Foto: David LundmarkBhagavatiben Girdharbhai Solanki is a member of the trade union Self Employed Women´s Association (SEWA) in India. In our report you can read about how SEWA works for a just transition.

Just transition and international development cooperation

What is a just transition? How can a just transition be used as a way to tackle development challenges? Which are the commonalities between dealing with climate crisis and the impact of the covid-19? These are some of the questions we address on this web page, together with links to further resources and materials on the topic.

What’s a just transition?

As a concept, just transition was initially was developed by the trade union movement and is today a mainstream policy tool.

A Just Transition Framework encompasses a range of  interventions needed to secure workers' rights, livelihoods and decent work when economies are becoming less harmful to the environment and more sustainable.

Such interventions, preferably built and discussed through social dialogue, include social protection, organisational health and safety policies, sectorial and active labour market policies, and skills development policies. It also requires gender analysis and targeted measures.

Why a just transition matter in terms of international development cooperation?

It is well documented that societies have gone way over board in the use of natural resources and Earth´s carrying capacity. Jobs will be transformed, jobs will be lost and jobs will be created if we are to implement the measures we have committed to in international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. The International Labour Organization (ILO) forecasts that the greening of our economies has the potential to create 24 million new jobs, but six million jobs may be lost.

To be able to reduce emissions while also addressing development issues, such as providing citizens with access to energy, adequate transport, sanitation and housing, some countries need financial support. Other countries have agreed that they can contribute via development cooperation funds. The just transition framework can be used to tackle development challenges that integrate all three pillar of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - at once.


In the above video, you can listen to a discussion among Catarina Silveira, Union to Union, Samantha Smith, Just Transition Centre - ITUC and Lebogang Mulaisi, Congress of South African Trade Unions COSATU on how the Just Transition Framework can be used to tackle development challenges that integrate all three pillar of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - at once.

How can a just transition contribute to gender equality around the world?

Women face more barriers to participate in the labour market, are overrepresented in low paying jobs (that tends to be temporary, unsafe, and without maternity and sick leave), and are paid less than men for work of equal value.  

The transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy presents an unprecedented opportunity to challenge gender norms and the occupational segregation that characterizes for example the energy sector, thus opening up for increased gender equality in the labour market. Sound investments in low‐emission and job-rich sectors and technologies - respecting human and labour rights, and decent work principles - can also advance gender equality. Investments in new skills, paying particular attention to women, will be required to assure that when moving towards a more sustainable society we also address gender gaps.

Why is Union to Union working with just transition?

Strong, free and democratic trade unions with the capacity to educate, negotiate and influence towards a just transition are crucial. Trade union rights are human rights and are necessary to get people out of poverty. Therefore, a just transition is an important element in international trade union development cooperation.

How is Union to Union working with a just transition?

Union to Union works with just transition through:

  • Research and policy: We conduct and commission research on just transition and provide input to reports and strategies that benefit from a just transition analysis.
  • Development cooperation projects: We support international development cooperation projects related to just transition.
  • Information projects: Sharing information and knowledge by organising seminars, trainings and other events on topics related to a transition to a lower carbon society.
  • Strengthening trade unions’ capacity: We provide training for trade unions, so that they are ready to engage in negotiations and dialogue on climate change, biodiversity, and decent work.

Just transition and covid-19

Apart from current job losses due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already release a prognosis of that global growth will drop, of around -3% total GDP.  How can we build back and use recovery as an opportunity to secure a sustainable and resilient future? There are some commonalities between dealing with climate crisis and the impact of the covid-19:

  • Just as we need to live within health system capacity same goes for Earth´s Capacity
    In the same way as we need to deal with the capacity curve from Covid-19 related to the health system, we need to learn with the capacity curve of our planet.
  • Covid-19 is exacerbating poverty and inequalities, just as climate change does
  • Pivotal role of social protection
    The Covid-19 experience has made clear that societies that have well-functioning social protection systems are better able to cope with a pandemic, same goes for the climate crisis.
  • There is a need global orchestrated response and to strengthen multilateral system
  • Leadership and Investments in future are needed
    Just as for climate change, we have been ignoring scientific evidence that there was need to step up action. There has been a serious delay in leadership and political will. The economic boost to our economies should be taken as an opportunity to move towards sustainability and social justice. Economy should work for the people and not the other way around.

Report: Just Transition in the international development cooperation context

Read our new report on Just Transition! This It provides examples on how trade unions are engaging in just transition, how it relates to international development cooperation and provides guidance on how to move forward and strengthen the work for a just transition.