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What is "Just Transition"?

Becoming fundable? Converting climate justice claims into climate finance in Mesoamerica’s forests

The article assesses the efforts of the indigenous and forest people’s groups in Mexico and Central America to promote claims to climate finance in terms of the different concepts of justice and identifies constraints to more transformative and reparative pathways to just climate outcomes.


The article draws upon the experiences of a coalition of 10 Indigenous and forest peoples’ groups in Mexico and Central America—the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB)—with regards to their navigation of the discursive strategies suited for accessing climate finance, particularly through the REDD+ instrument. The author uses the history of community positions toward REDD+ to suggest that the claims underpinning their engagement reflect conceptualizations of climate justice, which deviate from those that have dominated policy and popular discussions. The author assesses the feasibility of the AMPB-proposed Mesoamerican Territorial Fund that aims to directly capture climate finance, which would bypass problematic relations with national governments and traditional donors.

The article finds that although Indigenous peoples and local communities have made significant advances in terms of representation, recognition, participation, and concrete funding, the constraints of “becoming fundable” may hinder more transformative and reparative pathways to just climate outcomes. The requirement to “become fundable”, under the terms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and major donors, is also a demand for the Indigenous peoples and local communities to become legible . This demand presents a clear tension with the member groups’ priorities of self-determination and “buen vivir”—a term that signifies an explicit recognition of the importance of nature for well-being. The author concludes that moving toward distributive justice may be much easier than a more critical interpretation of procedural justice. As such, efforts to support forest climate initiatives in these contested landscapes may benefit from moving away from results and performance-focused discussions toward a view of climate finance as among the means of achieving distributive, procedural, and historical justice on a territorial scale.

Just transition? Strategic framing and the challenges facing coal dependent communities

The author highlights the importance of strategic framing for policies and unpacks how the reframing of the issue, scale, and place of a coal-mine closure to deliver a “just transition” exacerbated the local sense of perceived injustice.


Using an example from the Latrobe Valley in Australia, the author uses the paper to deconstruct how a series of strategic reframings were applied to a transition in a coal community and how they exacerbated the local sense of perceived injustice. The top-down strategy adopted deployed a series of reframings: defining the issue as ‘transition’, defining the scale of intervention as ‘regional’, and then creating a bespoke region as the arena of policy action. A multilevel governance arrangement, created to plan for the transition, was heralded by the policymakers as building local consensus and empowering local communities to take responsibility for the future. The author argues that, in practice, these moves excluded directly affected local constituencies, exacerbated the pre-existing local sense of injustice, and enabled redistributive funding to be diverted to unaffected adjacent areas.

The author argues that the deliberative ‘transitioning’ approach described in this paper failed because it sought to side-step local fears about the likely impacts of change. It deployed the technologies of governance—reframing, reterritorialization, faux deliberative engagement, and quantitative gymnastics—to make the problem of the industrial valley appear unproblematic. The conclusion stresses that progress on closing high emissions fossil-fuel activities requires a more sympathetic and politically astute understanding of place and the situation of affected communities.

The author also highlights how the strategic scaling of policy problems aims to make it easier for the dominant actors to control the policy process and shape the perceptions of the winners and losers of change. This paper contributes to the understanding of the strategic reframing of issues and scales of governance by highlighting their implications for the territorial arenas of policy action, which this paper calls “strategic place framing”. The paper advances the argument that when strategic place frames conflict with accepted territorial boundaries, they invite opposition and resistance, thereby limiting, to some extent, the potential of strategic issue and scale framing because of the political durability of territorial place frames.

Climate justice and global cities: Mapping the emerging discourses

The paper draws on case studies and a database of initiatives from 100 cities to examine the emergence of the discourses on distributive and procedural justice in urban responses to climate change.


The paper seeks to examine the ways in which concerns about justice are being articulated in the planning and implementation of urban climate change policy and projects, and consider the extent to which the city provides an arena within which questions of climate justice could be thought anew. The authors showcase the differences across the mitigation and adaptation domains in the ways by which the principles of climate justice have been articulated. They have also addressed some of the critical challenges in translating these principles into the urban arena. Drawing on an analysis of the projects and interventions taking place in 100 global cities in response to climate change, they have identified the explicit articulations of distributive and procedural justice across the adaptation and mitigation domains in only a small number of cities.

The authors highlight how the urban context brings to the fore the difficult questions of forms of procedure and type of participation, which could count as “just”, in the context of the widely-variegated forms of climate change response. While similar principles of distributive and procedural justice can be applied to both mitigation and adaptation, in practice, notions of justice are articulated differently across these domains. The authors also highlight specifically the differences in the ways in which justice has been articulated and what it has come to mean when it is framed at different scales, from nation states to individuals.

