3. Use social dialogue, robust stakeholder engagement and policy co-ordination to deliver better outcomes

Social dialogue with unions, employers and government as well as robust stakeholder engagement – such as with communities, international organisations, academia and civil society (including youth) – builds public support, incorporates local perspectives, invites innovative ideas from diverse stakeholders, and helps create plans that are sustainable, culturally appropriate and feasible to implement. Social dialogue and stakeholder engagement should include clear communication on the necessity of rapid transitions. Failure to do so means workers, communities and industries risk becoming stranded in increasingly uncompetitive industries.

  • South Africa’s statutory social dialogue body, NEDLAC, brings together civil society along with traditional social partners. It has negotiated a social compact on the transition of the country’s utility, Eskom.
  • The German government established a multi-stakeholder Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment, which made recommendations on the timing and pace of the coal phase-out as well as transitional assistance to affected communities. The recommendations are now embodied in legislation as well as social dialogue between employers and unions.
  • As part of Spain's recovery, transformation and resilience plan, the government has promoted a high-level energy transition forum to discuss progress on the plan's green components with business, civil society and academia.
  • The EU initiative for coal regions in transition established a European-wide, multi-stakeholder forum to discuss common issues and possible solutions for the phase-out of coal in line with EU energy and climate objectives. The EU also has sectoral social dialogue for the electricity sector, under which union federations and the employer organisation EURELECTRIC have negotiated agreements on skills, just transition and other topics.  

Social dialogue and stakeholder engagement on a regional and local basis are equally important to ensure that local partners have a seat at the table to decide on plans for their future redevelopment.

  • In line with the government’s social dialogue with unions and coal companies and subsequent agreement to phase out of coal mining by 2049, Poland is undertaking intensive engagement with coal regions toward the creation of regional plans to direct investment in coal communities to support the transition.
  • In 2018, the Canadian government established the federal Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities to undertake consultations with coal communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and to make recommendations on a just transition to the federal government.

Policy co-ordination across the government is also important. Addressing the employment and social impacts of energy transition polices requires stronger co-ordination across government agencies, beyond just energy or climate ministries, including with finance, trade, transport, labour, agriculture and education ministries.

  • For example, South Africa’s Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission brings together government, industry and civil society to co-ordinate government action and develop a framework on the just transition.
  • Panama established an Energy Transition Council to provide advice, consultation and accountability for the Strategic Guidelines of Panama´s Energy Transition Agenda.
  • The US administration set up an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, bringing together leaders of different agencies to find a collaborative, all-of-government approach to identify existing resources and new opportunities to assist communities that have been impacted by the energy transition. 
  • Senegal’s Agency for the Economy and Energy Management (AEME) has signed agreements with the Ministry of Trade to coordinate actions on energy efficiency and the energy transition.
Case studies

Social dialogue between all stakeholders and policy co-ordination will deliver better outcome

South Africa’s just transition social dialogue

South Africa has undertaken early national engagement on a just transition for its coal industry in a context where coal accounts for 73% of the country’s energy supply and about 1% of direct formal employment. The Congress of South African Trade Unions initiated the just transition conversation as far back as 2011. The concept was then included in several high-level planning and policy documents, including in South Africa’s 2012 National Development Plan, to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. The country was also the only one to highlight the importance of a just transition as part of its initial Nationally Determined Contribution under the 2015 Paris Agreement. In addition, the government in 2017 conducted a thorough National Employment Vulnerability Assessment to understand the potential impacts of clean energy transitions on employment by sector. These efforts have been complemented by a strong, nationwide social dialogue designed to give all stakeholders a voice in the country’s vision for a just transition. This ongoing national engagement on the just transition has helped lay the early groundwork for the country to develop concrete people-centred clean energy transition plans. In late 2020, social partners of the country’s National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) reached a framework agreement on the transition of state-owned utility Eskom. NEDLAC was established under statute in 1994 as a body to bring together South Africa’s main social partners (government, business, organised labour and civil society) to address the social and economic challenges facing the country. The Eskom social compact allows social partners to collaborate on projects to repurpose old coal power stations and to use clean coal technologies as part of a just transition. 

Germany’s Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment

As part of its efforts to halve energy-related CO2 emissions by 2030, Germany intends to phase out coal-based power. To reach a broad social consensus on the coal phase-out plan, the federal government established a Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment (also known as the Coal Commission) in June 2018. It brought together representatives of environmental associations, scientists, trade unions, economic and energy associations, and representatives from the affected regions. Commission members met with coal mining regions to receive grassroots inputs on the challenges and opportunities in each area. In addition to recommendations on the pace of the coal phase-out, the Commission proposed that coal mining regions receive EUR 40 billion between 2020 and 2038 in transitional assistance, funded from the federal budget. The recommendations formed the basis of the German government’s just transition strategy for coal regions. 

Spain’s High-Level Forum on a Just and Inclusive Energy Transition

As part of Spain's recovery, transformation and resilience plan, the government created a high-level forum on a just and inclusive energy transition to discuss progress on the recovery plan's clean energy components. The forum is convened by Spain’s Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), and aims to elaborate on measures related to the transition. The Forum will inform the government planning process in parallel with institutional coordination with other administrations. The forum will have a flexible format and be structured around meetings and specific working groups for each of the plan’s action areas by bringing together a range of stakeholders including business, civil society and academia. Spain’s just and inclusive energy transition pillar has four major components: the rapid deployment of renewables, the development of smart grid infrastructure, storage and new business models, renewable hydrogen as a national project, and the Strategy for a Just Energy Transition. The third meeting of the forum took place in July 2021.

