Skip to main content

Understanding a Just Transition for workers

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

Professor Vera Trappmann

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

What next?

  • 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.

Professor Vera Trappmann’s research engages with the comparison of labour relations across Europe. Her interests focus on the dynamics of restructuring of organizations and the labour market and its impact on workers’ responses, their working biographies, and precarious outcomes. This leads to research on climate change and just transition, platform work and mobilization, and precarity and class.
Dr Dennis Eversberg’s research currently focuses on societal nature relations and social relationships with nature, social-ecological transformations and the societal conflict surrounding them, particularly in relation to debates and practices around the bioeconomy, as well as the sociology of social-ecological movements. He has also extensively worked on the sociology of work and of the labour market, trade unions and the study of capitalism.