The authors find that there is limited explicit concern with justice at the urban level. However, where discourses of justice are evident, there are important differences emerging between urban responses to adaptation and mitigation, and between those in the north and in the south. Adaptation responses tend to stress the distribution of the “rights” to protection, although those in the South also emphasize the importance of procedural justice. Mitigation responses also stress the “rights” to the benefits of responding to climate change, with a limited concern for “responsibilities” or for procedural justice. The authors also find that while adaptation responses tend to focus on the rights of individuals, discourses of collective rights are emerging in relation to mitigation. They notice less of an emphasis on matters of procedural justice; such matters are more likely to be a concern in initiatives in the south, whereas responses in the north (often focused on the adaptation to heat) are more technocratic in their orientation.

How Local Energy Initiatives Develop Technological Innovations: Growing an Actor Network

This article describes the outcome of studies conducted to understand how socio-technical innovations for energy transitions can emerge at the local level.


This article explores innovative approaches adopted by local energy initiatives to create networks that enable grassroots technological innovations to facilitate the local energy transition to a more sustainable system. The authors examine the different components, actors, and phases of a project initiation to better understand how relationships at the grassroot levels can be built to enable these innovations. They conclude with lessons on how local energy initiatives can improve their networking capabilities.

Through various theories such as the “actor-network theory”, the authors seek to understand how local-level technological innovations are developed and identify the key elements influencing the process. They then analyze the development of networks in four stages during which ideas are conceptualized, problematized, interpositioned , and substantiated. Furthermore, they highlight the power imbalance that often emerges between energy initiatives and other stakeholders, such as banks, arguing that this could lead to a one-side-relationship that can further complicate network building. In addition, they discuss the importance of non-human “actants”, such as the environment, money, and other materials, during project development. Next, they also examine the innovation process by using case studies to better understand how local energy initiatives engage with different stakeholders.

Finally, the authors conclude with lessons on how grassroot-level energy initiatives can better develop socio-technical innovations for renewable energy, while harnessing local opportunities and talents. They argue that more scrutiny is needed at the start of a project to make it convincing, and even more importantly, to ensure all aspects of the project are well-aligned. In addition, they offer recommendations for future research to: scale up evidence on socio-technical innovations across the world; provide conceptual guidance on how relationships between stakeholders are built; and better understand existing policy frameworks that support these innovations.


What Kind of Governance for What Kind of Equity? Towards a Theorization of Justice in Water Governance

This article reviews the literature and concepts related to water and hydrosocial relations, water governance, and spatial scale, along with equity, justice, and human rights, with a focus on Bolivia.


The author conducts a critical review of the literature on water, in terms of its relationship to social relations and environmental justice. The author illustrates these theories through the case of water pollution in Bolivia’s Huanuni Valley resulting from mining activity, along with its social and environmental effects.

The author’s analysis of water and hydrosocial relations reveals that water and its management must be understood in the context of its social history and political character. He argues that water reflects and produces relationships of uneven social power. The author also analyzes the literature on water governance, with particular attention to spatial scale. The author argues that the decision on the scale of action for a water governance policy is not politically neutral: many policymakers choose to focus on the watershed level. To correct the scalar assumptions common in water governance policies, the author argues that the notion of the “waterscape”, or the view of water as a socio-natural entity, would better account for the relationship between water and society. In his review of the concept of equity in water governance, the author points out that the typical association of the concept with distributional impacts, such as access to water and exposure to pollution, does not account for the historical processes of social exclusion. The author also challenges the concept of the human right to water by suggesting that it has the potential to contradict the collective rights to water of some indigenous groups.

The author concludes the analysis by applying the concept of hydrosocial relations to the case of water pollution in Bolivia’s Huanuni Valley. He argues that while the formal law for water rights is progressive in Bolivia, water access favors the powerful and privileged in practice. To overcome this situation, the author suggests a greater focus on environmental justice and ecological governance that views water and society as natural, social, and political.

Generational coal mining communities and strategies of energy transition in Australia

The paper identifies a relationship between coal mining and generational identity in the community, based on its research on New South Wales, Australia, and provides a perspective of the energy transition discourse, by highlighting how the hidden dimensions of loss can reinforce the local support of an extractive industry.


The authors suggest that the implications of place attachment and loss in generational coal mining communities are currently underexamined in the energy transition discourse, by using the example of a coal community in New South Wales, Australia. The paper identifies the relationship between coal mining and the generational identity of this community, thereby adding a useful perspective to the energy transition discourse by highlighting how the hidden dimensions of loss can reinforce the local support of an extractive industry. By combining scholarship on the emotionality of the minescape with the work on how place attachment can translate into feelings of loss in response to material change, they suggest that the factors of time and place can make community-level actors within the energy landscape either receptive or resistant to change.

