An ETF vision for sustainable transport

2 Aug 2023

Each year we face new superlatives about the effects of climate change and global warming. July 2024 was the hottest ever recorded July on Earth, and the unprecedented heatwaves and rain storms in Europe clearly show us that climate change is a reality.

As transport trade unions, we are well aware that fossil fuel dependence contributes to global warming, and there is an urgent need to decarbonize to reach the Paris Agreement goals. The effects of the European Green Deal and several legislative initiatives will, together with the digital transformation, change transport considerably.

But greening transport is only one part of the story – decarbonizing transport by greening our transport modes is not enough. We have reached a watershed moment where we need a truly sustainable transport system – an ecological and social mobility revolution (“Mobilitätswende”).

A sustainable transport system that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

At the latest with the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of transport and transport workers became evident – or, at least, that is what was understood when listening to the political rhetoric during the pandemic. Consequently, passenger and freight transport must be considered essential services of general interest, with transport workers essential to deliver these services.

But transport workers are not treated well; their conditions are not sustainable. For years, the ETF has brought attention to the unacceptable and unsustainable working conditions in transport, warning that these would have great economic consequences and impact the economic sustainability of transport. The current and ongoing worker shortages in transport demonstrate this and that there is not only a climate emergency in transport but also a social and economic crisis.

The “ETF Vision for Sustainable Transport” expresses the demands of transport trade unions and transport workers to make transport sustainable in all its elements.

For ETF, a real sustainable transport system is based on 7 key principles:

A green transition towards carbon neutrality

  1. is fair and based on just transition principles for transport workers and on equality;
  2. is based on cooperation and inter-modality: each transport sector has its place in the transport system and is contributing to the green transformation;
  3. ensures access to inclusive and affordable public transport services of high quality for all persons as well as for goods;

… based on social conditions

  1. that guarantee fair pay and quality working conditions for transport workers;
  2. that are inclusive for women, young workers and people of all equality trends;
  3. are safe and free of violence and harassment;
  4. guaranteeing trade union recognition, collective bargaining and social dialogue.

Implementing these 7 principles is crucial for ensuring sustainable transport and goes hand in hand with a fair and gender-sensitive digital transition of the transport sector. To achieve these 7 principles, 7 policy areas for action are required, as below:

  1. Governance for an ecological and social transformation of transport and mobility;
  2. A just transition framework for transport workers;
  3. Modal shift to environmentally friendly transport modes in a sustainable multi-modal transport system;
  4. Fair investments and infrastructure policy;
  5. Fair pricing and cost-sharing;
  6. Skills, training, occupational health and safety requirements;
  7. Adaptation to climate change and resilience.

Discover our full vision paper; you can read our proposals in detail here. Our policy paper is published in English, French and German.