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26 October 2018

Trade unions need to cooperate with Green groups to ensure a Just transition, argues new briefing

Cooperation between trade unions and environmental campaigners is vital as they are often in the vanguard of campaigns to persuade national governments to adopt climate change targets, argues ETUI Senior Researcher Béla Galgóczi in a new policy brief for the ILO.

With the 2015 Paris Agreement committing countries to limiting temperature rises to 1.5 to 2 degrees centigrade by 2100, drastic emissions reduction strategies are envisaged which will have a major impact on economies and jobs. In order to ensure a ‘Just’ transition to a low carbon economy, trade unions will have to become deeply involved in the process, argues Galgóczi in the briefing, Just Transition towards an Environmentally Sustainable Economies and Societies for All

Galgóczi says that the intensity of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets that have been agreed, both compared to past achievements and current pledges, means reforms must be stepped up, with consequently harsher social and employment impacts than those experienced so far. This will lead to major changes, adjustments, costs and opportunities and will considerably affect jobs, livelihoods, working conditions, skills and job prospects. Just transition will be critical in managing this process and the labour movement needs to be at the forefront to make green transition a success.

In the briefing Galgóczi addresses the main challenges affecting how just transition can work in practice and what trade unions and workers’ organizations can do.  Based on the 2015 ILO Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for allthe targets of the COP21 Paris Agreement and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, Just transition is interpreted in terms of `outcome` and `process`.  The outcome should be decent work for all in a net zero-carbon inclusive society with the eradication of poverty, Galgóczi argues. The process should also be based on a managed transition with meaningful social dialogue at all levels to make sure that burden sharing is fair and nobody is left behind. 

Just transition has several dimensions and its context and practical implications differ from country to country, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. A number of brief case studies in the briefing both from the global South and the North – each corresponding to a specific challenge – illustrate concrete examples that could help to formulate trade union strategies. Both positive and negative experiences are taken into account when drawing up recommendations for trade unions.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

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