#Lab21: Why we need a Just Transition

Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge we face as a planet. The need for a Just Transition for the steel industry is more crucial than ever.

The formidable contemporary challenges of climate change, automation, Brexit and COVID-19, combined with the more familiar impacts of recession and globalisation, demand a national conversation about the management of industrial change.

The UK does not have a good record here. The case of SSI steelworks in Redcar demonstrates what happens when a strategic business and major employer is allowed to collapse in such a chaotic way. SSI was an avoidable tragedy that must never be repeated.

There is no magic bullet solution to industrial change and solving the climate crisis, but more everyone collectively doing their bit to change and improve the way we live. Our steel industry is one such example of this.

Green steel has the potential to better the air we breathe and the planet we live on. The global steel market is currently worth an estimated $2.5 trillion and produces 9% of global emissions. Decarbonisation is coming to us all, that is simply a reality. What is up for question is how we as an industry choose to adapt to this.

We know that our steel industry must decarbonise in a responsible way, and we recognise that the future of British steelmaking is supporting green jobs at the core of a low-carbon economy.

We firmly believe that trade unions must be at the heart of the decision-making process to deliver a just transition that protects jobs and steel communities.

We are also adamant that steelworkers must get all the support they need to adapt to new circumstances and acquire new skills where jobs change or evolve.

Rebuilding our economy is going to require millions of tonnes of high-quality British-made steel because if we’re serious about reducing global emissions it is nonsensical to continue importing dirty steels from the other side of the world.

Moreover, the green industries of the future, like offshore wind and electric vehicles, will all require a reliable source of domestically produced steel. Net-zero means we need to grow Britain’s steel industry, not shrink it, and in doing so create new jobs and opportunities in parts of the country that most need them.

The choice is clear – either we make the steels here, supporting tens of thousands of good jobs, or we can offshore those jobs and rely on high-carbon imports from countries playing by different rules. Steel sections produced within the U.K. result in 50% less CO2 emitted than steel sections sourced from the EU.

A commitment to a Just Transition for the steel industry has the potential to create jobs, protect communities and save the planet. Now, more than ever, we need for industrial change to be planned and managed with workers at its heart.

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