This work thus highlights how the place-industry relationship is inherently emotional and irrational, thereby calling for a greater acknowledgement of this emotional dimension to address issues of conflict related to the extractive industry productively. The authors suggest that, while not all that is valuable can be preserved, transition strategies could be better served by exploring ways in which the intangible associations with place—identity and attachment—can be maintained at the community level in the face of material changes in the physical environment. The lessons from the paper have the potential to be applied to the context of transitions in other coal communities where transition planning is under way.

Just Urban Transitions: Toward a Research Agenda

This article proposes a new approach to just urban transitions and identifies additional research priorities to inform them based on gaps in the underlying justice literature.


Despite growing policy discussions around urban climate action and just transitions, the requirements for a just urban transition (JUT) are not well understood. This article explores JUTs by examining the intersection between urban climate action and just transitions.

The authors examine the different areas of justice scholarship—including environmental, climate, energy, and urban justice—that can inform JUTs. These various fields have elevated distributional impacts and demonstrated the importance of decisionmaking processes. However, the authors conclude that justice scholarship is largely retrospective and focused on “redressing harms rather than identifying and elaborating on agency in the process of change moving forward.”

To address this gap, the authors argue that “shifting from an evaluative perspective to a change and process-oriented perspective is critical to forwarding a JUT research and policy agenda.” Consistent with just transitions policy discussions, they call for a forward-looking approach that integrates justice principles and emphasizes change processes, alternative futures, and political and structural barriers. They conclude by identifying key questions for subsequent research on JUTs.

Indigenous Struggles, Environmental Justice, and Community Capabilities

This article discusses how Indigenous peoples’ struggles for environmental justice have redefined the justice discourse by incorporating concern for nature, culture, and communities into a range of demands for equity, recognition, and participation.


This article examines how the concept of justice is being used by various environmental groups and discusses the “capabilities-based approach” to justice used by Indigenous communities in their struggle over various environmental issues. It then presents two case studies from Arizona and southern Chile to illustrate the different conceptions of environmental justice among Indigenous communities around the world.

The authors first discuss scholars and activists’ historical conception of justice and explain the capabilities-based approach to environmental justice. They criticize an earlier focus on equity as the core principle of environmental justice, which they argue should go beyond fixing mere distributive and procedural inequities to enabling communities to thrive culturally.

They present two case studies on Indigenous environmental justice movements and argue that their conceptions of environmental justice offer a broad, integrated approach to development. They conclude that such an approach allows for diversity and provides an “integrative way” to understand environmental justice concepts from an Indigenous perspective, which includes a concern for the basic functioning of communities, their culture, and their relationship with nature.

A Discussion of Systemic Challenges for a Just Transition towards a Low Carbon Economy

This brief discusses structural problems in South Africa’s economy and proposes an alternative model that can support the country’s sustainable development and environmental goals.


This brief presents a conceptual definition of a “just transition” and related concepts within the context of the current South African political-economic model. The author highlights the structural dysfunctions of this model and how it is failing to achieve developmental and environmental sustainability. The author discusses the opportunity for a new developmental approach centered around just transitions and highlights policy questions that are important to ensuring climate adaptation and mitigation efforts to promote economic democracy.

The author proposes that South Africa abandon its current market-led economic model and adopt a new one led by the state. The new model would involve labor-intensive industrialization that moves away from extractive models and addresses the needs of local and regional markets. The author examines potential strategies and enabling conditions for ensuring that economic activities support a just transition and overcome various challenges in the context of South Africa. The brief concludes with a call for a new economic growth indicator—one that can measure growth through education, housing, health, access to services, or happiness and well-being.

The Contribution of Social Dialogue to the 2030 Agenda: Promoting a Just Transition towards Sustainable Economies and Societies for All

This paper explains how just transitions can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and discusses the importance of social dialogue, citing examples from around the world.


In this report, the authors explain how just transitions can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and address climate change. They argue that social dialogue is an essential element of just transitions, as it can facilitate planning processes based on genuine partnership. Drawing on case studies from around the world, the authors highlight just transition processes forged through social dialogue at the national and corporate levels.

The authors examine the role of multinational companies in a just transition, describing the dilution of regulatory power and social and labor rights tied to the rise of large multinational companies. In this context, they explain the importance of social dialogue to protect workers’ interests across supply chains. They highlight various examples of social dialogue within energy and textile companies, including through Global Framework Agreements, and advocate for coordination among trade unions to promote supranational mechanisms for social dialogue. They highlight the need for trade unions to strengthen their capacity on climate-change issues and to integrate an environmental dimension into their strategies to engage in just transitions effectively.

The authors conclude with wide-ranging recommendations for the successful implementation of just transitions. These recommendations are directed at a variety of actors in this space, including donor governments engaged in development.