Article of the UIA Knowledge base
Edit 05 August 2021

Thinking urban transitions: the way towards a new socio-ecological pact

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Facing climate risks together with their social consequences, cities need to find new solutions to build a new socio-ecological pact. UIA is launching a two-years knowledge activity to further explore UIA projects’ contributions to such just transitions and to spur locally-based transitions in EU cities.

A crucial moment for urban transitions

In light of the EU Green Deal and its “fit for 55” legislation package, the EU has emphasised both the need for a sustainable, green recovery and the importance of supporting the most vulnerable people that will be the most affected by climate change consequences and transition policies.

Indeed, while the decarbonisation of the global economy is necessary to achieve more sustainable and climate resilient cities, it is also disruptive and costly for social groups already at risk. Economic structural changes imply restructuring core sectors such as energy, manufacturing or agriculture, which employ millions of workers. Climate policies and their social impact have become increasingly evident in recent years, further enhancing tensions between social justice and environmental sustainability goals.

UIA projects contributing to cities’ just transitions

Taking into account the climate risks together with its social consequences, there is a pressing need to find new solutions for a new socio-ecological pact. Acknowledging the key political and environmental moment for cities to initiate their transitions, UIA is launching a two years knowledge activity to further explore UIA projects’ contribution to just transitions. In such a period, it is indeed crucial to bring forward practical interventions and results that could inspire and foster locally-based transitions in EU cities.

To what extent cities can contribute to a transformative shift to carbon-neutral development? How cities’ transitions can contribute to shape a new socio-ecological pact? How can the new EU budget help pave the way to a just and green recovery at city-level?

Bringing to the forefront several European UIA funded projects whose strategies could add to the knowledge highly necessary in this context, the activity will look into these questions during the next 2 years, focussing on 3 main cross-cutting themes:

  • The job market renewal – Skills for a green future

  • The renewal of governance and participative structures – Democratic transitions for all

  • The urban exclusion risk – Make cities affordable for all

The first theme we will explore and focus on for the next 6 months is the job market renewal.


The first challenge we will be looking at is a crucial one for cities, their job market and the associated skills. Fuelled by structural transitions (digital and ecological), carbonised economic sectors and related jobs are set to decrease while new jobs are progressively appearing in cities. This requires new and more versatile skills, therefore increasing the risk of a mismatch between existing skills and demanded ones. Cities have developed predictive and preventive policies to foresee these major job market changes and adapt their education and training offer and support to local businesses. From September 2021 on, a pool of experts led by Eddy Adams will explore and collect knowledge about UIA projects testing solutions that could reduce the impact of job losses and industry phase-out on workers and communities (transport, energy, construction industry) by:

  • Supporting emerging green sectors: while key sectors such as urban mobility are evolving, requiring new skills (such as data analysis), new sectors are developing (urban agriculture, circular economy). These changes challenge the city capacity to support economic operators to test and develop new business models.

  • Forecasting new skills: structural changes in the job market will mostly affect under-skilled and the already vulnerable workforce, pushing cities to anticipate such changes and to adapt their training strategies to these consequences. Such transitions, mainly due to digital and ecological ones, will create new jobs while others will disappear. Forecasting these changes is key for cities to develop relevant partnerships with local stakeholders (academic and economic actors) and implement local trainings adapted for all.

  • Skilling and reskilling: changes in the job market might also affect not only the type of skills demanded but also their versatility. This major change stresses the need of cities to support the right conditions to develop life-long training to adapt local skills to the challenges of a climate neutral economy.

Save the dates!

This UIA knowledge activity will be launched on 4 October in the framework of the Urban Agenda of the EU’s series of webinar and a dedicated session on 14 October (11.30-13.00 CET) at the EURegionsWeek will be organised. Stay tuned as we put together a specific agenda for you to learn more from EU-level organisations and UIA cities dealing with green skills and discuss the following question: how can the new EU budget help pave the way to a just and green recovery at city-level?

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