It is only through Just Transition that social acceptance of ambitious climate action is possible.
The European Social Partners in the gas sector, Eurogas, EPSU and industriAll Europe, have co-organised a webinar with the support of Members of the European Parliament, Dennis Radtke (EPP, Germany) and Agnes Jongerius (S&D, The Netherlands) to discuss the transition of the gas industry and how it can be just for workers in the sector. The webinar was a follow-up to the recently-adopted Joint Statement (add link) of the European Social Partners on Just Transition, which highlights the social dimension of sustainability policies and the need to anticipate and manage the changes for the gas sector workforce.
The discussions reflected the industrial dimension behind the transition in the gas sector, with especially energy-intensive industries in urgent need of clean and renewable hydrogen solutions in order to decarbonise and maintain sustainable industrial production and jobs in Europe. The direct and indirect employment connected to the gas industry is huge, and the EU must ensure that there is a decent and sustainable future for those workers and their families in Europe’s regions.
There was a strong consensus about the fact that we have to overcome the dichotomy of putting the communities vs. industry. Industries are embedded in communities and shape the life and workplaces therein. There is a need for a strong and sustainable industrial policy framework that shapes a liveable future for people and that supports economic and social cohesion amongst Europe’s regions. At the same time, there is a need to overcome the ‘silo approach’ of policy-making and focus on the recipe of policies that are needed to achieve a Just Transition.
Reflecting on this, James Watson, General Secretary of Eurogas, emphasised that we have to think about jobs, not only as digits in an Excel spreadsheet, but also of the people behind these jobs, who have real needs and real demands for a quality life. This is a dimension that is often forgotten in the EU Just Transition narrative and the European Social Partners are committed to shifting the focus to the needs and demands of the workforce.
Dennis Radtke and Agnes Jongerius - who are joint rapporteurs of the Report of the European Parliament on a Strong Social Europe for Just Transitions (add link) and who both have a trade union background - emphasised the need for a strong commitment at EU level for workers’ participation and social dialogue. While it is certainly important to discuss and listen to the young generations and movements, such as Fridays for Futures, it is crucial to discuss and involve those people who are stemming the transition on the shop floor.
Judith Kirton-Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, who participated in the webinar made it quite clear: “Just Transition is not just an existential demand of our members, who can see the direction of travel, but it is an existential necessity for Europe and our collective climate ambition. It is only through Just Transition that social acceptance of ambitious climate action is possible.”
The recording of the webinar is available here.
The social partners’ statement is available here: EN, FR, DE