Just transition


According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), a ‘just transition’ means:

greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.

A Just Transition involves maximizing the social and economic opportunities of climate action, while minimizing and carefully managing any challenges – including through effective social dialogue among all groups impacted, and respect for fundamental labour principles and rights.

Background and status

At international level, EU Member States have endorsed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and ratified the Paris Agreement, which refer to the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and good-quality jobs.

Guidelines from the ILO provide an internationally established policy framework that defines the concept of a just transition and calls upon policymakers and social partners to promote a just transition at global level.

Furthermore, 54 signatories (countries and social partners) endorsed the Silesia Declaration, which was adopted at the 24th United Nations Climate Change Conference by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, and 21 individual Member States. The EU and 10 Member States signed the declaration ‘Supporting the Conditions for a Just Transition Internationally’, adopted at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, committing to include information on just transition in transparency reports, published every two years.


Transition plans at EU level

At EU level, the European Commission’s communication on the European Green Deal sets out in detail how the Commission plans to implement a vast strategy to achieve a climate-neutral EU by 2050. It paved the way for the first European Climate Law, which was adopted in June 2021.

On 20 June 2019, the Council committed, in its new strategic agenda, to ensuring a fair transition towards climate neutrality that is inclusive, leaving nobody behind. In December 2019, the Council adopted conclusions that underlined that the transition would bring significant opportunities in terms of economic growth, new business models and new jobs. However, the Council also recognised the need to put in place a framework ‘to ensure a … socially balanced and fair transition’. To this end, the Council approved the creation of the Just Transition Mechanism to provide tailored support to the regions and sectors most affected. In December 2021, the Council adopted a recommendation on ensuring a fair transition towards climate neutrality, inviting Member States:

to adopt and, in close cooperation with social partners as relevant, implement comprehensive and coherent policy packages, addressing the employment and social aspects to promote a fair transition across all policies.

Transition plans at national and regional levels

Member States have a range of tools at their disposal to outline and coordinate their actions for a fair transition. National energy and climate plans prepared in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 should assess the number of households in energy poverty and outline the measures needed to address the social and territorial implications of the energy transition. Territorial just transition plans prepared in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2021/1056 should identify the territories eligible for support under the Just Transition Fund up to 2027. National recovery and resilience plans prepared in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2021/241 provide for reforms and investments to foster the green transition, inclusive growth, and social and territorial cohesion. Some actions for a fair transition are also implemented in the context of other programmes and initiatives, in particular Cohesion Policy funds.

Related dictionary terms

European Semester European Green Deal International Labour Organization European Pillar of Social Rights

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