The worker voice in Just Transitions to a low-carbon economy: building evidenced based policy making in Yorkshire and the Humber

Wind turbines

Description

The industrial heritage and presence of legacy assets in high-carbon sectors means that regional industry in Yorkshire and Humber (Y&H) contributes 13% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. There is considerable focus on the significant opportunities to transition away from high-carbon production through business transformation and investment in cleaner technologies. This has implications for new types of jobs needed, new skills within existing jobs and jobs that will disappear. There is urgency for this work due both to climate imperatives and for building green recovery plans to counter the economic shocks of the COVID pandemic.

Policy supporting rapid transition needs to give consideration of negative potential impacts of decarbonising, especially where key industries are concentrated in sectors and communities already facing economic disadvantage. New institutional architecture such as the Place-Based Climate Networks (PCAN) and the Yorkshire Climate Commission is being developed to better galvanise stakeholders to advance green transitions and better connect related aspects of policy (environmental, investment, employment). This project will both inform and build partnership links with the policy partners involved (Y&H Trades Union Congress, local and mayoral authorities, investment partners, businesses, unions and training providers) of the region’s green skills and transitions needs.

This project enhances the evidence base to inform policymaking for building a regional just transition (JT) with a focus on the skills, training and redeployment of workers in high-carbon sectors in Y&H. It extends existing research on JT practices to improve specific data on how jobs and skills needs in the region are changing, the support needed by businesses and workers to adapt to meet the challenges of low-carbon transitions in the region and the mechanisms needed to ensure worker voice is embedded in related policymaking.

Research plan and methods

Working closely with the Y&H TUC Low-Carbon Taskforce, which includes unions and business leaders from regional carbon-intensive sectors, this project will gather data on the skills, employment and re-deployment needs facing workplaces implementing low-carbon transition plans. Building on work carried out during previous projects we have designed a survey which will collect information on:

  • Perceptions of the urgency of climate action
  • Employee voice and representation  
  • Previous experience of climate related workplace change
  • Perceptions of how climate policy will affect individuals and communities
  • The readiness of workers to change jobs and reskill
  • Priorities for Just Transition support packages
  • Policy priorities for a transition to the Green Economy

This project will pilot the implementation of the survey and data-use with transition partners in the region. In collaboration with Taskforce members, the project will undertake interviews (20 in total) with workplace reps, HR and business transformation leads and regional skills and employment partners focused on supporting carbon-intensive transition sites in the region. The interviews will inform the finalised survey design and analysis for policy translation. 

Outputs

The key outputs will be (i) a regional just transition skills and employment report and (ii) a policy workshop for city/regional climate commission partners.

Blog post: Workers are ready for a green future

Outcomes

The project will strengthen the networks of those working on just transition aspects of regional climate policy and partnerships with local and regional policymakers and provide better information around the challenge of transitioning workers to a low carbon economy. The outputs will contribute to evidence-based policymaking around the skills and employment agendas of 4 sub- regional green recovery plans.

Events

Climate change, just transition and the workplace
Wednesday 5 May 2021, 14:00 – 15:30 (online)
For more information and to register for the webinar visit the event webpage.

Research team

Dr Jo Cutter, Dr Ursula Balderson, Dr Helen Norman, Andrew Sudmant, Professor Vera Trappmann.

A collaboration between the Business School and Earth and Environment, building on previous work on trade unions and climate change and modelling regional decarbonisation pathways and its impact on employment.

See also: Combating climate change: The role of organised labour.

This work was supported with funding from Research England QR-SPF (01/12/20 – 31/03/21).

 

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Publications and outputs

Key Messages: Worker perceptions of climate change & the green transition in Yorkshire and the Humber, 2021

The full report will be launched 15 November 2021, for copies or if you have any queries please contact Jo Cutter (j.cutter@leeds.ac.uk). 

“We need to engage with workers to realise a greener future” –  by Jo Cutter on C40 Cities, a global network of City Mayors.