insights into the role of the state in disputes over transformation processes and strategic reflection on them;
- Policy advice regarding the development and promotion of strategies for the formation of alliances and initiatives for just and inclusive climate-related structural change.
The research team includes 16 researchers from the Priestley Centre, Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, Cornell University, CISR, and Instrat.