Exchange Group: Just Transition in the European Car Industry

Cars account for about 20 percent of Europe’s current CO2 emissions. Achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal will require the transformation of the automotive industry. We are starting to see some changes, with increasing sales of electric vehicles and bans on cars with combustion engines as of 2030. Other changes in the mobility sector include car sharing, the targeted promotion of bicycles and local public transport in cities, and developments in autonomous driving. These changes represent a major challenge for the automotive industry, its suppliers and employees. An electric car, for example, requires far fewer parts in production than a car with a combustion engine. Today there are almost 14 million jobs in this sector in the EU. This makes it a key industry for the EU as a whole, and particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. The described changes threaten jobs and the current role of the sector. This makes it necessary to identify ways to support all affected interest groups when making the automotive industry climate neutral.

Despite the urgency, the transformation remains in the early stages. With this project, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) wants to actively address and shape the development of a just transition in the automotive industry and among its suppliers. In five partner countries – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary and Germany – the project will establish an exchange group between European actors for a just transition in the automotive industry, develop bottom-up paths for transition, make policy recommendations for the respective country and the EU, and inform the public.

About the Project

Project Goals

The project aims to contribute to the successful implementation of the European Green Deal and the achievement of a carbon neutral Europe by enabling a just transition to unfold. It builds an understanding on how the EU’s bid to reduce emissions will affect its automotive industry. The project aims to address the automotive sector’s just transition. Equipped with the new research that the consortium will conduct, the activities under­taken in the project can be a starting point for the development and implementation of a just and climate-friendly transition of the European automotive sector. The dual goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the income security of Europeans seem to clash at this particular conjuncture. Taking the climate crisis seriously means phasing out internal combustion engines as well as shifting to less labour-intensive EVs and less motorised individual mobility. We seek to support the development of a framework and platform that helps European automotive stakeholders devise strategies and initiate communication on how to transform their activities to meet the demands of a carbon neutral global transportation sector in a just manner. The project’s prime goal and thereby planned impact is to set the tone of automotive sector strategies in a way that social justice is at the heart of the actions considered. By raising public awareness, drafting policy proposals and building networks, the project aims to prompt politicians to confront these challenges. It aims to influence national and EU policy discourses, supporting the realisation of climate targets through a just transition.


The project is structured in four major workpackages:

1. Research on the baseline situation and pathways for a just transition of the European car industry

Desk research on the baseline situation, existing research the impact of the transformation and already ongoing activities to manage the transition in a just way is conducted. The desk research is complemented by interviews with stakeholders in each country. The focus of stakeholder interviews are the company representatives and trade unions. Based on the insights gained and contacts established co-creation workshops in each partner country are organised. The workshops aim to co-create with the invited stakeholders just transition pathways and policy proposals for the respective country.

2. Country reports on the baseline situation, potential pathways and policy recommendations that support target groups in target countries and the EU

Five country reports will be elaborated based on the insights and results of workpackage 1. A country report sets out describing the situation for the automotive sector in the country and future outlooks. It then describes possible transition pathways and gives policy recommendations for the respective country.

3. Networking and exchange between target groups in target countries and the European Union for a just transition of the car industry

Newsletters with project findings and further news related to the topic of just transition in the European Union are compiled and sent out through the mailing list in order to inform stakeholders. The mailing list will also serve for further networking between stakeholders of the partner countries.

The project results will inform a co-creative conference in Brussels in 2022. The conference serves to establish further connections between different stakeholders on the EU level with invited participants from partner countries and to present the project results.

4. Dissemination and Communication activities

Videos with statements of stakeholders will be recorded in the course of the just transition conference in Brussels. These clips will portray the variety of perceptions on the topic. Furthermore, the project team aims to inform the public through cooperations with newspapers in each partner country.

Project partner