Skip to main content

Transitioning to a Low Carbon Economy: Trade Unions and the Jobs Versus Environment Dilemma


Tackling the global crisis of human-induced climate change is the most urgent and immense challenge of the twenty-first century. To help surmount this challenge, the European Union has subscribed to the Paris Agreement and the seventeen goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Transitioning to a low carbon economy requires a broad coalition of governments, supranational institutions, corporations, and civil society actors. Among these, trade unions have a crucial role to play because the most significant path to decarbonization will be through a transformation of industrial production, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of Europe’s total carbon emissions. While trade unions have a demonstrated capacity to help make industrial processes more sustainable, their action is limited by a constant “jobs versus environment” dilemma between protecting the environment and protecting jobs in polluting industries, which millions of their members depend on for their livelihood. ‘Transitioning to a Low Carbon Economy: Trade Unions and the Jobs versus Environment Dilemma’ (EcoUnions) is a comparative, interdisciplinary and multi methods study that will: (a) examine and compare trade union approaches to the dilemma in Denmark and the United Kingdom; b) explore how organisational and institutional dynamics shape trade union action; and (c) determine what role trade unions play in public debate on the transition to a low carbon economy. Theoretically, the goal of Eco-Unions is to develop a multi-level analytical framework that can guide future empirical inquiry and allow for a holistic understanding of the three key interconnected arenas in which trade unions are navigating the “jobs versus environment” dilemma: internal union strategizing, climate policy-making and public debate. To achieve this, an interdisciplinary approach is applied, combining employment relations with environmental sociology and the new field of environmental labour studies.

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call


Norregade 10
1165 Kobenhavn
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 219 312