A Just Transition helps to protect jobs and create new employment opportunities as we move to cut emissions and tackle climate change.

Job losses and lower living standards are not the inevitable outcome of the shift to low carbon but result from poor planning and a failure to implement appropriate policies and supports in advance.

By adopting a Just Transition approach to climate policy we can ensure that no workers or regions are left behind and that we take advantage of new opportunities to enhance living standards and build more sustainable communities. 

The idea of Just Transition originated within the global trade union movement in the late 1970s and is the most coherent framework available to address the significant economic and industrial change arising from the move to a low and zero carbon economy. 

It also provides the most effective means to ensure we develop a more sustainable economy and a more equal society. 

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) defines Just Transition as a process that: 

...secures the future and (the) livelihoods of workers and their communities in the transition to a zero- carbon economy. It is based on social dialogue between workers and their unions, employers, government and communities. A plan for Just Transition provides and guarantees better and decent jobs, social protection, more training opportunities and greater job security for all workers affected by global warming and climate change policies.

The essential bedrock of any Just Transition process is social dialogue and consultation with affected workers and communities, as seen in successful examples of the process in Spain, Australia and Germany’s Ruhr Valley. 

The Irish government has repeatedly endorsed the principles and practice of Just Transition, by signing and supporting a range of international treaties and accords, namely: the 2015 Paris Agreement, the 2018 Silesia Declaration, the 2019 UN’s Climate Action for Jobs initiative. 

The EU’s post pandemic recovery plan - Next Generation EU - contains similar commitments on ensuring a Just Transition in the context of tackling climate change. 

A landmark 2019 report from the National National Economic & Social Council (NESC) - which advises the office of the Taoiseach - underlined the importance of delivering a genuine Just Transition here, in terms of future growth and wider social equality.1 

Underpinning this agreed global framework is a crucial set of guidelines on implementing a Just Transition that have been developed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).2 

These stress the centrality of social dialogue and the necessity to create decent work as part of the transition process. 

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has also emphasised the essential link between decent work and climate sustainability, calling for investment in Just Transition to deliver quality jobs as a key component of global climate action. 

In a recently published report on the array of challenges confronting humanity - Our Common Agenda - the Secretary General called on all countries to embrace the ILO Guidelines on Just Transition “as the minimum standard to ensure progress on decent work for all.”