The European Social Summit, which took place on 8 May 2021 in Porto, was a missed chance to reconcile the social and environmental dimensions of the challenges posed by climate change. The post-pandemic reality represented a good opportunity to build a socio-ecological agenda and sustainable alliances for a more just society. Still, so far, we have not seen much progress in this direction, at least not by the European leaders (see here the final declaration of the Social Summit (the “Porto Declaration”) neither by the European Commission (see here the inaugural speech given on 9 May by the President of the European Commission at the Conference on the Future of Europe). At the same time, the most prominent German (and European) industrial trade union IG Metall, representing the largest automobile manufacturing in Europe, has recently argued that “only the switch to electromobility will secure jobs in the automotive industry in the long term.” They insist that it is the propaganda machine of the extreme right that spreads false facts about e-mobility to create mistrust and fear among workers. According to IG Metall, if the German car industry does not embark on this transition, many more jobs will be lost. There is an apparent mind shift taking place by an essential part of the actors involved in the transition process, but we need the European policymakers on board to get the job done.

In the meantime, the ETUI is stepping up its work on the socio-environmental dimension with several projects in cooperation with the European Climate Foundation. On 8 June, we will be discussing at a workshop critical issues, challenges and research assumptions concerning the employment effects of a fast and ambitious transition to electromobility. The aim is to look at how can Europe make this sharp turn towards electric vehicles without losing ground and industrial competence and keep job losses at a minimum.

In another, this time hybrid workshop on 17 June, we will discuss a new concept of the welfare state considering the climate crisis and looking beyond the growth paradigm. This workshop will gather many established experts such as Éloi Laurent, OFCE/Sciences Po & Stanford University, Milena Büchs, University of Leeds, David Natali, Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa, Anke Hassel, Hertie School, Bruno Palier, Sciences Po Paris, Katharina Zimmermann, Hamburg University, Jock Martin, EEA and Ian Gough, LSE. Some of the panellists will also contribute to a paper which the ETUI will publish later this year. The paper by Ian Gough, “A framework for an eco-social contract”, considers two scenarios: the Green New Deal framework to decarbonise the economy whilst addressing the distributional and welfare issues this would involve, and a scenario counteracting runaway private consumption by building an economy of egalitarian sufficiency with ceilings to income, wealth and consumption. Eloi Laurent‘s Working paper on “The European social-ecological state beyond economic growth” discusses the apparent growth-dependency of European welfare states at a time of weak growth perspective and strong growth criticism. The third paper authored by David Natali et al., “Pensions and the Green Transition: policy and political issues at stake,” focuses on the green transition as a challenge for pensions as well. The three papers will be available on the ETUI website very soon, and you are also very welcome to join the workshops.

All eyes are now on what the Conference on the Future of Europe will contribute to this debate. Undoubtedly it represents a new opportunity to put the socio-ecological agenda at the forefront of the political debate.


Photo credits Sasiistock from Getty Images Pro

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