Green and Social Transport

Europe and the rest of the world are facing a climate emergency. Inaction towards climate change will continue to bring direct and indirect costs to Europe’s economy. It will impact jobs and health and safety at work due to frequent extreme weather events.

Immediate action is needed to prevent a full-blown climate catastrophe. All measures, policies, and action plans need to be created through a transparent and inclusive process, in which trade unions play a crucial role. Climate change, as well as measures aimed at mitigating it, will both have immense effects on the everyday lives of workers. Transport is one of the sectors that will be most heavily affected, and transport workers must have a say in how the transition to a greener society is done. Climate action policies are created and implemented on different levels, from local to European, and for the ETF, it is crucial that they revolve around six key principles to truly achieve environmental and social sustainability:


JUST TRANSITION Europe’s climate ambitions must be achieved in a way that’s fair to workers. Trade unions need to take part in discussions on these policies that heavily affect transport workers at the European, national and company level.

SKILLS AND TRAINING Workers should be up-skilled or re-skilled and should suffer no loss of pay or undermining of terms and conditions as a result of climate transition.

FAIR INVESTMENTS AND INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY Investments in sustainable transport modes and resilient infrastructure should take into account their impact on the workforce. They should be made with both a climate and human-centred approach and promote decent work practices.

FAIR PRICE The low-cost model that has spread in freight and passenger transport has proven to be far from environmentally and socially sustainable. The price of transport must internalise both environmental and social costs. Acting to establish a fair price for transport is a crucial element to deter social dumping practices, to set a level playing field between transport modes, and increase environmental sustainability.

MODAL SHIFT Solving the issues of pricing and social dumping in the transport sector will encourage a modal shift to more climate-friendly modes of transport. To fully enable the modal shift, appropriate public funds should be invested in the necessary infrastructure.

CLIMATE ADAPTATION Climate change has also strong implications in terms of health and safety at work. Extreme temperatures and intense natural hazards not only pose a life threat, but also keep people from performing their jobs or reaching their workplace. Adopting adaptation strategies should be standard procedure at workplace level. Initiatives such as changing working patterns or introducing emergency procedures in case of extreme conditions should be addressed through social dialogue and collective bargaining.


Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the entire transport industry. It almost brought certain sectors such as Civil Aviation to a complete halt and boosted others, for example e-commerce deliveries. Climate policies shall not be put aside as a result of the pandemic, but they should be integrated in recovery plans in order to promote transport that is both socially and environmentally sustainable.

Within the European Union, the European Commission aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The “European Green Deal” – a set of policy initiatives – was announced in December 2019 to majorly reduce emissions in nearly every sector while ensuring climate-neutral development of the economy.

Unfortunately, the current EU transport policies are not aligned with the bold ambitions of the European Green Deal. They are guided by a push towards liberalisation and privatisation of the sector. The price of transport is kept artificially low through dubious business models such as letter-box companies and social shopping within the internal market. This has rendered the sector environmentally and socially unstainable, and Europe’s targets cannot be achieved without addressing the supply chain.

The European Green Deal, as well as any other policies that deal with climate change, have to be ambitious and come with an industrial policy for transport, combining employment and environmental protection. We need fundamental change to build an environmentally and socially sustainable sector.

Europe’s climate ambitions must pave the way to a fair future of transport, and that can only be achieved in a way that’s fair to workers. Trade unions need to be part of all discussions on the policies that heavily affect transport workers.

For the ETF and its affiliates, a just transition must be at the centre of climate policies.

Social issues and environmental concerns are two sides of the same coin. Fighting social dumping and climate action is one and the same struggle.


Tools for Trade Unions:

ETF Guide to the EGD

The ETF has elaborated a simple easy-to-read guide for trade unions based on an internal analysis of the European Commission’s European Green Deal initiatives. The guide can be downloaded at your right.

You may also find ETF’s positions on Climate and the upcoming EU Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility.

More about Green and Social Transport

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Two years ago, the ETF launched a project to look in more detail at the roots of the above trends. Three reports – on road, rail and urban public transport were developed within the frame of the project to cast light on how liberalisation and market-opening policies led to undesirable effects that put at stake the very goals and objectives set by the same policymakers.

8 May 2024

ETF joined forces with partners for a Just Transition in Urban Public Transport

ETF organized a Sustainable Connections urban public transport networking event on November 24, just a few days before World Sustainable Transport Day. The event was part of the Urban Public Transport Committee (UPTC) workplan and brought together trade unions, environmental organisations, public transport operators/employers, city organisations, active transport advocates and others.

27 Nov 2023

Climate change and transport – A Toolkit for Transport trade unions

This “ETF Climate Change Toolkit for Transport Trade Unions” aims to raise awareness among ETF affiliates of climate change as a core trade union issue. Transport trade unions cannot wait but must act proactively in the interest of their members to ensure just transition.

1 Sep 2023

ETF points out contradictions in EC’s Greening Transport Package

The advances that could come from the Greening Transport Package, presented by the European Commission, are shadowed by a striking incoherence that the ETF must point out. The facilitation of cross-border operations of “gigaliners”, the 44-tonne longer and heavier vehicles with European Modular Systems running on fossil fuels, will be an obstacle to reach a clean and just transition to a carbon-neutral freight industry.

Press Release
12 Jul 2023