The workers’ strategy for the green transition

The workers support the 2030 target and the ambitious approach to the challenge of climate change. The 2030 and 2050 targets set a course for the Danish climate policy for the next decades, and thereby a large part of our developments in society.

The long-term goals provide security for workers, businesses and investors: We know where we are going.

The exact ways to accomplish the 2030 and 2050 targets, however, we have yet to find out. Some have pointed to carbon taxes as an important contribution.

Others have pointed to other initiatives. Most recently, the government’s 13 climate partnerships have presented a total of 365 recommendations. In order to navigate the many initiatives and find the right path, a strategy is needed.

The workers’ strategy for the green transition

It is crucial for workers that the path towards the 2030 and 2050 targets are organised in accordance with the four indicators described in box 2. The indicators are the backbone of the workers’ strategy for the green transition.

They are an expression of a balanced approach, an international vision and a principle that the transition should not only be green but also just. 

A balanced approach

Climate change is perhaps the greatest and most long-term challenge we are facing. However, it is not the only challenge, as we have seen these months with the corona crisis. We have seen this before with the financial crisis.

And sometimes there are concerns about other crises. At the same time, we know that many companies and ordinary Danes struggle with challenges in their everyday lives such as stress, insecurity and a restricted budget.

There are some who have talked about other concerns besides the environment as “obstructions” to the transition. We do not share that view. There are other real and important challenges besides the challenge of climate change, and they must not be dismissed.

And if the green transition towards 2030 and 2050 is to succeed, society must also withstand other challenges. If not, the balance will be tipped when other crises hits us. The best and most stable solutions will be those that benefit both the environment and address other issues.

An international perspective

Climate initiatives in Denmark can reduce emissions abroad – both through reduced imports of climate-impacting goods such as soy, and through the export of climate-friendly products and technologies.

By developing solutions that can also be used in other countries, we can have an impact that is far greater than what Denmark’s size and domestic emissions dictate[5].

We have already shown we can do this with the development of wind turbines. New solutions and exports can also benefit the economy and employment in Denmark. This is necessary. Not least in light of the corona crisis.

In addition to this, because Denmark is an affluent country with relatively high emissions per capita, we have a responsibility to join in solving the global challenge – especially to the benefit of the developing countries that have low historical emissions and are often more vulnerable to climate change.

Meanwhile, it is crucial that Denmark does not tighten the screw so much that production and emission relocate to other countries with more lenient rules, leading to so-called “carbon leakage”.

In isolation, closures on Danish soil would benefit the Danish 2030 targets since, in accordance with UN rules, these only apply to emissions on Danish territory. However, this would weaken the global climate efforts. And it would weaken the Danish economy and employment.

Many companies are exposed to competition, including in the area of industry, transportation and agriculture. Practical solutions that also protect competitiveness must be found for these companies.

When climate initiatives are considered, international effects should therefore be taken into consideration. The trade union movement has already proposed this in connection with a consultation on the Climate Act.

A just green transition

The ambitious climate initiatives in Denmark must go hand in hand with social justice. FH shares this view with more than three in four workers, see figure 5. Specifically, social justice as part of the green transition means, among other things, that:

  • There must be a solid safety net and good opportunities for career changes – especially for those whose jobs and job functions are most vulnerable.
  • The climate crisis and the green transition must not increase inequality in Denmark. Workers must not end up footing a disproportionate share of the bill. On the contrary, the transition must be combined with a rise in living standards.

If the green transition is not perceived as socially just, it risks undermining the long-term support for the climate initiatives among the population. This could lead to politicians raising questions regarding ambitions and direction which would give rise to insecurity among both workers, businesses and investors. This would lengthen the transition and make it more cumbersome and costly.

A master plan

The following chapters will present a master plan for the green transition which is based on the workers’ strategy for the green transition which has been summed up in the indicators in box 2.

We call it a master plan because we think across sectors and challenges. Contrary to the main part of the government’s climate partnerships, the plan does not focus only on a single sector but on all sectors – including the public sector.

And unlike the recommendations of the Danish Council on Climate Change, the plan does not just contain narrow climate actions but also a number of important preconditions for a successful and cost-efficient transition: Health and safety at work, worker participation, training and education, skills development and job security.

Box 2. The trade union movement’s four indicators for the green transition

  1. Denmark must be a leading country: The green transition of Denmark must contribute to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and ensure achievement of the target for the reduction of greenhouse gasses emissions by 70% in 2030 compared to the 1990-level.
  2. The green transition must create more good jobs: The green transition must be used as an opportunity to create new, good jobs in Denmark. The transition must advance human and technological potential, including the circular economy. The transition will inevitably entail that some job functions disappear.
    However, it is crucial that the green transition leads to the creation of new and better jobs. This requires that we, as a society, ensure that Danish workers have the right qualifications for meeting the new requirements. A strong social safety net and investments into training and education, skills development, health and safety at work and new technology are therefore crucial components of the green transition in Denmark.
  3. The solution is collective decisions and binding international cooperation: Society must finance the necessary investments into the green transition.
    The individual can take on a co-responsibility for improving the environment, but it cannot be left to the individual to solve the challenge of climate change. This would lead to an insufficient effort and there is a risk that it would adversely affect the most vulnerable in society.
    Denmark must be a leading country in a way that inspires others to combine the green transition with improving living standards for workers. Achieving Denmark’s ambitious goals must never be obtained by exposing Danish companies to so much regulation that production and emissions are relocated to other countries with more lenient rules. This would be harmful to the climate at the global level. A solution to the challenge of climate change requires binding international cooperation.
  4. The climate crisis and the green transition must not increase inequality in Denmark: There is no doubt that the green transition will entail major costs. However, the alternative – inaction- will entail far greater costs for all of us. The trade union movement will work towards ensuring that the transition becomes socially just.

Literature reference

[5]  Emissions on Danish soil constitute approximately 0.1% of the total global emissions (the Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities’  “Climate policy report:  The report from the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities to the Danish Parliament on the climate policy”, 2019).