EXCLUSIVE: EU Seen Underestimating Worker Anger at Rapid Climate Transition (1)

— Germany seen having twice as much coal-transition money as the rest of Europe combined
— A just transition is “not cheap as a policy”


By Mathew Carr

Nov. 20, 2020 — LONDON — Europe’s energy transition has already caused social unrest and it’s about to get worse unless lawmakers lift their game, according to a key trade unionist.

European Union politicians appear to be underestimating the challenge of retraining and redeploying workers who will probably be displaced amid a rapid shift away from coal, oil, natural gas during the next 30 years, said Judith Kirton-Darling, deputy general secretary at industriAll, the umbrella trade union group in Brussels.

Ensuring that the climate shift limits companies’ ability to make too much profit while stoking labor-market injustices won’t be easy and won’t come without substantial cost, Kirton-Darling told an Agora EnergieWende online event earlier this week.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake.

Here are some of her key comments:

A “just transition is not cheap as a policy. If you look at the European financial framework, the funds that have been allocated for a just transition were slashed by more than half by the European Council to 17.5 billion euros from more than 40 billion euros.

“If you contrast that with Germany for just four regions, they were given a budget of 40 billion euros.

“We are now dealing with 40 coal regions across Europe and the carbon-intensive regions across Europe, with a pot of money that is less than half of what was allocated in one member state.

“That gives you a little bit of a perspective of the challenges we face in terms of how we finance this, and why it is so vitally important that the social dimension is integrated into the industrial-transformation agenda, because that means that some of that deficit needs to be recouped elsewhere.”

The EU is considering tightening its 2030 emissions-reduction target to as much as 60% below 1990 levels from a current level of 40% amid calls from developing nations to be more ambitious.

The transition in oil and natural gas may be easier because some of the workforce is transferring to offshore wind and some to hydrogen.

“In oil, it’s not a terrifying transition,” Kirton-Darling said by phone on Friday. “That’s slightly different from the coal miners. That’s not to say it’s a smooth transition in oil and gas.”

IndustriAll has repeatedly asked the EU member states to reconsider their decision to scale back the just-transition funds. “To put that down by more than half is a really substantial deep cut. We are pressing for further investment.”


From industriAll’s website:
“industriAll European Trade Union is a federation of independent and democratic trade unions representing manual and non-manual workers in the metal, chemical, energy, mining, textile, clothing and footwear sectors and related industries and activities. We speak for 7 million working men and women united within 180 national trade union affiliates in 38 European countries.

“Furthermore, we are a member of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and partner of industriALL Global Union. We act together, with the aim to combine and optimise strength and complementarities in order to better protect and advance the rights of the workers in our industries and sectors.”

July 29, 2020 story by Euro News:

Agora event:

(Updated Sunday morning to add exclusive comments from interview)

One comment

  1. […] As for Germany’s concern about state-aid rules, Kirton-Darling said that if the EU is serious about reaching net zero in just 30 years, the state-aid rules will need to be adjusted to “follow that logic.”That adjustment in the rules is seen happening in the first half of next year. Use of the Innovation Fund itself may partly get around the state-aid rule concern. Those rules are meant to prevent member states from unfairly supporting “national-champion” companies and keeping cross-border competition fair.If done properly, the new state-aid rules won’t protect national champions, but they’ll upgrade the EU’s entire industrial base, Kirton-Darling said.***********See Innovation Fund website for call for projects of more than 7.5 million euros:https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/innovfund/wp-call/call-fiche_innovfund-lsc-2020-two-stage_en.pdf For more on EU worker anxiety:http://carrzee.org/2020/11/20/eu-seen-underestimating-worker-anger-at-rapid-climate-transition/ […]

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