The UK’s commitments to net zero emissions by 2050 are admirable but will require change on an unprecedented scale to achieve. These changes, if not handled carefully, risk destroying jobs and livelihoods and provoking a worker backlash against them. To counteract this, the concept of a just transition has emerged; moving to net zero in a way that protects livelihoods and reduces inequality, providing retraining and new skills where required to help workers transition to new jobs.

To successfully manage this transition, businesses will need to work closely with their workforces, adopting a partnership approach that secures workforce buy-in for needed changes and allows a worker voice to be heard in determining how to implement them. This is vital for both change management reasons, but also to make sure workers have a voice to stand up for their own interests. At present, most
UK employers are still at the very beginning of plotting their journey down this path.

Government, at both national and regional levels, has an important role in facilitating this dialogue about transition, particularly at regional and sectoral level where suitable forums for social dialogue are currently lacking in the UK. The government also needs to provide strategic leadership over transition, ideally as part of a wider industrial strategy. The recent direction of UK policymaking in this area suggests a reluctance on the part of the UK government to fully embrace this strategic planning role.

Ahead of the crunch climate summit of COP26, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and Involvement and Participation Association (IPA) have published a review of the UK’s journey towards preparing the workforce for net zero.

Download report here.