CERIC Members secure funding under the Research England Strategic Priorities Fund.

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

Project team led by Dr Jo Cutter and Professor Vera Trappmann, LUBS
Aim: This project enhances the evidence base to inform policy making for building a regional just transition (JT) with a focus on the skills, training and redeployment of workers in high-carbon sectors in Yorkshire and Humber (Y&H).  It extends existing research on JT practices to improve specific data on how jobs and skills needs in the region are changing and the support needed by businesses and workers to adapt to meet the challenges of low-carbon transitions in the region. Total award = £32, 313.15.

Context: The industrial heritage and presence of legacy assets in high carbon sectors means that regional industry in 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 soon to be announced 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 TUC, local and mayoral authorities, investment partners, businesses, unions and training providers) of the region’s green skills and transitions needs.  

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. Our previous work (see team background below) undertook design work for a relevant survey tool to understand JT processes. This covers environmental beliefs and behaviours; experience and expectations of environmental policy impacts in general and at work; opinion of climate policy of government, employer, union; actual and anticipated job changes in green tasks, skills, green behaviours; participation in green skills training; just transition policy options on training, redeployment, welfare and pensions. 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. The piloted survey tool will target responses from 300 workers in carbon intensive sectors.

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.
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 policy making around the skills and employment agendas of 4 sub-regional green recovery plans.

Background of research team: PIs Dr. Jo Cutter and Dr. Vera Trappmann are working on trade unions, climate change and just transitions. We will work with a PDRA and Co-I from LUBS with expertise in unions and climate action and survey design building on our work from the research project Combating climate change: The role of organised labour working in four countries with carbon-intensive legacy industries led by Cutter/Trappmann. A second PDRA from the Faculty of Earth and Environment will work to connect to related work on modelling regional decarbonisation pathways and the policy work of the Place-Based Climate Networks to augment current theme-based platforms on finance and business to a focus on skills and employment. The SPF-QR project will provide a development opportunity for early career researchers to build capacity in co-production and the translation of research for policymakers.