Climate Breakdown, Trades Union Agency and the Challenge of Brexit: An Eco-Socialist Perspective on a Just Transition on the island of Ireland

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Hist, Anthrop, Philos & Politics


The Aim:
The project is a research study in the Green Political Economy with the aim to further our understanding and search for the conditions to promote the deep social partnership needed for Just Transition. The project is conducted as a work of critical theory research within a broader placed based comparative analysis framework and has a specific focus on the structural crisis of capitalism, its relationship with climate breakdown and the transformative potential of trade union agency for a Just Transition on the island of Ireland.

The Context:
The International Trade Union Movement has been at the forefront of policy developments towards Just Transition, culminating in recent drafting and adoption of the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration 2018 by 37 countries, including the UK and the Republic of Ireland at COP 24. On paper this creates a significant dedicated space for the trade union movement to influence how new participative economic models are fashioned for an equitable post-carbon future.

The Objectives:
(1) The project will interrogate the eco-socialist analysis that the environmental/climate crisis is primarily a result of the current (neoliberal) global capitalist system; translating into the over-exploitation of people and nature and outline its implications and responses, globally and specifically for the island of Ireland.
(2) Furthermore, the study will scrutinise the eco-socialist ascertain that what is required is a different view on what constitutes economic growth and a paradigm shift on how we organise and control the economy within an ambitious Welfare State framework that seeks to democratically alter the conditions of wealth production and the public ownership of utilities.
(3) In so doing, the study will also critically examine the historic role and current potential of the trade union movement internationally, in the UK and comparatively in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to catalyse transformative social partnership and alliance building for new political economies around a Just Transition.
(4) Overarching consideration will be given to regional divergence/convergence and the additional layers of complexity, challenge and opportunities posed by Brexit and its impact on peace building and the development of inter-isles relationships.
(5) The proposal will map and analyse trade union agency in moving towards a Just Transition to build Sustainable Cities, exploring and creating the intervention space within dynamics of urban growth cities, across the island of Ireland and the need to create a municipal development model that understands the limits of economic growth and ecological boundaries, creating new economies of maximum sustainable size.

The Outcomes:
(1) The research will produce a body of work that will provide a critical theory framework that can be used and adapted as an analytical engagement tool by the Trade Union Movement in the UK, Ireland and internationally to develop and manage the vertical and horizontal relationships involved in deep social partnership for Just Transition.
(2) The study will act as an innovative dialectical instrument to promote pathways for critical thinking, problem solving and partnership working; creating a space for discussion/questioning of fossil fuelled economic growth, and policies to promote decent, secure and well-paid jobs, enhanced social protection, labour standards and to protect the wellbeing of displaced workers and their communities.
(3) Ultimately, the project will create a body of work that will significantly strengthen the academic research and intellectual foundation of a Just Transition, while creating a new basis for engagement and debate with universities, other researchers, and amongst the social partners. Promoting relationships that can facilitate social leverage and transformation, influencing and impacting upon the push for Just Transition in a post carbon future.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2279881 Studentship ES/P000762/1 13/09/2019 31/03/2023 Damian Gerald McIlroy