On Wednesday, 8 March, in Rome, 60 participants from trade unions and employers from the chemical sector attended the joint ECEG (European Chemical Employers Group) and industriAll Europe final conference of the EU-funded project ‘On the Road to Climate Neutrality 2050 – the Role of Social Partners in the Decarbonisation of the Chemical, Pharmaceutical, Rubber and Plastics Industries’.

IndustriAll Europe and ECEG had applied for this EU project in anticipation of the major effects that the Green Deal would have on the above sectors, , determined to be pro-active and ensure that the transition is well managed by both trade unions and employers, together.

The conference presented the research conducted at the beginning of the project and the results of the project workshops, while reflecting on what companies need to do to ensure a Just Transition for everyone in the sector. Representatives of the European Commission and the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) joined the discussion on the findings and way ahead.

The social partners presented a ‘toolbox’ with material to support the Just Transition at local level. This included model agendas for starting and sustaining regional cooperation, guidelines for the joint management of change at company level, and course descriptions for up-skilling and reskilling in certain professions.

Testimonies from the French and Finnish trade unions stressed the need to maintain and protect jobs in face of the changes brought about by the upcoming transitions. The need for strategies at company level was highlighted, alongside the need for strong social dialogue and the sharing of best practices within the European Union.

A key point repeated throughout the conference, by both employers and trade unions, was the need to safeguard jobs during this transition period. Many challenges lie ahead in order to achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

“The decarbonisation of the chemical industry is a mammoth project. When we add factors such as the war in Ukraine, the skyrocketing energy prices and the American Inflation Reduction Act, we are truly at a crossroads for the European chemical industry.”

Participants agreed on the need for skilled workers and hence the importance of reskilling and upskilling plans and programmes. Representatives of the Flemish Department of Work and Social Economy presented a model comprehensive approach in the form of a skills roadmap and “green apprenticeships” for the chemical industry.

“The chemical industry has often proved its dynamism and ability to adapt. As social partners we are determined to walk the path to climate neutrality together, here in Europe”, added Luc Triangle.