ACW Baseline Subreport – Policies and Practices to Promote Work Enhancing Pathways in the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy

By Fred Steward

Professor, Policy Studies Institute
University of Westminster, London

This draft review gives an overview of the European policy context with regard to climate change. It identifies a new pervasive political discourse on the transition to a low carbon society which places a major issue of environmental sustainability high on the policy agenda. This is also associated with greater attention to policies on industry and innovation which overlap conventional trade union concerns. The transition policy framing highlights the need for active policy influence on transformative change.

An analysis is presented of the views of the principal Europe-wide trade union organization, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on this new policy context for environmental sustainability and climate change. This is based on publicly available documentary sources along with reports on a selection of European national trade union confederation initiatives and recent developments in trade union/labour movement policy by European policy institutions and analysts.

The focus of this review is to identify new policies and practices which engage with the ‘transition to a green, low-carbon economy’ from the perspective of proactive initiatives to promote work-enhancing pathways. The aim is to assess recent policy reviews and proposals in order to map out a new work-enhancing green economy transition agenda. This could form the basis for subsequent action-oriented research strands with particular policy players.

Particular aspects of interest are:

  • Engagement with the new framework of sociotechnical transitions in contrast to the established frameworks of ecological modernization or market based instruments. This embraces purposive transformative goals, a mix of social and technological innovation, and a key role for a diverse coalition of societal actors Recognition of the possibility of alternative transition pathways and that choices between them may have different implications for job creation, employment and working conditions, and skill development arising from contrasting emphases on technological production and social use, singular new products/processes versus wider system innovation, one-off skills or long term vocational change
  • Action at multiple levels of governance, not just at the national or sectoral level. Of particular interest is the role of new developments in policy and practice involving partnership with cities, local authorities and regions
  • Interventions, which are not simply reactive in terms of justice or job protection, but proactively intervene to shape the nature of the green transition, and promote an awareness of the potential role of trade unions as environmental actors or innovators
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