EU’s "Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition"

The EU launched the ‘Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition’ as a non-legislative component of the ‘Clean energy for all Europeans’ package to ensure that coal regions are not left behind has part of the transition to clean energy. The initiative –in place since 2017 – is designed as an open forum that gathers all relevant stakeholders, including local and national governments, industry, trade unions and civil society to promote sharing of experience and best practice. All EU coal regions are invited to participate, enabling coal regions to shape plans unique to their local contexts and opportunities. The initiative not only helps connect stakeholders, but also offers technical assistance and provides supporting resources such as reports and toolkits. Since 2019, the initiative is managed by a secretariat jointly with the European Commission. 

EU sectoral dialogue for electricity

The EU organises social dialogues with employers and workers in a number of sectors that involve discussions, consultations and negotiations. Included among the sectoral social dialogues is one for the electricity sector, which involves the employer organisation Union of the Electricity Industry (EURELECTRIC) and workers’ federations industriAll European Trade Union and European Federation of Public Service Unions. The social dialogue covers all parts of the sector, from power generation to distribution, trade and transmission. Among the focus areas of the dialogue are managing the ‘just energy transition,’ skills and qualifications, and youth employment. A 2017 joint declaration of the Electricity Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee focused on the need for quality job creation, reskilling/upskilling, involvement of local partners and communities, as well as European financial instruments to support a just transition in electricity. In 2018, the social partners signed the ‘Roadmap on Skills and Qualifications and the ‘Joint pledge to join the European Alliance for Apprenticeships’, which are aimed at future-proofing the skills and qualifications of workers as part of the electricity transition. 

Poland’s just transition for coal workers

The Polish government and trade union representatives have agreed to phase out coal mining by 2049 under a Social Contract. Under the plan, miners will have the right to relocate from closed mines to those still in operation, or receive an early retirement package equal to 80% of their salaries. Those who decide to leave mining will receive a severance payment of PLN 120 000 (EUR 26 500). The agreement also includes investments of over PLN 16 billion (EUR 3.5 billion) in clean coal technologies. Until 2049, the government will continue to subsidise coal production. In addition to state budgetary outlays, the Polish government expects to receive funds from the EU Just Transition Fund (see below). To qualify for funds, member countries must prepare Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs) that identify the most negatively impacted regions. Poland’s TJTP is currently in draft form based on ongoing discussions among stakeholders and the European Commission. 

Task Force: Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities

As part of its commitment to phase out of conventional coal-fired electricity by 2030, in 2018, the government of Canada established the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities — to engage coal communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and recommend a path forward. The Task Force was made up of experts in sustainability, workforce development and the electricity sector, including representatives from labour associations, unions and municipalities. The Task Force met with workers, communities and key stakeholders in coal regions throughout 2018 and released its final report in March 2019. Recommendations included calls to increase transitional support for impacted communities and the creation of a labour market inventory for coal workers, skills building programmes and local infrastructure development. The recommendations have helped inform the government’s just transition strategy (see case study under Recommendation 2). 

South Africa Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission

As part of South Africa’s early institutional efforts to develop a framework for a just transition, the country’s president in December 2020 established the inaugural Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission (P4C). The establishment of the committee stems from a decision taken at the Presidential Jobs Summit held in October 2018, where a broad set of participants agreed that a coordinated body should be established to oversee the country’s just transition strategy. Its mandate is to advise on the country’s plans to address climate change. As part of this, the P4C will advise and help develop a common understanding of a just transition, accounting for the socio-economic, environmental and technological implications of climate change. It is also meant to provide a platform to engage key stakeholders on the National Employment Vulnerability Assessment and Sector Job Resilient Plans. The Commission’s membership includes representatives from government, civil society, labour unions and industry. This includes ministers from not just the energy ministry, but also those overseeing the environment, transport, finance, education, agriculture and rural affairs, planning, and trade and industry, which will help ensure an all-of-government approach and coordination on the just transition. 

Panama’s Energy Transition Council

In November 2020, the government of Panama established an Energy Transition Council to provide advice, consultation and accountability for the government’s enactment of the Strategic Guidelines of Panama´s Energy Transition Agenda. Among its thematic areas of focus are universal energy access, energy efficiency, electric mobility, distributed generation, grid modernisation and the hydrocarbons sector. The Council is comprised of a number of stakeholders from the public and private sectors and academia. As part of its transition agenda, the government has prepared ‘Energy Pacts’ that represent voluntary commitments of the country to expand energy coverage, electrification and renewable energy capacity by 2030, the latter focusing on solar and wind energy. In July 2020, at the Ministerial Thematic Forum organised by the United Nations, the government presented 38 Energy Pacts, highlighting access to energy as an opportunity for socio-economic inclusion as well as its intent to promote local entrepreneurship and the participation of women and youth in clean energy transitions.

US Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities

The US president in January issued Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which established an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. The group is co-chaired by the Director of the National Economic Council and the National Climate Advisor, and administered by the Secretary of Energy. The first mandate for the working group was to prepare a report that outlines measures and prioritisation of programmes to support and revitalise coal mining and power plant communities. The initial report designated the 25 regions most impacted by coal declines as priority Energy Communities. The report also identified existing federal programmes with total funding of nearly USD 38 billion that could be deployed to assist these communities. As part of the group’s work, senior government officials from across the government travelled to energy communities in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Colorado and Arizona’s Navajo and Hopi communities. The extensive consultations will help inform efforts to coordinate federal resources and reduce barriers to access for these communities.