Dialogue on a fair green transition brings participants together from across Nordic Region

01.12.23 | News
Människor som sitter vid bord och lyssnar på en talare på en konferens
Eyþór Árnason/norden.org
On 1 December, representatives for the Nordic governments, workers, and employers gathered in Reykjavik to discuss how best to ensure that the green transition in the Nordic Region is as fair and just as possible.

Although the Nordics have long used a model of tripartite negotiations as a means to address major societal changes, negotiations like this one are not the norm at the Nordic level. Bringing together employers, workers, and governments around the same table means that more voices can be heard.

“I hope that our conversations will help us find common points of contact between the Nordic countries, with the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Vision 2030 to guide the way. I also hope that this conference is just the start of our dialogue and that the discussion will continue going forwards,” says Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson who is also hosting the conference.

Sweden holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2024 and, during the year, the theme of a fair and just green transition will characterise the programme for the ministers for the labour market.

“To improve our knowledge and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges posed by the green transition in the labour market, next year the annual ministerial meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour will be held in Skellefteå, which is one of the places in northern Sweden where a new wave of industrialisation is particularly noticeable,” explains Sweden’s Minister for the Labour Market and Integration Johan Pehrson.

Nordic memorandum of understanding

In connection with the tripartite conference, the Nordic ministers for the labour market, along with the Nordic worker and employer organisations, also agreed on a memorandum of understanding which, among other things, states that social inclusion and the reduction of economic inequality are important in order to counteract the possible negative consequences of the green transition on the labour market.

It also emphasises that a transition to a green economy will bring challenges in the labour market and that it is important to maintain open dialogue with all parties in order to successfully mitigate the negative effects. 

Regional differences

“There’s a big difference in how far the green transition has come in the various Nordic regions,” explains Gustaf Norlén, researcher at Nordregio.

“We’re seeing that most of the green jobs are in the urban regions in the Nordics and the ‘brown’ polluting jobs are in the rural areas. The rural population is also more worried about climate change.”

Norlén stresses the importance of remembering that the green transition will both create new jobs and result in the disappearance of others, and that these changes will have a varying impact in different parts of the Nordic Region.

Nordic model remains important

Sweden currently faces a challenge in terms of a fair and just green transition. The union has taken issue with the American car manufacturer Tesla for introducing a collective agreement for the workers employed by the company in Sweden.

“While we need new innovative companies like Tesla if we’re to make a success of the green transition, we also need to ensure that the Nordic model of collective agreements is upheld if we’re to make sure that the transition is also fair for workers,” says Johan Hall of the Swedish labour organisation LO.

New technology and honesty

Employers emphasise the importance of green growth if the Nordics are to make a success of the green transition.

“We need investments in innovation and new technology. Without new technology, the green transition will fail,” says Mikko Vieltojärvi from the Finnish employers’ organisation EK.

Another point of view is that it’s important that employers create trust by being honest and open with employees about upcoming changes.

“It’s difficult to give workers the bad news when their jobs disappear. But honesty is key. If we don’t talk about the need for change, then we just end up kicking the can down the road. Through honest communication, everyone is given a bit of a kick to play an active role in developing new solutions, such as through retraining,” says Sólrún Kristjánsdóttir, CEO of the Icelandic company Veitur Utilities.

Nordic Region as a role model for the world

Within Nordic co-operation, there’s also the aspiration to provide new green solutions on a global scale. Cristina Martinez, from the International Labour Organization ILO, says that it can be tricky to implement Nordic solutions in countries that have not progressed as far with their own transition.

“Although it can be challenging to immediately implement Nordic solutions in countries where democratic processes and social dialogue are not as developed, the Nordic countries can absolutely serve as inspiration for the rest of the world. The Nordic model of tripartite dialogue is a great example of this,” she says.