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Road to COP26: Just Transitions and the Climate Agenda

We’ve got to be deliberate and thoughtful in what we are doing. So, for our COP presidency, what we are thinking about very much is not just working on what we need to do, but how we need to do it.

Kate Hughes

On March 9, the Just Transition Initiative explored the role of just transitions ahead of the COP26 climate meetings in November 2021. Government officials, civil society leaders, and international trade union representatives discussed how just transitions can help accelerate climate action.

It is, I believe, the greatest job creation opportunity that we have in our lifetime, that we will ever have in our lifetime, to shepherd through what will be a just transition to a global clean energy economy.

Andrew Light

They also outlined how national climate plans can ensure justice and a fair distribution of opportunities in the new climate economy. Participants acknowledged the challenges created by Covid-19, but also noted the opportunity it presents for job creation and transformational change.

They suggested that COP26 could serve as a platform to develop aspirations for just transitions to clean economies.

If we don’t have a recovery that is rich in good jobs and that respects people’s rights, also rights to form trade unions, then it’s pretty hard to see how we are going to have the kind of political stability we need to roll out climate policy.

Samantha Smith

The first challenge that we have is to ensure that people have the right kind of skills that are needed to take advantage of this transition, and to ensure that the day the last coal power plant closes is the day the last coal mine closes, is the day the last coal miner retires.

Ajay Mathur


Sarah Ladislaw picture

Sarah Ladislaw

Senior Vice President; Director and Senior Fellow, Energy Security and Climate Change Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Mafalda Duarte picture

Mafalda Duarte

CEO, the Climate Investment Funds

Kate Hughes

Director, International Climate and Energy, UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Ajay Mathur

Director General-Designate, International Solar Alliance

Samantha Smith picture

Samantha Smith

Director, Just Transition Centre, International Trade Union Confederation

Andrew Light

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of International Affairs, US Department of Energy

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This event was made possible by support from the Climate Investment Funds.

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from the Resource Library

Strengthening Just Transition Policies in International Climate Governance

This document provides a brief history of just transitions in the context of climate action, identifies key policy areas of a just transition, and offers recommendations for incorporating the concept into international climate change policy.


This policy analysis brief provides a succinct but comprehensive overview of just transitions in the context of international climate governance. It explains the history and growth of the concept of a just transition, exploring its current meaning(s) and significance as a tool to garner support for ambitious climate action. It identifies areas where policies are needed to protect workers and communities from the potential impacts of specific climate actions and to develop different economic models.

Drawing on International Labor Organization (ILO) guidelines, it identifies key policies that are critical to a just transition strategy and provides brief examples of their implementation in climate and energy transitions. Lastly, it provides recommendations on how to further incorporate the concept of a just transition into international forums to advance a positive, pro-people vision of the international climate regime.

The New Social Contract: A Just Transition

This report advocates a new social contract focused on building inclusive and clean regions through managed, fair, and just transitions throughout the European Union.


The authors advocate a departure from conventional climate policy, proposing instead a new social contract to build inclusive growth and support just transitions. The three pillars of this new social contract are rapid delivery of clean technologies as a source for sustainable growth and economic redevelopment, a just transition away from polluting industries, and shared management platforms to oversee these objectives. The authors examine three case studies of transitions in industrial and/or coal-based regions: North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany; the United Kingdom; and Bilbao, Spain.

Their review primarily focuses on models for managing a just transition at various levels of government, financing the process, and assuring key outcomes. Despite the differing contexts and approaches of these case studies, the authors identify shared lessons and general stages of a deep transition. They build on these findings to propose a policy architecture for a new social contract in the European Union consisting of four main elements: ownership, finance, management, and delivery. This integrated and effective policy approach could be institutionalized throughout Europe’s regional, national, and supranational governments to decarbonize effectively and to support and finance inclusive regional regeneration and investment.

Making Waves: Aligning the Financial System with Sustainable Development

This paper describes the structural barriers to sustainable development finance commensurate with climate change and development goals, arguing that interventions are needed to transition to sustainable finance.


This paper describes the significant increase in the financial community’s willingness to engage in sustainable development and the accompanying increase in sustainable development policy and regulatory measures over recent years. Despite this momentum, the authors argue that the current system and levels of commitment are insufficient to provide the financing needed to meet the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. They attribute this to misalignment and barriers in the financial system.

Based on this argument, the authors provide reasons to intervene in the financial system to mobilize finance for sustainable development. Chief among them are eliminating pricing externalities, promoting innovation, ensuring financial stability, and ensuring policy coherence. The authors also identify the “essential parts” of a financial system that can support these goals and explore the necessary components and risks of the transition to sustainable finance.

These components highlight the need to alter the design and function of the financial system itself through policy or regulatory interventions. This multidimensional and nonlinear process will also require new performance metrics to embed sustainability in the financial system and its outcomes.