Just Transition: A New Social Contract

COP21 in Paris committed world leaders to a new deal in ending the use of fossil fuels and limiting global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees. This requires a substantial reorganisation and direction of numerous policies to aiding the required transition in key countries, regions, communities and business models.

The pace of change and ensuing uncertainty is likely to heighten tension among stakeholders which have to transition the most and those fearful that disruption will lead to a loss of their livelihoods. The perception of this loss is as potent as any physical manifestation of loss. Whether in the end it turns out to be false or not, the perception of loss will be a powerful factor shaping political decisions and the pace of change. To overcome these fears emphasis needs to shift away from just counting tonnes of CO2 reduced, the foundation of conventional climate policy, towards building new, inclusive, fair and clean regions based upon local stakeholder participation. This is, in essence, the basis for regional policy a new societal contract, taking into account, social justice, fairness and the right to human dignity as the reason for a fair, inclusive and Just Transition.

The EU was founded on the coal and steel sectors. Both have to undergo substantial transformation to fit into the world outlined in the Paris Agreement. Past transitions in these sectors, with a few notable exceptions, have often left a painful legacy which cannot be repeated if humanity is to decarbonise. Rather than setting frameworks and hoping for the best, a new approach to policy making is required of which the core foundations are new models of ownership, accountability, management and delivery, which is in the interests of citizens, workers, communities and future generations, need to be institutionalised throughout Europe’s regions, national and supranational governments.

Through our research so far, we have examined three case studies of the coal and steel sectors from North Rhine Westphalia in Germany, the UK and Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain. These regional transitions are important because change change will impact on these regions either directly through environmental catastrophe or evolving socio-economic models. Each story highlights marked differences in the approach, ownership and legacy of regional rejuvenation. Each region’s approach gives powerful insights on the need to realign EU, national and regional transition policy, the Multiannual Financial Framework, regional policy, the Covenant of Mayors, clean energy and climate policy to empower leaders.

The core issues we examine are:

  1.      Models to organise change at a regional, national and EU level
  2.      Means to finance transition
  3.      How to ensure delivery of key outcomes.

Our aim is to outline an integrated and effective policy architecture based on transparent structures of political accountability, which incorporate inclusive visions of regional regeneration and investment. This is the essence of a fair, inclusive and just transition; A New Social Contract. 

The is a project carried out by FEPS together with Change Partnership, a think-tank focused on the politics of climate change, has explored some regions where industrial transition has taken place to identify a suite of measures and processes needed to organise and deliver a successful, just and timely transition.

The publication can be considered as a toolkit that outlines practical steps regions and communities can undertake to manage the transition to a sustainable low-carbon socio-economic model. 

Also on this topic FEPS is carrying out an initiative on “Synergies between the European Just Transition Agenda and Developments at the UN Level.”

This initiative follows on from our Climate diplomacy initiative of 2016. Again FEPS is working together with TransNational Law Institute at King’s College London. A report will be published later in the year and a workshop is planning to be held at the COP23 in Bonn, Germany. More info about this project.

Research and policy related output

- Book: The New Social Contract: A Just Transition

- Executive Summary

- Speech by Maroš Šefčovič during the presentation of the book The New Social Contract: A Just Transition

Seminars and Events related

The New Social Contract: A Just Transition. Brussels, 28th September. 

- Just Transition: How to manage the social and economic aspects towards more sustainability. Riga, 10th July, 2015. 


Activity Report