Trade Unions and the Politics of Emissions Reductions: Shaping the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy

Project Details


"Trade Unions and the Politics of Emissions Reductions: Shaping the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy" (EcoPol) i s a research project that I am enacting during a secondment to KU Leuven in the course of the academic year 2017-2018. EcoPol has a triple goal: (a) to carry out research activities, (b) to build capacity on a new research topic ans (c) to engage in transfer of knowledge.
The first objective of EcoPol is to initiate and develop a research agenda on trade unions' engagement with climate change. Building upon my previous research on the polotocal sociology of trade unions, EcoPol will complement the existing explanations of the politics of climate change mitigation by focusing on the role of trade unions en European discussions on emissions reductions. European trade unions have advocated the need for a "Just transition" to a low-carbon economy and the goal to secure decent work and quality jobs for workers has been included in the preamble of the Paris climate agreement from 2015. However, debates in European trade unions, especially in the manufacturing sector, illustrate the dilemmas between job concerns and climate protection.
Using the example of policy debates within the European Trade Union Confederation and within its sectoral affiliate IndustriAll, this exploratory research analyses how European trade unions develop their policy positions on climate change mitigation. The research covers the three levels of European trade unionism: (i) European vconfederal trade union structures, (ii) sectoral European trade union structures and (iii) European works councils and plant-level union representatives.
The two main contributions of EcoPol will be (a) to map and explain the variations in the policy preferences of European trade unions regarding climate change mitigation and (b) to contribute to theory cuilding on trade union identifies and on unions 'capacity of stratefic action. The central research thesis is that the variety of trade union identifies and the initernal fragmentation of unions correspond to inconsistencies in unions' strategic choices in relation to climate change mitigation (and to differences between strategy formulation and implementation).
EcoPol speaks to the broader issues of the socio-political forces shaping the global climate governance and, ultimately, of the preconditions of an inclusive transition to a low-carbon economy. In addition, EcoPol's findings will have the potential to help policy-makers identify the relevant levels of European trade unionism to engage (confederal, sectoral or company level) and allow them to better take into account trade unions' constraints and resources when designing public climate change mitigation policies.
The second objective is to build capacity on a nexw research topic, the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. EcoPol will allow me to acquire new skills through scientific training and to initiate collaborations with first-rate scholars both in industrial relations and environmental social sciences.
The third objective is to engage in a transfer of knowledge between the host institute KU Leuven and my home institute LISER in the field of sustainable development, wich is a research field that LISER will develop over coming years.
N.B. As the research project covers the academic year 2017-2018, my secondment to KU Leuven has already started on 1st October 2017. In accordance with the FNR Mobility Out guidelines, I request funding from the FNR for the eligible period from 20 January 2018 to 30 September 2018.
Effective start/end date20/01/1830/09/18


  • Trade unions
  • Climate change
  • Industrial relations
  • Environmental studies
  • Labour environmentalism