Already in 2015, the International Labour Organization introduced a number of guidelines for the just transition. These guidelines point out the fact that active engagement of the world of work is fundamental for achieving sustainable development.
These weeks, the worlds’ nations have gathered for a conference that has been said to be our best and last chance to get climate change under control – namely the COP26.
International efforts like the aforementioned show that we already have, and are continuously working on formulating international frameworks laying the foundations for how we should act in order to meet with the global climate crisis.
“Trade unions must share, inspire and lead way towards a just transition in practice.” Bente Sorgenfrey, Vice President FH.
A strong international framework on just transition
The just transition is recognized by a number of global commitments, one of the most established ones being the Paris Agreement, acknowledging “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.
It is also reflected in a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – especially those concerning climate action, reducing inequality, decent work, economic growth, and affordable and clean energy. Other important international initiatives are the EU’s “Just Transition Mechanism” as part of the European Green Deal, the Just Transition Silesia Declaration from COP24, as well as the ILO’s “Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all”, from here on referred to as the “ILO Guidelines”.
The International Labour Organisation paves the way forward
In 2015, the ILO’s Governing Body endorsed the ILO Guidelines. The Guidelines aim at providing tools for managing the transition towards low-carbon economies. These include mechanisms for social dialogue between actors, aiming at promoting decent work and social protection for all through inclusive societies, opportunities, and decent work. The aim is not to protect all job functions, but to protect the people who fill them.
As the main objective of the Guidelines is engaging the world of work, employers and workers are seen as agents of change, able to develop new pathways to sustainability. The Guidelines make it clear that if the transition is managed well, it can become a strong driver for job creation, leading to social justice and poverty eradication.
Engaging the world of work means engaging social partners. The Guidelines suggest that social actors should raise awareness and provide guidance among members for the just transition; take an active role in formulating and implementing sustainable development policies; encourage their members to participate; and promote the inclusion of environmental provisions through collective agreements.
Filling out the international framework on just transition
In May 2020, the Danish Trade Union Confederation proposed a Master Plan, taking an active role in formulating and encouraging the workers’ roles for the green transition.
The Master Plan is our proposal for a climate plan for 2030. It is a Master Plan because it includes all major sectors, climate initiatives, and the supportive measures that are necessary to make the transition just – including the needs of the most vulnerable groups in society.
The plan rests on three principles: solving challenges faced by society, creating more good jobs, and ensuring social justice. Ensuring social justice for the workers means securing a solid safety net for all, and opportunities to change careers – especially for those with vulnerable job functions.
It also means securing that inequality does not increase – as workers should not deal with a disproportionate share of the bill.
The workers’ roles
International initiatives like the ILO Guidelines, the Paris agreement and the EU’s “Just Transition Mechanism” show that there are comprehensive frameworks at all levels, providing us with principles for a just, green transition.
Comprehensive frameworks are very helpful in showing us that we are all working towards the same goal, and they provide us with important tools for managing the transition.
“However, there is still the need for something more concrete. While frameworks provide us with ideals, they remain highly general, and sometimes it can be difficult to see what role individual workers play, what can be done by a simple department or enterprise, or what tools or means to apply for a specific situation. This is where worker participation and sharing the good examples become so important.” Bente Sorgenfrey, Vice President FH
Workers’ situations for the transition are two-sided. On the one hand, workers are highly affected by the transition through to the disappearance of job functions, and the rise of new skills requirements. Workers will need to know that there are solutions for them through training and reskilling, creating security on the labour market.
On the other hand, workers play an important role in shaping the transition, and through their knowledge and competences, they are fundamental for its success. In developing new solutions, and in taking advantage of the solutions we already know, workers are essential resources.
Workers hold especially three important roles for the transition:
- Workers will be the ones to implement many of the known solutions through their daily work,
- they will identify new emissions reduction potentials, and
- they must join the efforts to meet the green objectives in their homes and their everyday lives.
For instance, Local Government Denmark and the Danish Association of Local Government Employees Organisations initiated a campaign to gather workers’ suggestions for emission reduction potentials in their everyday work.
The ways in which workers are affected and affect the transition, reflect the need to include them throughout all stages of the process. Bringing the workers security inspires the courage needed to carry out the transition.
We need international initiatives to join our efforts in reaching our common goal, however, we must not forget the resources that are right in front of us. Through worker involvement and sharing the good examples of what tools work in practice, we can inspire each other, become wiser together, and speed up the just, green transition.
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2021). What is a just transition? Retrieved from : https://www.ebrd.com/what-we-do/just-transition
Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO (2018). Just Transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_dialogue/—actrav/documents/publication/wcms_647648.pdf
International Labour Organization (2015). Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/—emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_432859.pdf