The just transition, fundamental for achieving climate goals and generating prosperity

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The fight against climate change is one of the main challenges facing the planet today. To minimise its negative impact, the aim is to achieve a climate neutral economy by 2050. The transition to this will imply structural changes with a strong impact on certain regions, areas and groups. Such a transition must be fair, to avoid leaving anyone behind.

The achievement of the objectives of the Paris Agreement is a move forward on a path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to reach zero net emissions by 2050. The aim is to contain global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and to minimise the negative effects on ecosystems, the economy and society as a whole that are already taking place. A reduction aligned with this scenario (a 45% decrease in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990) will require important structural changes that will affect all sectors of the economy and will particularly entail the progressive and solid elimination of fossil fuels: coal, oil, etc. from the energy mix.


The need to accelerate climate action and optimise its benefits gives vital importance to the concept of just transition: it implies the implementation of the policies and the frameworks of social dialogue necessary to progress in ecological transition and leave no one behind, generating prosperity for the whole of society from an inclusive approach, suitably protecting workers and creating quality jobs. This framework for action must identify opportunities and work collectively to take advantage of them, linking such diverse actors as workers, national and regional governments, companies, investors, NGOs, etc.

The transition will be full of new opportunities: promotion of renewable energies, new mobility services, more sustainable and resilient agri-food models industries with higher added value, etc. However, it will also mean the disappearance or progressive shrinkage of some sectors, coal mining for instance. The impacts will therefore be uneven, and particularly affect certain regions, areas and groups. Despite this, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is optimistic in its report World Employment and Social Outlook, which indicates that changes in the use and production of energy to reach the target of 2°C might generate around 18 million jobs around the world.


The importance of the just transition in the fight against climate change and within the framework of labour relations has been recognised internationally by the main multilateral treaties and bodies:

  • The preamble of the Paris Agreement, of the COP21 in 2015, already acknowledged "the need to take into account the imperatives of the just transition in the workforce for the creation of decent and quality employment in line with nationally defined development priorities". Four years later, as a further part of the climate negotiations (Katowice COP24) the Silesian Declaration [PDF] was approved, committing many governments to include all the social and labour aspects related to the decarbonisation of the economy in their policies.
  • Another highly relevant international milestone came in 2015 when the ILO Governing Council adopted the Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all [PDF]. The aim of this is to promote and supervise a framework of national policies and to direct the action of the social partners. The need is highlighted to combine different kinds of policies: macroeconomic, industrial, sectoral, social and labour; and the goals include the creation of decent jobs through the whole of the economy's supply chain.
  • The just transition is part of the concepts commonly used in international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Change Climate (UNFCCC).

The opportunities and challenges of the just transition.#RRSSThe opportunities and challenges of the just transition.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The opportunities and challenges of the just transition [PDF]


The just transition is also strongly present in the economic and climate policies of the countries around us. This is especially true of Europe, where in December 2019 the world's most ambitious green growth agenda, the European Green Pact was launched, which set climate neutrality as a main goal for 2050, accompanied by a Just Transition Fund to support those regions that could be negatively affected by the acceleration towards an emissions-free economy. The European response to the economic and social crisis caused by the coronavirus has reinforced this commitment: in the recent Recovery Plan presented by the European Commission, the resources allocated to the Just Transition Fund [PDF] rose from 7.5 billion euros to more than 40 billion euros.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

The transition to a climatically neutral economy must leave no-one behind

The multi-polarity and complexity of the actions in the area of just transition make it necessary to adopt a collaborative approach when implementing solutions. Hence, the main strategies implemented in countries such as Spain or France opt for collaboration platforms such as the Just Transition Agreements and the Ecological Transition Contracts, respectively. These frameworks generally bring together a set of social actors to implement solutions that serve to economically revitalise a geographic area that has been particularly affected by the ecological transition. Despite their short life, they are showing relatively positive results, with interesting job creation experiences in areas such as renewable energies, and the development of an industrial fabric linked to clean energies.