Just Transition: action, concepts, debates and strategies - an international comparison across 11 countries

Climate change and pollution


The climate crisis and more recently energy security has put decarbonisation at the top of the agenda of most governments. Reducing emissions to net-zero will require a dramatic change in industrial production and impact on jobs and employment, it will more broadly impact the way societies and economies are organised. It will have an enormous impact on habitual ways of working and living in large parts of the world.

Societal actors have asked for a just transition, emphasising that the elimination of fossil fuels as well as the dematerialisation of the economy should not happen at the expense of workers. In many places, trade unions have already begun to develop proposals and strategies to ensure an inclusive and socially just design of climate-related structural change. Just Transition requires the protection of workers and vulnerable groups affected by this restructuring of the economy.  

The concrete understanding of this process differs, as do the policies implemented to achieve just transitions.

Research overview

The project will study concepts of Just Transitions, policies, initiatives and strategies. It investigates the factors influencing understanding of Just Transitions, as well as strategies of labour activities and environmental NGOs. It investigates the emergence of key ideas, debates and strategies in the trade union movement in a variety of economic, institutional and climate policy frameworks. Key research questions include:

  • How do labour policy actors perceive the challenges of climate change and decarbonisation?  
  • What do they consider to be a “Just Transition”?  
  • What associated visions of a just and sustainable future have they developed?  
  • How do these concepts and initiatives relate to governments' efforts to achieve climate neutrality?  
  • How do labour policy actors participate in shaping structural change?  
  • What role(s) does the state in particular play in this?  
  • Which influencing factors shape the strategies of labour policy actors? 

The project systematically compares concepts of 12 cases. Germany, UK, Spain, Poland, USA, Russia, China, Nigeria, South Africa, Chile, Brazil and the Canadian province Québec have been systematically selected to provide the greatest possible diversity with regard to their trade balance, their economy type, the emissions intensity of GDP, the climate policy orientation of their governments and their systems of institutionalised industrial relations.

Based on the findings of the case studies, we will develop a typology and illustrative case reports as well as recommendations for successful strategies for climate-friendly structural change. Results will be disseminated via webinars, transfer workshops and podcasts. 

Research team

Project leads: Professor Vera Trappmann and Dr Dennis Eversberg

Team and partners:

Leeds University Business School – Dr Ursula Balderson, Dr Jo Cutter, Dr Jiachen Shi and Dr Felix Schulz

Leeds School of Politics and International Studies – Dr Alex Beresford and Temitayo Odeyemi

ILR Worker Institute Cornell University – Dr Lara Skinner

Occidental College – Dr Mijin Cha

Instrat Polen – Aleksander Szpor

Centre for Independent Social Research – Dr Oxana Karpenko, Olga Ustjuzhantseva

State University of Campinas Brazil – Flavia Ribeiro

University of Quebec – Professor Eric Pineault.

Find out more about the research team.

This project is funded by the Hans Böckler Foundation – Just Transition: Aktivitäten im internationalen Vergleich 2021-582-2.

Contact: Professor Vera Trappmann.

Publications and outputs

<iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/1453877056&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true"></iframe><div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/leedsunibschool" title="Leeds University Business School" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;">Leeds University Business School</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/leedsunibschool/introducing-the-just-transitions-a-global-exploration-project" title="Introducing the “Just Transitions – a global exploration” project" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;">Introducing the “Just Transitions – a global exploration” project</a></div>