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23 October 2014

Energy-climate 2030: the need for a just transition

Europe’s future energy and climate targets are on the agenda of the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels on 23 and 24 October. European trade unions have expressed their support for strong greenhouse-gas-reduction policies, while calling also for social measures to accompany the transition to a low-carbon economy.

In a special declaration before the summit, the European Trade Union Confederation defined its position on the EU’s ‘Energy-Climate Package’ for 2030. Recognising that ‘protecting the planet is a precondition for prosperity and social justice’, the declaration points to the need for strong ambitions in terms of greenhouse gas reductions (40% compared to 1990) and measures to support renewable energy use and to reduce primary energy consumption.

But trade unions are also aware of the potential social impact of Europe’s decarbonisation strategy ‘for sectors and regions where the benefits of a low-carbon economy are more difficult to secure’. They therefore ask the EU and its member states for a ‘just transition strategy suited to national circumstances that includes union engagement, investment in low-carbon technologies and skills and a strong public-led energy infrastructure investment’.

‘There is no employment and social justice on a devastated planet, neither can there be any policy of environmental transition without a strong social dimension’, such is the key message of the ETUC declaration.

For the trade unions, the transition to a low-carbon economy is also crucial for the project of reindustrialising Europe.

ETUI senior researcher Bela Galgoczi made similar points in a recent blog contribution for the Social Europe Journal. 'An ambitious climate target could be seen as a guarantee that the Investment Plan would be taken seriously, particularly in terms of energy efficiency and renewables where ambitious and binding targets also mean investment targets', commented Galgoczi. 'One slogan is indeed: ‘no jobs on a devastated planet’, but another one could be: ‘Climate targets are also Investment targets’.

A recent publication of the ETUI with the support of the European Climate Foundation summarised the key findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th assessment report regarding the implications of climate change on employment. The report indicates that, while tackling climate change could indeed create jobs, impacts are likely to vary widely between regions and sectors.

The positive employment effects of the transition to a low-carbon future were also stressed in one of the panels of the joint ETUC-ETUI conference ‘Europe at a crossroads’ held in September. Lara Skinner of Cornell University (USA) offered a clear demonstration during the ‘green jobs’ panel of how investment in the green economy is more ‘jobs-rich’ than the exploitation of fossil fuels.

On 21 November, the ETUI organises a special conference on 'The social-ecological transition: A new climate for the EU’s sustainability transition' with three high-level keynote speakers. Registrations are open via our special events page (see right column).

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