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Promoting Just Transition | New Economics Foundation

Put workers and unions at the center of industrial change in Yorkshire and the Humber

The UK is facing uneven decarbonization challenges, and some regions and industries are facing special pressure to reduce emissions. Many of the most affected places and communities also lack the capacity to develop transition plans that provide preferential treatment to workers.

Yorkshire and the Humbershire have experienced decades of industrial decline, but it still relies disproportionately on carbon-intensive industries such as steel, cement, chemicals, energy production, and food and beverage production. We found that approximately 360,000 jobs (accounting for 15% of all jobs in the region) belong to high- or very high-emission industries, which means that these jobs may be affected by the transition to a low-carbon economy. According to a recent study by the Grantham Institute, there are 260,000 workers in the region who have skills that are in short supply in a low-carbon economy and must be upgraded or retrained, otherwise they may be left behind.

It is understandable that workers and unions are skeptical of the rhetoric surrounding the transformation, because past transformations—especially the decline of mining and manufacturing—have scarred communities and left behind social and economic damage. Mark of. This time must be different. The layers of mistrust that often arise in inter-regional, inter-sports, and industrial relations must work together to make this transition fair.

This report outlines the challenges in ensuring a fair transition to a low-carbon economy (that is, an industrial transition that empowers workers and communities through the process itself) in Yorkshire and the Humber. We reviewed the current state of industry and related emissions, and considered what a climate emergency — as announced by many local authorities in the region — might mean for workers. Many workers work in key industries and should be protected and helped to decarbonize, while others may need to be retrained and supported to enter different industries. After nearly a year of Covid-19 restrictions, the unemployment rates in Yorkshire and the Humbershire were 20% higher than the previous year. As part of the green recovery, a just transition can provide decent and safe jobs for people leaving carbon-intensive industries and those at the end of the pandemic (usually more marginalized workers). An inclusive and just transition is an opportunity to address inequalities in the labor market, which makes some people—usually women and racialized groups—more likely to face low wages, harsh conditions, and unstable jobs.

This is not an exhaustive analysis of the various approaches to a low-carbon economy. As we have been arguing, decarbonization plans and local industrial strategies must be designed with workers and communities. We look at the scale of the challenges facing the highest-emitting industries and current emission reduction plans. We also made suggestions to make the transition process more inclusive, as well as ideas to increase quality job opportunities.

Then, we discussed the risks of relying on industry-led initiatives that are largely betting on Technological restoration, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), rather than a transformative, economically-wide approach where workers and communities provide information. We believe that technological innovation in specific industries will be important, but we must focus on creating new, Green jobs that can reduce emissions now. A just transition is an opportunity to adapt and protect job opportunities, and it is also an opportunity to create thousands of jobs in industries that are needed for a fairer and low-carbon future.

In order to show how the industry faces different challenges of just transition, we used three case studies: the steel industry needs urgent support to decarbonize and retain jobs to produce materials needed for low-carbon infrastructure; the aviation industry is facing climate change, The triple threat of automation and the long-term impact of Covid-19; and public transportation, where opportunities to expand and improve the quality of inherently green jobs are at risk. We conduct further research to establish evidence for a just transition and emphasize ways to create new good green jobs accessible to all.

This report is information obtained through 12 in-depth interviews and several broader meetings with union officials and workers in sectors that may be affected by the transition in various ways (from bus drivers to steel workers). A key theme is that workers are excluded from the conversation. They believe that decision-makers should urgently include workers to ensure their support, but also because, as the closest to work, they can actively contribute to the development of various transition pathways.This supports NEF’s long-standing argument that The currency of transition for rapid consensus is trust. “3 Rebuilding trust requires concrete actions to make a fair transition a reality. Although the precise shape of the plan should be the subject of careful and site-specific collaborative design, we have put forward some ideas that we believe are essential to this process.
The plan should:

  • Invest in low-carbon training, employment and infrastructure to prevent Stranded communities, ensure that everyone can access these communities.
  • Establish and appropriately fund locally-led partnerships for fair transition, involving workers, unions, and employers in social dialogue, and find ways to involve more marginalized and ununionized workers.
  • Hold employers accountable for their fair transition plans and decarbonization plans, and ensure that these plans are co-designed with workers.
  • Considering their impact on workers and communities in the UK and around the world, apply fair transition principles throughout the supply chain.
  • Take precautions for climate action and prioritize effective ways to reduce emissions now rather than technological solutions in the future.
  • Honestly evaluate which industries should be prioritized to support decarbonization and which should be phased out through a fair transition of workers.

Picture: istock

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