Ensuring a Just Transition

The aim of a 'just transition' is to ensure that working people, particularly in high carbon industries, do not have to suffer the main social and economic costs of decarbonization.

For example, it has been calculated that up to 28,000 jobs could be lost from coal and gas power stations in the North of England under government plans to move to a low-carbon economy. However, with proper planning, these workers could be reskilled to aid a ‘clean energy revolution’ in the region, which could provide up to 46,000 new green jobs.

Spanish coal industry

Half a century ago Spain’s coal industry employed more than 100,000 miners, but cheaper imports have meant locally mined coal now provides just 2.3% of the nation’s electricity. In addition to this increasing awareness of the industry’s environmental, health and climate costs has meant the state wants to close the remaining pits.

However, even though Spanish coal mines no longer employ a large number of people, they are still a critical source of jobs in regions such as Asturias or Puertollano. The mining unions, therefore, negotiated a settlement with the federal government to ensure that €250m (£221m) will be invested in mining regions over the next decade to soften the blow of pit closures.

As part of the deal, any workers over 48 will be offered early retirement packages and the rest re-skilling schemes for cutting-edge green industries. The latter includes upgrading local facilities- such as waste management, recycling, water treatment plants- in the communities impacted.

On top of this, money has been allocated for the ecological restoration and regeneration of former mining sites. Priority for employment in these jobs will go to former miners. An action plan will be created for each mining community, including plans for developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency, and investing in and developing new industries.

Montserrat Mir, the Spanish confederal secretary for the European Trades Union Congress, said the “just transition” model could be applied elsewhere:

Spain can export this deal as an example of good practice. We have shown that it’s possible to follow the Paris agreement without damage [to people’s livelihoods]. We don’t need to choose between a job and protecting the environment. It is possible to have both.

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